According to Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point, “Reaching the customer with the message is not the hard part of direct marketing. What is difficult is getting consumers to stop, read the advertisement, remember it, and then act on it.” His second law is looking at how messages stick in people’s brains.

This is an easy to spot trend in the marketing world. The first thing everyone wants to do is increase their brand’s visibility. Unfortunately, an increased number of eyeballs on a screen doesn’t guarantee more sales. Once the message has reached the “right” people, it needs to “stick” in people’s brains. The solution, social activation. The basic path:

  • The customer finds you
  • Interacts with you in some way
  • Makes a purchase
  • Then gives you an endorsement

I like to think of social activation as Steven Covey’s 8th habityou empower your customer to become part of your brand. In return, that customer may become one of your brand’s evangelists.By giving your customer a since of “ownership” in your brand the customer does a lot of the work to make your message stick. There are a lot of different ways to involve your customer, I have included some types below.

Word of Mouth

Sharpie’s “Write out loud” campaign helped me realize that everything I had to say held value. To this day, if someone asks me why I write in Sharpie, I smile and tell them, “If something is worth writing down it is worth writing out loud!” This is the cycle of social activation. I discovered a brand, interacted with it, bought some Sharpies and every time it comes up, I give them an endorsement.

With social media taking a predominate role in marketing Sharpie has adapted their outreach. In 2009 Sharpie ran a contest where winners got to meet David Becham. (You can check out the winners here.) This kid of contest does a lot because it gives a shout back to their fans. I think it is a shame they discontinued the contest. However, if you check out their Twitter feed, they have continued to shout back to their audience.

Crowd Sourcing

This type of social activation has really taken off because the internet makes it so easy. Companies can go directly to their sea of fans and ask for content. From 2006-2016 Doritos ran their Crash the Super Bowl contest. The winners were offered $1 million dollars and the opportunity to see their commercial air during the Super Bowl. This was an incredible opportunity. Their fans rose to the occasion!

In a Fortune Live interview, Ram Krishnan, CMO of Frito-Lay North America, announced the new “Doritos Legion of the Bold.” Doritos has changed their crowd sourcing content strategy to more of an everyday occurrence. Now their fans can create and submit any kind of content year round. And lets face it, these fans have to bought at least one bag of Doritos while getting their creative juices flowing!


Funny enough, gamafication is not a new concept. In the 1970’s, Lester Wunderman ran a gamafication campaign for Columbia Records. At the time he was strictly designing print ad order forms for the TV Guide and Parade magazines. Columbia Records wanted to start airing a commercial that would increase the number of order forms sent back to the company.

Wunderman decided to redesign all of the order-forms. Now each form would include a treasure chest. He then created and aired a commercial that revealed the “mystery” of the treasure chest. All the consumer had to do was go and find the print ad, fill it out and send it in for a free record of the customer’s choosing. Wunderman increased customer response rate by 80%!

There are a lot of different ways to let social activation work into your marketing strategy. If you feel a little lost, think about what brands you have become evangelists for and why. What have they done to make their messages stick in your brain?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s