Users Promoting Your Brand: Companies Doing It Right

James Rehwald
, Marketing Director

Social Media Logos Collage

Promoting a brand can be done a myriad of ways.

While we often forget that promotional marketing media can be biased in favor of the product/service, we still find ourselves becoming immersed in the ones that appeal to our interests.

You’d probably agree however, that it’s less invasive or annoying to hear/see brands from friends rather than from the companies/advertisers themselves.  In fact, it’s common for many of us to want the best and newest stuff, especially when our friends are taking possession and advantage—this social phenomenon is often referred to as the Jones Effect or Keeping up with the Joneses.

This effect can be observed in social media as well.  Friends post favorably about a brand, their friends see it, and it leaves a positive impression in their minds.  Depending on the brand’s value and overall marketing execution, it can prompt a user’s friend(s) to take some sort of action (like, share, visit website, purchase) that is desirable in the eye of the brand’s company.  As digital marketers, there are many ways to approach this subtle “users marketing your own brand” tactic.  Let’s take a look at a few company brands that are making it work.

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Universal Pictures’ “Straight Outta Compton” film

The biopic film unravelling the founding, journey, and dissolving of the Compton-native early 90’s hip hop group N.W.A recently made its debut in theaters this past Friday, August 14th.   The controversial rap sensation brought the narrative of the brutal gangster life of south central L.A. into the mainstream.

Straight Outta Compton Movie Title

In the weeks leading up to the big movie, an innovatively sophisticated marketing idea sprouted.  Playing on the film’s title, “Straight Outta Compton” (named after N.W.A’s debut album), "Straight Outta Somewhere" became a popular meme as part of a collaborative effort by Beats by Dre and Universal.  This name change where the word “Somewhere” can be digitally modified to the hometown name of users’ choosing created a unique way for social media users to take pride in where they each are from, while also subtly promoting the movie as well.

This marketing tactic was employed by Universal and Beats by Dre through the launch of the website, where visitors can easily type in their hometown name in the font and style of the movie’s title, add a photo, and then download it.  With the launch of the website on August 5th, up until August 13th, the site achieved 7 million visitors and 6 million hometown-modified meme downloads.  Hundreds of thousands of users across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter uploaded these memes to proclaim their own hometowns in a cool, black-and-white, gangster-esque fashion, all the while directly promoting the movie without thinking much of it.

This marketing tactic also extended to Snapchat by which limited-time Snapchat Geofilters were purchased for Snapchatters to employ and send to friends.  These Geofilters followed the same “Straight Outta Somewhere” meme by having one or two available Geofilters to users, depending on their respective locations.  In certain cities (see images below), people had the option of swiping for a special Geofilter that already had their local hometown name filled in.  The other option, which was the only option for people not in select cities, is simply the original movie title, “Straight Outta Compton.”

Straight Outta Los Angeles  Straight Outta Portland


Starbucks Corp.'s Starbucks Coffee

In the odd case you aren’t familiar with Starbucks, it’s only the largest coffee house chain in the world in terms of revenue, generating more than five times the revenue of its closest competitor, Tim Hortons, in 2014.  The enormously successful coffeehouse chain with 22,551 global coffee shop locations has been constantly renovating new ways to innovate its marketing tactics to keep up with its audience’s appeal, as a successful company does.

Taking it to social media, Starbucks has been employing an unconventionally clever and sneaky way of incentivizing users to share the Starbucks Coffee brand.  If you’re an occasional Starbucks visitor like myself or have friends who purchase from Starbucks, you are probably familiar with the fact that a barista writes down your name on your coffee cup before giving it you.  You’d probably be familiar too with the fact that coffee baristas now and then, misspell your name, often wildly inaccurate in such a way that is becomes comically humorous upon reading.

Starbucks Mispelled Names

These funny misspellings aren’t isolated incidents.  They happen everywhere.  A Tumblr page even lists pictures of these share-worthy misspellings.  Social media users who see this occur to their own name more or less recognize it as a great opportunity to share the supposed mishap with friends on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, or wherever.  While it may seem like an innocent mistake on the barista’s part, a Youtube video posted by a supposed Starbucks barista reveals how he misspells names to mess with people and give them a false sense of security when he actually spells it right.

Whether or not these reoccurring misspellings are a direct effect from corporate’s marketing department is in question.  Nevertheless, it appears to be working to effectively spread the name of the Starbucks brand and spark curiosity in users’ friends who’d like to see how their own names can even possibly be misspelled.  Guess you’ve got to go buy a drink yourself and find out!


Snapchat Inc.'s Snapchat app

Snapchat is popular social media app that has been on the rise the past few years.  We’ve talked about its uses as sharing your company’s story and placing various ad types.  Snapchat Inc. has employed tons of ways to market itself including the more recent “Snapcodes” feature.

A Snapcode is assigned to a user upon making a Snapchat account.   With the app open, you can view your Snapcode (see image below) when in camera mode by clicking the little ghost icon at the top of the screen.  You can customize the white space of the ghost image to be filled in with an animated selfie for a personal touch.

The whole purpose of your Snapcode is to make it easier for you to add friends and have friends add you.  Thanks to some pricey software technology that Snapchat implemented, your personal Snapcode can be posted to other social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for friends to see and add you as a new Snapchat friend.

When friends who have Snapchat see your Snapcode image posted online (or in person) they can download it or take a Snap (a photo via Snapchat) of it.  When you do this, Snapchat does a quick read of the Snapcode, searches the online Snapchat database of user-designated Snapcodes, and then adds that particular user that the Snapcode belongs to as a new friend, all in just a quick second or two.  It’s like scanning a barcode to add a new friend, essentially.

Snapcode Animation

The reason this feature also serves as a marketing tactic for users to promote the Snapchat brand is because the code, which contains the Snapchat logo, is posted to social media outlets for friends to see.  It works in favor of Snapchat because it allows users to become more interconnected and tied to the Snapchat community experience, it encourages users to promote the brand in a unique way that raises curiosity and interest in non-Snapchat users who’d come across the Snapcode, and it expands the spread of brand awareness through the sharing of the Snapchat “ghost” logo across multiple social media outlets.

"Users promoting a social media app through other social media outlets, you say?"
Yes, that’s exactly what it is.


Daimler AG’s Car2go service

Hashtags, as we have talked about previously, are used across social media platforms for a variety of reasons.  A user often uses a hashtag to refer to a certain theme, content, event, place, or situation so that it garners attention from other users searching the hashtag or perhaps just to exclaim something while using the hashtag format—or both.

For companies, this opens up all sorts of promotional opportunities.  This is evident in how advertisers include hashtags in their ads and how consumers hashtag different brands, products, and services with or without being told to do so.

Hashtag popularity can also have temporary/seasonal appearances, such as hashtags that refer to a contest or sweepstake.  Several companies have held online contests where users can enter for a chance to win something simply by making the company-specified type of social media post paired with the company-specified hashtag.

Car2go, a car sharing service, is a good example of a company running these types of hashtag-enabled online contests.  The company asked Car2go users in San Diego (as well as other cities in past contests) to mention @car2goSanDiego in in a tweet and include the hashtag #LOVEc2g to enter for a chance to win a $100 gift card.  Car2go users took notice and got on their Twitter game to show off how much Car2go means to them.

This straight-forward online competition acts as a promotional marketing tactic because as a result of the winning prize incentive, users promote positive, personal, genuine Tweets about the Car2go service for all their friends/followers to see.  If you just search the hashtag #LOVEc2g on Twitter, you'll see tons of tweets from people sharing their love for car2go, people being announced as winners, and people posting pictures of their prizes.

Car2go Logo

This "tag company + hashtag this" combo has been in the works by all sorts of companies across Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.  A company could ask users to take a picture at a certain event or with a certain product/service and post it online to say, Instagram, with the appropriate hashtag + commendatory description to enter for a chance to win.  While this approach may at first seem too guided or manufactured, it can work well if the majority of your active social media followers actually enjoy engaging with your brand (otherwise you'll have users using your hashtag to bash your brand).

With a share-worthy company value driver (e.g. new product release, fun event, great service), the right incentive (e.g. discount, item prize, reputation boost), and a large enough active social media following, an online contest/sweepstake of your unique design can benefit your company through increased brand awareness and equity.  When implemented properly, your quality customers become quality marketers.


These tactics are just some of the ways to reach and engage your audience.  Want to see how else we can help you? Contact us today!


Read more from our Blog:
How to Make the Best Facebook Event
Snapchat: A New Era of Advertising
11 Key Tips to Increase Engagement on Your Facebook Page
How and Where to Garner Social Media Followers


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