Branding. Its meaning has become a multi-dimensional avenue, filled with so much breadth and possibility to bring a business to life. An art form, really. With the rise and integration of social media throughout the business landscape, transparency has prevailed, bridging the gap between consumers and a brand. However, with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter gaining momentum toward critical mass, what happens next? The key is to maintain value once you’re on the radar.
We get it: “Content is king” is an overused buzz phrase you never want to hear again, but the concept is true. People seek value in brands just like in any other relationship, and if you’re not providing it, they’ll go elsewhere to find it. The brands who are doing it right provide this value in many ways, but a huge part of it lies in good content.
Approaching an outlet like Twitter, where most consumers are, as a one-stop-shop of quality content is crucial in maintaining consumer interest on social. Connecting an audience to something like an educational or entertaining article or story, or just a humorous photo or video, creates top of mind between that information and your brand. In time, coupled with good customer service, valuable content has the ability to build trust – the ultimate factor in attaining loyal customers – and allows for a transparent, mutually beneficial consumer-brand relationship. After all, if your platform is full of interesting (and credible) resources, a consumer is more apt to spend more time on your page. It’s also worth noting that content worth sharing will be shared on a variety of social platforms, allowing new consumers to stumble upon, and connect with, your brand.
In relation to providing quality content, you must create quality content if your brand is to be sustainable. This is where embedded storytelling comes in. For advertisers, this is a form of native advertising. Telling stories that align with your brand’s audience and message are key to quality consumption. Take Red Bull, for example: The energy drink brand has blurred the lines of product promotion by hosting badass events. The energy drink product is automatically associated with the brand, so everything they’ve come to do, whether it’s hosting a record-breaking freefall from space or a surfing competition, has not only positioned Red Bull as a full lifestyle brand, but its product is still being promoted in a subliminal way. That’s what customers want these days – to be pulled, not pushed. Tomorrow, Red Bull will host its Red Bull Music Academy Radio Festival in Istanbul. How’s that for lifestyle?
Beyond the Digital Dimension
While some brands sell only products, and some sell only experiences, the best kind of brand is one that merges the two to sell a lifestyle, just like Red Bull does. Other food brands who have taken customer relationships to another level with lifestyle are Chipotle, Sweetgreen, Shake Shack, and Oreo. While there are others, these are the most top-of-mind brands we’ve selected for the purpose of this article.
Fast casual dynamo Chipotle boasts its Food With Integrity mantra by living it. Aside from the brand’s transparency with food sourcing, Chipotle has actually built an out-of-store vehicle for its stance. Cultivate, a Food, Ideas & Music Festival is a free, annual festival brought to three locations (San Francisco, Denver and Chicago) and connects food, farmers, chefs, artisans, thought leaders, and musicians. The content comes to life in the form of live music (we hear Chipotle even has its own resident DJ), cooking demos, and educational seminars from the sustainable farmers who supply food for the event. The festival is educational, transparent, fun, and creates connectivity amongst the Chipotle community.
Sweetgreen Brings the Sweetlife.
Sweetgreen has banked in on its Sweetlife music + food festival, which is known for its killer artist lineup. Some of the main players last year were Phoenix, Passion Pit, Kendrick Lamar and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Sweetgreen really encapsulates its vision of sustainability within the event. The main stage roof, for example, is outfitted with solar panels to offset the power generated at the festival; all utensils, cups and napkins being used on-site are compostable; and attendees can even redeem cool swag, like custom sunglasses or a skateboard, just for recycling.
Shake Shack Tunes In.
Shake Shack, to our knowledge, does not yet have its own music festival, but we wouldn’t be surprised if one came about. The brand did, however, host an on-site pop-up restaurant for performers on Jay Z’s Made In America Tour. Shake Shack has also integrated into the music scene with its monthly Shack 10 playlists on Spotify. (They actually feature some really decent music, so make sure to check it out.) Aside from tuning in, Shake Shack has its own Shack Cam at its NYC Madison Square Park location so people debating whether or not to stop by can gauge the length of the line beforehand. As CEO Randy Garutti, says, “Hospitality occurs when you feel like I’m on your side and we try to make every decision so that our guests feel that way.”
Oreo Takes Another Slam Dunk.
Household name brand Oreo is, in the advertising world, best known for tackling the Super Bowl to victory with its real-time "You Can Still Dunk in the Dark" ad slogan. Its timely nature connected with consumers who were watching. Most recently, the famous cookie brand has again taken timeliness into consideration for the holidays with its new Oreo Cookie Balls ad. A jingle featuring the not-yet-recognizable hip hop artist Jinx, the ad's catchy song highlights a popular Oreo lover's homemade treat, Oreo cookie balls, a recipe involving cream cheese, chocolate, and crushed Oreos. You can watch it here.
So, All in All...
Once a brand has created a community or culture, building opportunities in other dimensions to strengthen and maintain brand-consumer relationships is vital. Lifestyle brands have a vast opportunity to create loyal customers for a lifetime because they infuse their mark throughout a variety of things, keeping their brand top of mind for a consumer. Once you gain a consumer’s trust, they’re more apt to become a promoter of your brand rather than passive or neutral.