We sometimes forget that our employees are consumers as well. Employees can build up a brand’s social currency by spreading positive word of mouth about their company’s product or service on their off time.
A brand, be it any brand, is a promise to meet and exceed customer expectations. When we apply this principle to modern day marketing, it evolves into something greater. What makes a brand truly special is not just its relevance, it is also about its social standing – how much respect it commands in the eyes of others. The social currency it represents for them.
The Concept of Social Currency
Humans are social creatures. According to Professor William Fleeson, a well-known researcher on human psychology, everyone (introverts included) feels happy with some degree of social interaction and engagement in their lives. While some struggle with the concept of socialization and everyday interaction, we still aspire to be known, accepted, and revered.
Do you remember the last conversation you had with a colleague or peer? While you may not be able to recall it completely, some aspects of it would still be fresh in your mind. Most of our conversations revolve around things that we consume regularly; the amazing soup we just had at this new eatery, or the surprisingly mediocre after-sales service we received from a well-known electronics brand. Not surprisingly, brands pop up quite often in our conversations.
That is how the concept of social currency appears, when something is so relevant and important that it makes its way into mainstream content – when it becomes the talk of the town and knowing it or about it is all the more relevant.
How Brands Become Contagious
Johan Berger the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, describes the concept of social currency best in his book: brands become contagious when they are able to capitalize on our innate need to be understood and to look good. It’s simple, our popularity, the social construct that we are, is dependent on the kind of dialogue we are able to maintain with others. Our relationships hinge on how well we are understood by the people around us.
That is how brands become part of our social narrative and help us shine through positive or negative word of mouth. We will speculate on the latest iPhone 8 or rave about the new Apple campus because it makes us look good. It’s what helps us shine and remain relevant.
This is not the only route brands can take. In the quest to win over consumers, there are other ways to become the next big thing, but our objective here is to understand that one of the easiest and least costly routes is ultimately through our own people.
Your People are your Best Bet
So how do we make social currency work for us? Really, it is down to our people. Over the years, organizations have asked me what are some of the most important marketing vehicles. Apart from all the conventional answers, I have always told them that your biggest stakeholders are your employees; they are the best vehicle for spreading positivity inside and outside your organization. They are already looking for the next big thing to be discussing at a wedding, among friends or over a family BBQ etc. so why not give them your story? However, you can’t simply email the entire organization and tell them that they need to promote the organization on their off time. So how do you make it work out on your favor?
Start with Selling your Brand Inside
When you treat your employees well and keep them aligned with your current and future plans, they will reward you for it. The reward won’t just be the hard work they put into bringing your products and/or services to life, it will be the sheer joy and enthusiasm with which they work.
Building your brand’s asset value and making it social currency starts with your own employees. We have seen massive organizations like Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Apple do it right. Anything they do goes through their people, their own internal culture first. The first thing they do is sell their brand inside – it’s a sure formula for success. Your loyal employees will make sure that everyone around them hears about the next thing for the brand and will take pride in it, because they share that belief.
They won’t see it as extra work or as something that is a performance indicator. They will do it because the feel like it, because they want others to know that the work they do for you is important and translates onto end users.
Belief is a very strong word. We love some of the earth’s most sought after brands because we believe in their quality, their performance, their persona etc. We talk about our beliefs and we sometimes judge others harshly because they don't share our sense of optimism around our favorite brands.
When you are good to your employees and communicate a vision across all corners, you set the mandate. A mandate that requires nothing but excellence and the reward of being part of something much bigger than one individual.
As marketers and captains of industry we sometimes forget the basic fact that at the end of the day, our employees are consumers as well. They are active components of the target market we are trying to tap into on a daily basis. It makes sense to employ them to work around mutually beneficial objectives outside of work as well.
The journey towards becoming a better brand is not simple but to do it right, start with your own people. Believe me, they will carry you well.