Seven hundred ninety-nine worms were eaten, 3,162 miles hiked and 212 hot dogs consumed for the 24-hour brand launch of Cotopaxi.

The outdoor gear company Cotopaxi challenged customers to complete quests and document them via social media. They hoped for a launch that would give the company maximum yet meaningful exposure as competitors raced to win exotic international trips.

“The things we care about are getting outdoors, having fun in nature and doing good in the world,” said Cotopaxi’s business developer, Michael Thelen. “They had to go out and do the things our brand represents and show their friends that’s what they’re doing.”

Anders Piiparinen, a member of BYU’s Bradley PR Agency who helped create Cotopaxi’s Questival, attributed their success to having an extensive understanding of social media marketing.

Social media is primarily used for interpersonal connection between friends and family; however, this connection enticed corporations, like Cotopaxi, to utilize social media as an integral part of their business models.

According to Michael Stelzner’s 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, the main benefits of social media marketing are increased exposure and increased traffic.

Stelzen’s report indicates that 97 percent of companies responded affirmatively in social media participation. Virtually all companies have a social media presence, but the challenge lies in breaking through that clutter to make a significant impression.

“Shout marketing” techniques are common and rely on simple, one-way communication from the company to the user. They generally ignite little brand interest, let alone consumer action. Effective social media campaigns rely on two-way communication on a personal level, creating a landscape for interpersonal communication and online interaction.

The key: personalize.

Participants in these social media brand launches become advertisers as they share their experiences. Instead of seeing an Internet ad, users see a group of their friends building a shelter in the wilderness with Cotopaxi backpacks. This strategy builds brand reputability and attainability.

Two-way communication between company and consumer plays a crucial role in the customer’s personal attention. Vivint, the security and home automation company, emphasized the importance of two-way relationships. Jessica Allen, Vivint’s customer experience marketing coordinator, said Vivint is always pushing boundaries and going farther than their competitors.

“Social media offers a powerful opportunity to engage and entice customers and prospective customers alike,” Allen said. “It’s an efficient way to carry the voice and personality of Vivint and is a useful tool to understand the needs and wants of our customers.”

Getting close to consumers and building authentic relationships yield increased trust, sentiment and potential revenue for a company.

The social media market is increasingly saturated by business, not only as a means to advertise the brand but as a platform for inbound requests.

“We want to have these genuine conversations,” said Stephan Jcob, Cotopaxi’s co-founder and CEO. “We are hardly ever taking conversations offline even if they are contentious and critical; we think those conversations should happen publicly.”

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