A Beautiful Relationship: Why Selling the Product Is Only The Beginning


Posted on March 3, 2018 by Aaron Johnson

Advertising in the Mad Men era was all about building brand loyalty based on who you wanted to be. This car made you look confident; that TV dinner made you feel like a better parent; this suit made you feel successful. Those days, fun as they often were, are gone. Today’s customers are better informed, aware of their value, wise to the tricks. They may not even think of themselves as customers: they’re loyalists, believers, devotees. These pivotal customers don’t want products to show them who they want to be. They’re looking for brands that resonate with who they are.

This new purpose-driven relationship between customer and brand provides a challenge that inbound marketing is uniquely designed to serve. In place of seduction, it offers authenticity. Rather than attempting to allure, it seeks to persuade. Above all, it’s based on making your brand a trusted source of information and value that the customer can consciously embrace.

Dove’s Real Beauty campaign is a perfect example of this new approach to brand loyalty. It started ten years ago, not merely as a campaign but a movement that empowered women to define beauty for themselves. Soap and body wash were no longer just products to sell. The became fuel for a story that many women were able to share for the first time in their lives. Today, Dove is the only major beauty company on the market that has been able to change the way society talks about female beauty. In turn, women viewed Dove not so much as a company, but as a trusted authority and advocate.

Recently, Sprint has undergone a major rebranding. Historically, they’ve struggled in the shadows of Verizon’s superior coverage and T-Mobile’s cheaper plans. Yet instead of going after the competition, they repositioned themselves as the phone company for millenials. Their #LiveUnlimited campaign capitalized on growing online communities through social media, leading to key partnerships with influencers like Lele Pons and superstar Jay-Z. The objective was to create a network of support for authentic products that millennials love. In so doing, Sprint was able to provide incentives for their target group to buy in. The product was now a means to continue the fun.

These campaigns succeeded because they were so much more than campaigns. Their real strength wasn’t in the advertising, but rather in the unique social content that supported them—invitations to learn more, participate, and personalize their experience. This is the unique strength of inbound marketing.

Although it defies conventional wisdom, these purpose-driven campaigns succeed precisely because they make the relationship more important than the product. Real Beauty doesn’t sell Dove soap, it advocates for women, and in so doing it attracts loyalty from millions of women who will choose their products first. In the same way, TOMS Shoes—which donates one pair of shoes to the homeless for every purchase—isn’t appealing just to the consumer’s desire for better shoes, but for their desire to feel good about buying them. Every purchase deepens the customer’s own commitment to doing the right thing.

We at Social Link are great believers in the power of data-driven brand storytelling. We seek to understand not only what the product is, but what it means—or could mean—to purpose-driven consumers. If this is a challenge we can help solve for you, let’s talk and start telling your story today.

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