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5 Marketing Lessons From Companies That Understand the Consumer Psyche


Mar. 5, 2020

Just about every business is active on social media nowadays. The real question isn’t whether or not you need to connect with your audience on social media. What counts, is how you go about it. I see many companies dropping the ball when it comes to effectively engaging with their customers.

One problem is that many businesses try too hard to play it safe and avoid taking a position on issues that their customers are passionate about. But there are a select few companies that truly get it and are seeing amazing results from their efforts. Here are 5 examples of large brands that have made exceptional inroads in engaging with modern consumer psyche.

1. Coca Cola: Implementing a Sustainability Plan

Coca Cola, of course, was a global brand long before the days of the internet. For this reason, it’s especially impressive how well they’ve learned to adapt to the social media age. Despite some missteps, the soft drink company has always been great at tapping into the collective psyche, going all the way back to the catchy 1960s anthem “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke.” Now the soft drink giant is taking bold steps in areas such as environmentalism and sustainability. Coca Cola’s Sustainability Plan is more than a few buzzwords. It’s an ambitious, global effort that includes actions on climate change, packaging, water conservation, and the supply chain. For example, in Western Europe, the company aims to collect 100% of its packaging to prevent pollution and waste.

This commitment to sustainability is a perfect example of a brand tapping into issues that are at the forefront of public consciousness. It’s especially appealing to members of the younger generations -millennials and Gen Zers- who pay close attention to companies’ actions in areas such as social responsibility. This will help Coca Cola to attract a new generation of customers and improve its image among all older ones as well.

2. Geico: Always Innovating and Letting Us Look Behind the Scenes

Geico is another company that has a long history of creating engaging and iconic ads. Everyone recognizes the talking gecko. However, Geico wasn’t content to simply keep repeating the same material over and over. They’re consistently innovating, such as with the more recent caveman ads. What’s brilliant about their marketing campaigns is that they manage to engage their audience and make them laugh with content that has almost no relation to what they sell. The fact is, most people consider insurance more of a necessary evil than something they love to think about. Geico manages to make it fun. They employ absurdist humor to get you to pay attention so you’re more likely to look at their products.

Another way that Geico has successfully engaged with customers is by showing a behind-the-scenes look at their commercials. We get to meet the people who created the ads and get a glimpse into the creative process. This isn’t something you often see as most companies seem unwilling to reveal what goes on in their studios. While this isn’t a social media campaign per se, it’s actually in tune with modern digital media awareness and its “meta” approach.

3. Lego: Masters of Inspiring Engagement

Lego is noteworthy for having transformed what was originally considered a mere toy into a global brand that includes movies, theme parks, and a very active online community. Like Coca Cola, Lego has a long history, with its first products hitting the market in the 1930s. Even though it makes hands-on products that, by today’s standards, have a kind of retro appeal, Lego has been right on the cutting edge with its digital strategy.

Lego’s YouTube channel has more than 7 million subscribers. If you browse their videos, you’ll see that they aren’t merely marketing to or even just entertaining viewers. They are highly interactive, with all kinds of challenges and contests that inspire customers to participate in the brand. There’s also lots of engagement at Lego Ideas, the company’s very active online community. Lego is ingenious at capturing the imagination of its audience and motivating people to contribute their own ideas. One of their latest contests, for example, is a request for ideas for a mission from the Moon to Mars. With so much attention on a potential Mars mission, as well as the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, this is perfectly timed.

4. IKEA: Timely, Creative Campaigns

IKEA is the largest furniture retailer in the world. The company is always breaking new ground with both its products and marketing campaigns. Recently, they’ve launched some high visibility stunts and ads that are quite in tune with the times. In fact, this company has so many creative ideas it’s hard to only talk about one or two so here are a few notable examples.

  • Recreate living rooms from TV shows. This campaign was created for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) but would most likely be a hit anywhere. IKEA guides customers to buy products so their homes resemble sets from shows such as The Simpsons, Friends, and Stranger Things.
  • Clean up the Thames. IKEA used bath boats to clear rubbish from the Thames in London. This high-profile stunt in one of the world’s largest cities was done to help promote the opening of a new sustainable store. IKEA is one of several leading brands that understand the importance of committing to environmental actions.
  • Making furniture more accessible. This isn’t really a campaign but a shift in awareness and production. IKEA recently announced that, with the help of 3D printers, that it’s making furniture more accessible to people with disabilities. This is another issue that’s very timely.

5. Gillette: Taking a Stance on Gender Stereotypes

In early 2019, Gillette, which is owned by Proctor & Gamble, uploaded a video to YouTube called We Believe: The Best Men Can Be which has over 30 million views. Although only more than a minute long, the video proved to be quite moving and controversial as it addressed issues such as sexism and bullying. For a traditional brand that caters mainly to men, it was a risky move but it certainly got plenty of attention.

While the attention that Gillette attracted to this video was quite mixed, it achieved several things. First and foremost, it provided the brand with lots of attention. It’s not always true that all publicity is good publicity, of course. A scandal, recall, or high-profile lawsuit is obviously the kind of attention any company would prefer to avoid. However, in a case like this, Gillette can at least be credited with trying to convey a positive message. Additionally, as with the Coca Cola campaign, this is the kind of action that helps to attract younger customers to a brand that was previously considered old school. As The Atlantic puts it, this video gave Millennials the ad they want.

Each of these examples illustrates how a brand can tap into contemporary culture and show that it’s paying attention to the cultural zeitgeist. It’s not a matter of pleasing everyone, which is never possible anyway. What impresses me about such efforts is that they let companies enter into important public discussions and become more than simply businesses selling products.

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