Winning the Branding War Through Social Media: Ford, JetBlue and Taco Bell

iStock_000018900121_ExtraSmallAt StrategyJQ, we believe that social marketing is more than a budget line item – we think that conversation is steeped into every piece of business and marketing plans. Today, we wanted to highlight some examples of companies that are participating strategically and effectively.

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FORD MOTOR COMPANY - Have the right philosophy about how relate to your audience:

“Our strategy at Ford is first and foremost to support our broader business goals and our communications and marketing strategies, which largely focus on improving Ford’s reputation and building purchase consideration for our vehicles. To do that, we need to be a brand that people trust, and we do that by showing them that there are people just like them who work for Ford and who drive our vehicles. People trust people like them, so in allowing others to tell our story and continuing on the path that Henry Ford and the Ford family established, we have a great and relatable way to showcase our strong business and great products.”
- Scott Monty: Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager for Ford.

This is huge. Take a breath for a second and read Scott’s quote again. Scott Monty is the worldwide head of social media for one of the best known brands in the world, The Ford Motor Company. You may think an iconic brand like Ford doesn’t need social media and you’d be wrong. Both Ford and Scott realize something very crucial: just because a brand owns a bit of your mental real estate, it doesn’t mean you’re going to give them your business. One of the reasons Ford continues to excel in the online branding battle is because they are using social media to nurture a relationship with you, one they feel the consumer will recognize as being built on a foundation of trust.

JETBLUE - Help to inspire and engage an informed audience:

A company born at the turn of the current century. JetBlue came of age at a time when the Internet had already established itself as a force of nature that would transform media and communication. JetBlue is one brand that soars in social media because they remain grounded to their most important asset: their customers.

Since their birth, most of JetBlue’s outreach has been done through digital media and it has paid off. JetBlue has 1.7M Twitter followers. A quarter of a million more than next-closest Southwest and over three times as many as industry icon American Airlines.

Add nearly three-quarters of a million Facebook Likes and social media infused campaigns like 2012’s “Election Protection” offering free flights to voters desiring to leave the country if their presidential candidate lost and it’s easy to see why JetBlue remains social media’s most buzzed about airline.

According to Morgan Johnston, Social Media strategist for JetBlue, their social media presence is “a collaboration with other customers. We are guests of the community.” Johnston says that JeBlue is “Seeing more and more of our customers looking for interesting marketing initiatives,” and that social media is the best place to cement that audience.

TACO BELL – Making the audience feel extra special

McRib be darned, the most successful ‘out of the box’ fast food item of last year may have been Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Taco, a menu item that tells you everything you need to know. It’s a taco in a shell made out of Doritos and if you like either of those things you’d be loco not to order it. Though the sheer idea of such a marriage of junk foods may have driven health-conscious consumers into paroxysms of revulsion, The Doritos Locos Taco succeeded like mad thanks to a social media-enabled mini cultural supernova that helped drive sales through the roof.

I’m sure that some of you may think junk food junkies would have found the Doritos Locos Taco irresistible, hunting them down like pigs to truffles no matter how much Taco Bell advertised them. But there are product launches and there are ways to turn an already-interested audience into a viral army of influencers capable of converting deeper into that great pool of fence-sitters and beyond.

First they leveraged the power of Twitter to handpick the best Tweets about their new product that were then featured on electronic Doritos Locos Tacos walls of fame set up in iconic locations like New York’s Time Square and Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Cameras were coordinated to take photots of the Tweets on the billboards and then sent back to the users as well as being posted in a special branded gallery.

If that wasn’t enough, Taco Bell also enticed Doritos Locos Tacos fans to post photos of themselves with the product on Instagram. The best shots were then used in TV and Internet ads. The big net effect, Taco Bell saw their social media engagement by women grow 27 percent from the previous year.

Sensing they were onto something, Taco Bell went back to the social media well to launch their brand spanking new Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Loco. After teasing the product for months to an already eager audience, the nationwide chain made the Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Loco available to it social media fans one day before its official debut.

If there’s one large reason this social media win was so crucial for Taco Bell, just look back at early 2011. A storage room photo posted on Digg revealing that their taco filling was only 88 percent real meat caused a social media firestorm of people wanting to know, and making viral jokes about, what was in that other 12 percent. By focusing so much new positive branding through social media, they flushed out the negative conversation and turned a waterfall of criticism into a fountain of product praise.

A brave new (social) world -

Of course, not every brand’s exact strategy will work for everyone. You have to find how to get your particular audience interested and excited.

One of the main differences with the old fashioned Madison Avenue approach is that social media branding initiatives are seldom carried out with a bulldozer. The idea of knocking down your competition is far less effective than taking an approach that these are conversations meant to inspire, entertain and engage.

But no matter what social media strategy your brand chooses, ask yourself one thing: Is it just a coincidence that the brands which succeed most in social media are also brands generally associated with being “friendly?”

Perhaps. But maybe it’s also because these are brands with their ear to the ground, their finger on the pulse and their heart in giving their audience a reason to love them for being a lot like themselves.

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