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How to tame a brand superfan

One of your biggest brand advocates gets a tattoo of your company logo. Embarrassing or flattering? Ask Google. It actually happened to them.

Extreme brand superfans have taken outlandish measures ranging from sporting a company's logo on a coffin to eating and drinking nothing but Starbucks for a year. Brand advocates are important catalysts for new buyers, who appreciate the input of their fellow customers, but such die-hard devotion can also backfire — which begs the question: How should a marketing department interact with fans from the fringe?

One company that has rallied its superfans successfully is cosmetics behemoth Sephora. Recognizing that Millennials, the youngest generation with purchasing power, spend 30 percent of their time digesting user generated content (according to research by Ipsos MediaCT), the company created a virtual space for its superfans to properly advocate for the brand.

Working with marketing firm Lithium, Sephora opened its own online community, Beauty Talk, in 2010. Over the last four years, the group has corralled its superfans in one place where they can share beauty tips and, perhaps most importantly, link their social feeds directly to the site for extra influence. According to Lithium, the site has garnered over 1 million monthly page views as of September 2014.

In the new era of marketing, both content and customers are key to success. Here, Sephora has successfully married the two, allowing its customers to take charge and create meaningful content about the brand. Skype and Verizon also utilize similar online communities where superfans become valued brand advocates. Companies can use the metrics available to them (as members link their social credentials to the community) to push appropriate messages to these advocates, as well as watch meaningful patterns in their online behavior.

The invitation to be part of a brand community works. According to Lithium's chief scientist Michael Wu, Sephora’s team found that community users spent nearly 3 times more on the company’s products than the average customer. The company has been able to use the community to engage with its top customers — something the superfans tend to appreciate.

It seems, a little special attention and community building can go a long way to keep your customers out of tattoo parlors and into digital communities, where they can help create powerful buzz online.

Image via CanStock Photo

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