Jose Palomino

From “Buy Me!” to “Follow Me!”

September 24, 2010

Times Square in New York City is a place that is always abuzz with activity. Apart from the never-ending flood of people and vehicles hustling through the streets, the buildings are covered in colorful, sprawling billboards, promoting the latest movies and musicals, or enticing people to notice a brand.

For decades, agencies have tried to make the most creative outdoor advertisements possible, with the purpose of encouraging viewers to obtain the product or service they’ve blown up and put on display. Recently, though, I’ve observed a subtle change in the way a lot of billboards are being laid out. Rather than emphasize sales promotions, many are focusing on engagement marketing. It is not uncommon to see a Twitter URL or a Facebook fan page pasted somewhere on a billboard.

The same can be said for TV commercials. An increasing number of ads are integrating social media into their campaigns. Products ranging from breakfast cereals to shaving razors are ending their ads with a quick “Follow Me” blurb, if not an encouragement to visit the brand’s official website.

The addition of a social media aspect on the ads we see in real life is a perfect example of seamlessly integrating sales with marketing efforts. We live in an over-advertised and oversold society. Hard-sell sales promotions are no longer as effective as they were in past decades. Today, for a marketing campaign to be effective, it is important that the message can be immediately connected to reality. The promise of the brand must be met once it has been bought and used. Putting a “Follow Me” at the end of the ad is like a stamp of credibility. It also encourages consumers to share their experiences with the brand, painting a picture of trust, as well as utilitarian effectiveness.

It is much easier to ask people to visit a social site than to get them to buy a product. No money will be spent to engage with the brand, nor would it consume too much time. If the viewer happens to be one of the product’s loyal consumers, he would probably welcome giving digital support to the brand.

Social media allows for the humanization of brands. The consumers can interact directly with the brand and contribute to its campaign. It fosters a dynamic relationship that may very well result in an increase in sales and heightened brand loyalty.

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