A recent article in The Atlantic reports on a new social media trend devised by incoming college freshmen:
These students are creating what are called “class accounts” — specially branded Instagram accounts — to cultivate audiences of new friends before the school year starts:
Rather than trying to connect with other students via their personal IG handles, they’re creating what are effectively campaign handles that reach like-minded others based on shared interest.
This is a great lesson for brands looking to push the digital envelope.
When it comes to digital campaigns, most brands work from “home base” — i.e., leveraging their branded website, branded social media channels, etc. — to reach their regular audiences organically, and then layer on paid media to reach targeted audiences beyond that.
But there’s big opportunity in getting your brand out of its own house, going to where your audience lives, and creating a kind of “pop-up” digital campaign — one that will grab their attention and draw them in, on their turf, on their terms.
Let’s give one good example:
Last December, after a turbulent 6+ years after acquisition, Campbell Soup put its Bolthouse Farms brand on the market. Many different factors led to this, but there was some speculation that the brand couldn’t get enough marketing juice out of certain product lines. One such line, Plant Protein Milk, never really got the brand recognition it deserved (despite the fact that, in 2018, consumers shifted $1B in sales from standard cow-based milk products to plant-based milk products).
So, as an exercise, the IMA team did a one-hour brainstorm based on this question:
If tasked with creating a marketing campaign to help save the Plant Protein Milk account, what would you do?
(Assuming, of course, you have a very small budget, since Campbell Soup would probably be reluctant to invest any more money in a brand that’s on life support.)
Here’s what the team did, in three steps:
(1) Conducted research on search queries and content consumption related to eco-friendly milk alternatives. Turns out there’s a lot of online interest.
(2) Unearthed secondary research to find content related to eco-friendly milk content (one-degree removed). Turns out, people interested in plant-based milk also gravitated toward the recently popular barrage of #ChangeMyMind memes.
(3) Developed a concept that flips the viral #ChangeMyMind memes into a new campaign to promote Plant Protein Milk.
ICYMI, Steven Crowder’s now infamous tweet (above) triggered a barrage of memes poking fun at him. So, the team thought:
What if we created a fun pop-up campaign called @stevenchangedhismind, in which a confused (and fictitious) Steven Crowder can’t seem to reconcile his love of Plant Protein Milk with his alt-right worldview?
Now imagine, beyond these rushed sample creatives, a stevenchangedhismind.com microsite, supported by its own IG handle (and other social media channels), all dedicated to promoting Plant Protein Milk in a fun, tongue-in-cheek way. Beyond that, picture these memes as PPM ads popping up on digital displays at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or wherever else eco-conscious shoppers buy their “milk.”
(NOTE: Yes, we know, politics can be the third rail of marketing. And the tone of such a campaign might be completely off-brand for Bolthouse. We’re merely providing an example of how a brand can leverage what its audience finds funny, interesting, exciting, etc., put a bold and creative spin on it, and go to market with something new and potentially viral. And again, we did this within the confines of a one-hour exercise.)
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to build, launch and execute new campaigns at your “home base” (e.g., brand website SEO, follower growth on critical social media channels, deeper exposure to your loyal/organic audiences, etc.). But in certain contexts, going “outside the house” — and thinking outside the box — is the most prudent and strategic way to achieve even your most ambitious marketing and sales goals.
Just ask the Class of 2023.