Good marketing has always been social


The Wall recently published this article by me talking about five reasons why good marketing has always been social. They’ve been kind enough to let us reproduce it in full below. 


With almost three-quarters of us more likely to buy from a brand we follow on a social network (compared to one we don’t), brands should be keen to use social media well. But how on earth do you do that? If social is an enigma to you, here’s some good news: the platforms might be relatively new, but the tricks underpinning great communications remain the same.

Here’s why good marketing has always been social.

The best brands have always had a personality
Back when Facebook was a site we used to throw sheep at each other, Apple took brand anthropomorphisation to new levels with their ‘Get A Mac’ campaign. A sit-com of a sparring match between the stiff-suited John Hodgman (“Hello, I’m a PC”) and the oh-so cool Justin Long (“Hello, I’m a Mac”) turned your choice of computer into a lifestyle, where owning a Mac made you one of the cool kids.

When social media arrived, consumers got the tin can on the other end of a string marketers had been yelling down for years. To keep conversation flowing, brands suddenly had to ask themselves –  “If we were a person, what would we sound like? How would we speak? What would we talk about?”

adidas had a social smash-hit during the 2014 FIFA World Cup when they gave the official tournament football its own Twitter handle. @Brazuca’s whimsical account of life at the centre of the action was the fastest growing Twitter handle during the World Cup, generating heaps of positive brand sentiment, and with a record number of World Cup ball sold.

Consumers like products that reflect their personality. The success of brands like Apple and adidas lies in their ability to turn buying their stuff into a statement about who you are.

Sharing is the sincerest form of brand advocacy
Jaffa Cakes are best known for two things: The great ‘cake vs. biscuit’ legal battle of 1991; and their “Full moon, half moon, total eclipse!” TV ad. Since then, it’s been almost impossible to eat a Jaffa Cake without re-enacting this advert.

Endorsement is inherent on social media, expressed through likes, shares and retweets. Branded content jostles for attention against memes and videos of cats, so when brands began advertising on social, they all did so with one goal in mind – ‘going viral’ (cue choir of angels).

K-Mart hit the bullseye with their #ShipMyPants campaign, which was shared more than three million times. Just like in the Jaffa Cakes ad, the ‘ha’-factor tickled people’s juvenile sense of humour everywhere, prompting them to pass the message on.

Endorsement through sharing is what transforms audiences into brand ambassadors, but people won’t share content unless it’s meaningful to them. Whether on TV or social media, brands have to put social thinking at the heart of their strategy to be in with a shot at getting a share.

A quotable tagline conquers all
Before the hashtag, there was the slogan. And for a period in the mid ‘80s, no smutty innuendo was complete without quoting this strapline:


Slogans and hashtags share a common goal – to be repeated. The snappier, wittier and more relatable they are, the more likely they are to succeed. This is to a copywriter what ‘going viral’ is to a content producer. Ker-ching. When brands popped up on Twitter, they had to get fluent in hashtag. By tapping into natural social behaviours, some have penned witty, ownable hashtags that fit perfectly within the online conversations their target audience are having. Done well, this conjures the same brand affinity as a catchy slogan.

Awesome content is awesome
In a world where adverts frequently conform to the same old formats, nothing makes an impact like a truly standout, memorable ad – such as the visually arresting, bass-thumping, action-packed Guinness ‘Horses and Surfers’ commercial of 1998.

The metaphor of surfers catching a wave brought to life the extended wait and eventual thrill of the Guinness pour. This turned the brand message into a memorable experience; a far cry from your typical beer advert featuring some bloke in the pub having a lovely time.

GoPro use content submitted by their own community to associate a lifestyle with their brand, tantalising would-be customers with the limitless possibilities of life as a GoPro owner.

When it comes to social media, if you don’t have anything decent to post, you really shouldn’t post anything at all. If your social strategy is to shove random bits of information on to Twitter and Facebook with a meaningless call to action, your social feed will look random and meaningless. Click ‘like’ if you agree!

The timelier, the better
In 2004, Britney Spears tied the knot with her childhood sweetheart, and almost immediately annulled the marriage. With Britney at the height of her fame, the story hit headlines, promptly prompting this from Lynx:


When advertising became social, being current was a sink-or-swim matter. Timely, reactive content provides a unique opportunity to reach new fans, followers and, ultimately, customers, without spending a penny on promoted media. During the 2014 World Cup, footballer Luis Suarez received a four-month ban for biting another player. When Twitter went into meltdown over the matter, Netflix UK spotted an opportunity to deliver their take.

The world may be moving its conversations to new platforms, but the principles of great marketing remain the same. Even before the most prehistoric of social platforms were fathomed (Myspace, we’re looking at you), the best communications have had social thinking at their heart.