Turn customers into brand advocates by using participation marketing!


Consumer value creation is hot and happening! The successes that can be achieved when crowdsourcing production processes and relying on consumers to create value are plenty: Threadless’s users create and vote on clothing designs that eventually will be produced, Nike offers consumers to design their own pair of shoes, Lay’s challenged its consumers to come up with a new flavor, et cetera. One area in specific – marketing – is interesting when looking at how consumers could create value for a company.

“Participation marketing” or “engagement marketing” refers to a marketing strategy that encourages consumers to participate in the evolution of a brand. This marketing strategy treats consumers not solely as passive receivers of messages, but views them as actively involved producers and co-creators of marketing programs. Two big players are using it with success: Coca-Cola and Yoplait.

With the average person in the United States drinking the equivalent of 275 cans per year, there is no need for Coca-Cola to focus on increasing their immediate sales transactions and acquiring new customers. Coca-Cola is shifting towards creating a more long-term emotional connection with their customers. One successful example is their recent “Share a Coke” campaign, where they replaced their product logos with popular names. This invited consumers to start a big wave of referrals on social medium websites, which resulted, for instance, in a crazy 341,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #shareacoke. This is one of the ways Coca-Cola uses to build loyalty and engage customers.

Another example of participation marketing can be found at Yoplait. Yoplait’s annual “Save Lids to Save Lives” program donates 10 dollar cents to a breast cancer foundation for every pink foil yogurt lid that customers mail back to the company. Since 1997, around 35-50 million dollar has been donated by Yoplait and their parent company! This translates into hundreds of millions of customers mailing their yogurt lids to the company! When customers actively engage with the campaign in order to support the cause, they are more likely to purchase Yoplait’s products and encourage others to do it as well. Customers are becoming so-called brand advocates. This way, Yoplait is building brand loyalty whilst also increasing sales.

The lesson companies should take from these two examples is to shift their focus from viewing customers solely as receivers of marketing and buyers. They should engage with them to create value together. This way they will become lifelong loyal customers and brand advocates. Don’t think only big companies with enormous marketing budgets can pull this off: the ALS association created the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, which went extremely viral. This led to increased customer engagement and more donations.

What do you think? Do you know other great examples of companies that used participation marketing?

One thought on “Turn customers into brand advocates by using participation marketing!”

  1. Yoplait is building brand loyalty?!?!?! Only if you tell them what they want to hear. I bought Yoplait for 20+ years. The only yogurt I’ve EVER bought. When they came out with new original, I told them I thought it was “yucky” and they basically told me my comments weren’t worthy to them. The only thing they are loyal to in return is the masses who are going to give them the most money.

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