Author Firas Kittaneh is the CEO and co-founder of One Mall Group, a group of specialty e-commerce brands including Amerisleep, an eco-friendly luxury mattress company. His award-winning team is focused on bringing housewares online to a larger consumer base using cutting-edge technology. Learn more about his passion for entrepreneurship and fitness by following him on Twitter (@firaskittaneh).
When it comes to creating a loyal following of dedicated consumers, there are no silver bullets. For every company that has found a successful path, there are many more who failed. To ensure your company is counted among the successes, one of the best places to start is by looking at case studies and understanding what those businesses did right and wrong, and what they learned from it. And then applying that knowledge to your own business.
Branded content campaigns are one way many companies are finding success in today's connected, social world. Rather than rely on selling an advertising message, branded marketing instead looks to reach the target audience on an even level, and engage them with content that encourages, entertains, helps, or in some way relates directly to them. Finding that balance between selfless content and brand messaging can be tricky, but here are three recent campaigns from companies that played all the right cards - and are now reaping the rewards.
1. Coca-Cola Makes It Personal
Coca-Cola is a brand that almost everyone around the globe recognizes. You can find it in almost every country, and in some places, "Coke" has become the generic term for "soda" -- a sign that a brand has truly become a powerhouse. But in today's world, consumers are raising concerns about obesity and how sugary drinks, such as soda, contribute to poor health. Coca-Cola -- and its closest rivals -- have seen more than a decade of declining sales as a result.
The brand decided to think outside the box and go for something completely different. It made soda personal. Coca-Cola began printing popular first names and nicknames on its cans and bottles, and encouraged people to "Share a Coke" - and it worked. People not only bought the brand, but they started actively hunting for product with their name on it. Consumers flocked to kiosks set up where they could personalize bottles. They bought and shared them with friends and family. Now, they not only drink more Coke, they proudly put the brand on display in their homes.
Coke is seeing growth in both its sales volumes and revenues for the first time in years, and it is all thanks to a campaign that makes buying a soda a personal experience.
2. The ALS Ice Bucket Campaign
Say what you will about this one; the fact is, it ultimately worked. The ALS Association, a nonprofit committed to finding a cure for ALS disease, created a campaign encouraging people to utilize social media and post a video of them dumping a bucket of ice water over their head, or donate $10 to the ALS cause. The video posters then "tagged" several of their friends to do the same.
Those videos became an overnight sensation. This viral campaign directly caused more than 3 million people to donate over $115 million to ALS in a few short months. Compare that to $2.7 million raised during the same time period in 2013. Considering those numbers, no one can deny the overall success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Furthermore, the ALS Association saw huge boosts in its other fundraising efforts too, such as its walks. The increased brand awareness helped reach new supporters who might never have known about ALS. This is a great example of how social media together with a great branded and entertaining message can spread the word faster than any other medium in today's world.
3. Samsung vs. Apple
No matter what side of the Android versus iOS debate you fall on, you can't help but admire Samsung for being willing to openly mock its Cupertino competitor time and again. In fact, Samsung has built a following around the often edgy ads, managing to blend traditional advertising with content marketing by creating pieces that ignite consumers on social media into sharing and talking about them. It is a fine line to walk, but it is a great example of how that delicate balance can be found, as long as a brand is persistent and invested in the campaign's ongoing success.
The latest version is a video pointing out that, from Samsung's perspective, the hype around the iPhone 6 is a bit misplaced, seeing as it is very similar to the Note 2, which Samsung released in 2012. In this case, rather than mock Apple directly, Samsung is taking a shot at the general press, proving no one is safe from its teasing. Even Samsung's fans have gotten involved, producing ads and sharing them to social media, rather than waiting for Samsung to take the shots. You can't buy this kind of consumer engagement, when fans begin making and sharing organic advertisements for your brand and products.
At the end of the day, finding a way to reach consumers and get them fired up and actively talking about your business is one of the brilliant ways to grow and outsmart the competition. Looking at these very different approaches helps illustrate that there is no one right answer. The best brands must be willing to think outside the box of traditional marketing to find true success.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.