With social audiences relying on other consumers (versus brands) for information and recommendations on everything from laundry detergent to Netflix shows, it makes perfect sense that brands would turn to members of their audience when marketing. Here’s why it’s a brilliant move.

Consumers Are in Charge

Social media has changed a lot of things – but nothing is as game-changing as the power it’s put into the hands of consumers. This isn’t new information, but if you were waiting to see if this trend would stick, it’s time to accept that it has.

Consumers seek out the advice and opinions of other consumers regularly via social channels – and they trust these opinions over information coming from brands; even when they come from total strangers.

This is why influencer marketing has become such a crucial tool for brands to use. Whether it’s a celebrity so down to earth that they feel like a friend, or a contingent of micro-influencers passionate about a brand or product, influencers provide a human face that is easier to connect to than a marketing slogan or overly-promotional content.

Kristen Bell is just one of many adorkable celebrities that audiences love

And now some brands are taking things to the next level by using “real” people in their advertising as well.

Unlike influencer marketing, this puts brand messaging 100% in the hands of brands and marketers, while also taking advantage of the most powerful asset brands have: consumers.

Everyday Audiences in Action

There have been some great examples of campaigns featuring “real” people over the years. Dove’s Real Beauty campaign has featured “real women, never models” for more than ten years now.

Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody campaign used four real women to illustrate diverse body types in the fitness realm.

And Diana Hunter, the beloved Honey Bunches of Oats lady, won over audiences until her retirement from the company in 2017.

And for a super current example of applying this strategy smartly, we have GEICO’S Best of GEICO campaign. The campaign/contest ran from December 2018 through February 2019, asking consumers to choose their favorite GEICO commercials via online voting.

Each vote counted as an entry into their sweepstakes to win a trip to L.A., $1400 spending money, and the opportunity to feature in a new GEICO commercial, with an additional $1200 payment in that case.

The campaign was smart idea since the brand’s commercials are one of the things consumers talk positively about most:

It also took advantage of nostalgia for some of their best commercials and characters – like the spy mom, celebrating squirrels, caveman at the airport, Maxwell the pig, and the Hump Day camel, who took spots #5 through #1 respectively.

Finally, it leveraged a fantastic incentive to get fans voting and interacting. The commercial featuring winner Kathleen Colen of Jacksonville, FL debuted on Memorial Day, and was an epic conglomeration of these past characters.

There was even a teaser spot giving the caveman another opportunity to wax jealous as Kathleen talked about her favorite GEICO commercial icons…

And the campaign was a smashing success. Steve Bassett, group creative director at The Martin Agency, who’ve worked with GEICO since 1994, chalks that up to the brand’s laser-focused simplicity of business model:

“’Fifteen minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.’ So that’s been our basic theme line and strategy for going on 25 years now. Also, in an area where a lot of other competitors were using fear tactics, we decided to go with humor. And that has served us well. I think if you look at most brands and go back 20 or 25 years and pull out some of their older commercials, I’m not sure it would stand out as far as entertainment goes.”

GEICO definitely stands out – and they’ve got the 1.4 million YouTube channel subscribers to prove it.

Follow the Love and Keep Audiences Involved

But having followers, fans, and customers isn’t enough if you can’t get them excited about your product – excited enough to talk about it online and beyond.

Identifying what resonates on a personal level, then involving them in brand campaigns, is the best way to do that. The more social audiences feel seen as people first, and potential customers second, the better you’ll connect with them.

That doesn’t mean you have to give away a trip or put them in your commercials – though clearly these tactics can work. What it really means is making it about them instead of your brand. Simply responding to social conversations is a strategy brands like Best Buy, Chili’s and others excel with.

It’s not rocket science – it’s just everyday, human connection. Use AI analytics tools with sentiment analysis to identify those passions that are most dear, and show social audiences you “get” them. When you make it that simple, they can’t help but love you for it. And that’s where the money is.

Have you seen how AI analytics tools increase sentiment speed and accuracy? Reach out and we’ll show you!


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