Twitter. Facebook. Email. Spend any amount of time browsing the internet, and you’re destined to stumble over countless social advertising and marketing schemes. In fact, while some companies do still rely on direct mail to spread the word about their products and promotions, the vast majority of marketing today happens in the far more abstract, social and intellectual space of the internet.
That’s a good thing for many reasons — social media is cheap, has a broad reach, and humanizes brands — but there’s something that’s lost in this transition: a direct, physical connection to the consumer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are two concrete ways you can move your more ephemeral social campaigns into a customer’s physical experience: product packaging and product design.
See, when product and packaging design is good, it’s art — destined to jump off of the shelves, attract attention away from your competitors, fully express the personality and value of your brand, and establish your relevancy to the current market.
Once you view your product and packaging as a canvas, it’s easy to take things a step further by integrating social campaigns directly into those designs. In fact, fresh, fun hashtag campaigns will gamify your customer’s interaction with your brand, turning a purchase of your product into an engaging and memorable experience.
If design itself is what intrigues your customers, hashtags are what turn your product and your brand into a friend. Marry the two, and you’ll have yourself one powerful campaign.
Let’s take a look at a few brands that really get this collaboration right.
1. ASDA’s #ChosenByYou Campaign
Last fall, the British grocery chain ASDA launched the ChosenByMe hashtag campaign, inviting users to submit comments about and photos of their favorite ASDA products to Facebook and Twitter. With the hashtag attached, the company collects these posts onto its own website, encouraging users not only to document their experiences with the brand but also to see firsthand what other consumers think.
With the consumer’s permission, the best posts are even printed onto in-shop materials as well as onto product packaging, as is the term, “Chosen By You.”
In this way, the company completes the marketing circle from product to conversation to product again, so it’s all one and the same.
What This Means for You
To do hashtag marketing effectively, you need to consider every platform upon which customers seek engagement. Social media may be the most obvious place, but so, too, is product packaging, as long as the hashtag is well placed and taps into a wider campaign. Given their search functionality, hashtags also make curation easier on the backend, as they enable you to pull hashtag search results directly into your website through Facebook and Twitter’s APIs. So choose your hashtag, consider how and where you’ll feature your results, and get this thing launched!
2. Indie Hair’s Unique Product Hashtags
Indie Hair is a beauty products line with an independent feel. That’s something you can see in their packaging design, which features solid fonts and big, bold colors. You can also see it in the unique hashtags included on every product, like this #SuperTrim hair spray.
Search for this hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, and you’ll find a wide range of customers, posting photos of their creative haircuts and styling, for which this hairspray undoubtedly proved an essential tool. This is nicely paired with the company’s more general hashtag, #MyIndieHair which parallels the company’s web address (myindiehair.com) and covers more general tips. The company further closes the marketing circle by offering styling tips on their website.
Together with the hashtag campaigns, this creates a dynamic community around the brand, and one that only further drives their voicing and mission home.
What This Means for You
Hashtags aren’t just about branding or search: they’re about creating a solid sense of community. This is especially so for products for which customers are already intrinsically motivated to search for tips and advice. For these types of products, both product hashtags or unique advice hashtags (e.g. #HairsprayHowTo) are a great way to unite your consumers, crowdsource ideas, and provide useful information, all at once.
3. J Crew’s Swimsuit Hashtags
If your products and packaging are a canvas, why not let the customers decide what goes onto it? That’s exactly what J Crew’s hashtag campaign does. As long as they can get it into ten characters or less, customers can have any phrase they like printed on the suits of their choice.
This is a great way to empower self-expression and self-branding, both for the lone swimsuit artiste and for groups of friends or family members looking to unit around a single concept. To say it’s engaging and interactive wouldn’t really capture the deeper philosophy at work here: consumers today don’t just want to consume; they want to produce, too. Campaigns like this allow them to do just that.
What This Means for You
Consumers will be far more invested in your product when they’ve contributed to at least some aspect of its design, no matter how small. A hashtag campaign is a simple, cost-effective way to do just this — all the more so if you encourage your customers to @mention your brand when proudly displaying their hashtag for all to see on social media.
4. Adidas’ #TaketheStage and Nike’s #MakeItCount Campaigns
In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Nike and Adidas engaged in a hashtag battle to beat all hashtag battles, printing their chosen tags right on their footwear. Both hooked celebrity players into the deal, giving them customized shoes with the hashtag printed or embroidered on the side. Naturally, this was only one part of much larger campaigns.
On Adidas’ side, there was an entire #TaketheStage event, where there was a #TaketheStage photobooth present, as well as a What Will You Take ad campaign:
Nike’s campaign was similar, with the added gimmick of giving a pair of customized shoes to the most active hashtag users. The result: a massive social response and a fair amount of outside PR.
What This Means for You
If you can find a unique and relevant angle, it always makes sense to find hashtag inspiration in current events — and it never hurts to have a little healthy public rivalry with a competitor.
Still, in order to make it work you have to capture that hashtag in every medium. Product design is an essential place to do just that, especially if you have a celebrity endorsement to back you up.
Product design and product packaging are two of the only ways you can draw consumers back into your online campaigns as they navigate the physical world. A social campaign may get the ball rolling, but a single hashtag or slogan on your packaging will encourage users to engage more deeply both in person and online.
In this way, physical hashtag marketing works to promote an immediate sale while also fostering a much deeper relationship with the brand at large.
So choose your hashtag, make your campaign, get it printed, and enjoy the benefits of a completely integrated marketing campaign.