“This morning my yoghurttold me
to find it on Facebook. It didn’t tell me why, it just told me to find it. Why on Earth would I want to find a yoghurt on Facebook? It’s a yoghurt!”
Up until that moment, thepoor
yogurt brand probably thought they were doing everything right.For starters, they understood the importance ofengagement, of tapping into the new “empowered, connected consumer.”
But, as it turnsout, simply
being there wasn’t enough. They lacked an understanding of theways their brand fit in their audience’s lives. And the result was not just rejection butcomplete bewilderment.
Note the use of familiar
symbols: the cubicles, themuted colors, the clear social roles of the characters, the business attire. This TV spot uses these symbols to conflate AT&T’s Blackberry Torch with the middle-class white collar milieu.
The Torch thus becomes a
way for its audience to identifywith the values of that milieuand to imagine themselves as part of it.Even though the Blackberry’s features can be found onmany other smart phones, it is the cultural associations that differentiate the Torch.
McDonalds recognized its audience had
developed epicurean aspirations– a taste for good design, comfortable public space, glimmers of the upscale. By overhauling its interior spaces, McDonalds created anideological bridge to the cultural context its audience desired.
Why do we spend all
this time with passive media? Because effective digital engagement harnesses the same principles of “cultural invocation.”
While passive media has the
power to invoke imagined cultural membership, social media makes thatmembership more real (or at least makes it seem that way).
More specifically, Stonyfield positions itself
and its audience as part of the samegrassroots activist movement.In Stonyfield’s narrative, the brand and consumer don’t exist in separate camps.Everyone is part of the same whole, the push for sustainable living.
One example is Stonyfield’sinvitations for
users to submit content of their own. Stonyfield then posts the submissions, effectually depicting an entire virtualcommunity as it participates in the brand narrative.
“Just Eat Organic” is the
quintessential visual representation of a brand community. Users post videos of themselves following a specific set of rules (in this case, shouting “just eatorganic”), and others can see the results.
In place of videos are
written anecdotes, but the idea is thesame– a visual representationof the community surrounding the brand.Stonyfield doesn’t just ask itsaudience to imagine a cast of likeminded peers– it uses visuals to make that community real.
First, note the use ofmovement
in each ad. There is always at least one character in fluid motion.In the 2010 and 2011 ads, this motion is backed by an equally locomotive soundtrack.
The ads’ constant motionhelps imply
something largerthan the individual– the 2008 ad whizzes through onewoman’s life from childhood to motherhood, while the 2011 spot features strangers passing the yogurt from one person to another.
Next, note the use of
rational statements of fact. These explanations are then coupled withcollective language like “we’re on the move and we don’t want anything to slow us down.”
Yoplait also creates linkingvalue with
its extensive line offlavors, which many of the ads mention either visually or verbally. The following TV spot makesthe flavors is chief focus (click the image to view).
On Twitter, Yoplait spends almost
all its time responding to individualtweeters, often asking them to engage with the community by discussing their favorite flavors. In this way, talking about flavor (especially identifying with a certainone) becomes a way of identifying with the community as a whole.
Ultimately, the flavors alone drum
up respectable community engagement, butwhat’s even more important is the way Yoplait uses passive media to align itself with a desirable cultural identity, thereby creating more excitement around its digital spaces.
First, using only the popular
digital touchpoints likeFacebook and Twitter is not enough to create meaning. Brands need to find another way to connect themselves to broader cultural contexts, whether through traditional paid media or, as Stonyfield shows, throughdigital properties of their own.
Second, companies should view engagement
on those social platforms as the reward, the result ofconsumers imbuing their brand with greater meaning. Only when a brand has become more than a commodity will users advocate it digitally.
Third, there is absolutely no
better time than now to understand what communities surround thebrand already, what meanings the brand has already adopted.
After all, linking value is
onlyuseful when it connects people to the community or ideology with which they genuinely want to identify.