Building brand affinity is always a challenge for marketers, especially in industries where trust and brand love is hard to come by. As a Meta Creative Leader who works with companies in financial services and real estate, I often see brands trying to tell their story through traditional means, such as statements, celebrity spokespeople, and branded content.
But increasingly, consumers are responding better to authenticity and community communication. In my experience, when brands take targeted actions, it can be a more effective way to change the perception of a brand. Looking for a place to start? Ask yourself, “What problem can our brand help solve in society? And how are we uniquely qualified to participate?” If you can find a solution that naturally aligns with your brand, consumers will recognize your true efforts and associate your company more closely with doing good.
As many people know, small businesses have been particularly hard hit by Covid-19, with 55% of global small businesses reporting a drop in sales in January 2021, compared to 2020, according to the April 2021 Global State of Small Business report. During this time We’ve seen examples of big brands across industries that are stepping up to make a difference. Consider how these three proactive approaches can help small businesses in your community, while also helping to market your brand to consumers.
1. Slide the microphone
Have you thought about a campaign where you would hand off your brand’s organic and paid media channels to a smaller company? Although it may seem intimidating on the surface, sharing your platform can be beneficial to you and the small business you are developing. Local entrepreneurs have become some of the most dynamic creators and influencers on social platforms. Allowing them to speak up for you can help get your message across in a way that connects authentically with your audience.
Mastercard’s recent “50 Years and Running” campaign in support of the New York City Marathon did just that by showcasing three small businesses near the marathon route that overcame obstacles in the face of adversity. Among these are Grandmas Place, a black-owned toy and children’s bookstore in Harlem; Davey’s Ice Cream, a Brooklyn-based store that focuses on quality and local ingredients; and Bronx Native, a clothing store committed to changing the way people view the Bronx. By leveraging social media channels, including Facebook from Meta and Instagram from Meta, Mastercard has been able to amplify small business owners and their stories.
“Mastercard recognizes the need to support and empower the enormous small businesses that serve as pillars of our communities,” said Cheryl Guerin, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications for North America at Mastercard. “The invaluable 50 Years and Running campaign has allowed us to not only give these amazing small businesses a platform to tell their story, but also provide them with digital tools and resources to help them succeed in the new normal.”
2. Gift your experience
With the ongoing economic recovery at the forefront of many consumers’ concerns, financial literacy and education are important topics. And the need to share knowledge is not limited to individual consumers, as small businesses are often overwhelmed when it comes to securing credit and financing. This could be an ideal moment for your brand to network by proactively educating small businesses about marketing, products, and financial topics.
T-Mobile’s Facebook Advertising on Us program offered new business customers a prepaid card of $200 to spend on Facebook ads, up to three one-on-one consultations with a Facebook advertising expert and access to an exclusive landing page with links to thought leadership resources.
“We have a long history of providing education, resources, and financial support to empower small businesses and help them grow,” said Alan Samson, T-Mobile Senior Vice President of Business. “Since its launch, this show has become the most viewed section of our site, with over 40,000 views every month and no sign of slowing down.”
There are opportunities to do more. Imagine launching a Messenger from a Meta experience that walks entrepreneurs through the steps of starting a small business, or a Facebook group that connects business owners with experts who can help. At Meta, we see customer interaction – enabled across organic and paid ecosystems – as the future of business marketing.
3. Create for the little man
There is always an opportunity for brands to bring new ideas and solutions to small businesses by helping them do things they don’t have the scale, expertise, or financial ability to do themselves. AR and VR open up countless opportunities to help connect small businesses with consumers. According to a 2020 Emerging Trends Research report, 78% of people surveyed said that augmented reality is a fun way to interact with brands, and 74% of respondents believe it helps bridge the gap between online and offline. Imagine creating a branded AR filter that allows consumers to “drop” a virtual pin on their favorite small business, making it easy to share the location with their followers.
As part of its “Everything to Sell Anything” campaign, Squarespace – the website building and e-commerce platform – has created an AR/VR experience with window installation in Fotografiska New York, to raise awareness for the small businesses that its platform supports. Not only does this type of work benefit small businesses, but it also helps position Squarespace as an innovator with consumers.
If you’re shopping for a way to help build brand love and connect with your audience in a real way, putting the needs of your small business at the center of your campaign is a good place to start. With increased commerce fluidity and new digital marketing tools available to marketers across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and other apps, this could be a moment of opportunity for marketers looking to expand their influence with small businesses and build brand affinity.