Channel Their Energy

Great brands tend to gather passionate fans. But can a brand harness its loyalists' passions to produce even greater results? As part of a recent freelance media project I have been studying various network marketing (multi-level marketing) companies. While the study itself was to measure the effectiveness of that business model in tough financial times, I was able to learn a great deal about that industry's branding and marketing.

Let's briefly contrast a "traditional" distribution platform, and a "multi-level marketing" platform. A traditional distribution platform generally has a retail component; whereas a multi-level platform distributes product or services via its distributors' personal networks. This very important distinction allows those multi-level distributors to engage its target audience on a much different playing field. Basically it's, "we want you to believe in our product so much, that we want you to sell it as well." Multi-level marketers turn their audience into their colleagues.

Okay, so as marketers, you aren't always in the position to make your customers your distributors, but you can use the natural energies of your audience to enhance your brand and get a similar result. And since you market to the generation with the highest energy level, then this will be a perfect fit.

Here is a rundown of the components of multi-level marketing that you can emulate with your Gen Y audience.

1. Personal experiences If you have ever heard a MLM "pitch" then you know that a personal story is a significant component to its effectiveness. "My back doesn't hurt anymore. I can see my feet. I finally can read ancient Spanish. Whatever." Imagine if your customers were encouraged to add their own experiences to your sales pitch. It would take the clinical feel out of some of your marketing campaigns, and you will be surprised by the forms of alternative satisfaction that your product brings.

2. Unusually high levels of brand pride Across the board, MLM business owners have an incredibly high level of pride in the brand that they represent. So much so, that their lives are plastered with the brands they represent. Can you plaster your brand all over the lives of your customers? Will they change their profile picture on Facebook or Twitter to your brand icons? Will they wear your t-shirts and slap your sticker on their laptop? Marketers should allow their audience a chance to show their brand pride.

3. A physical forum of celebration What would an MLM be without its giant convention? There are national meet-ups, there are regional meet-ups, and there are random meetings in small conference rooms of your local Holiday Inn. It is one thing to have an online forum for your fans to discuss the merits of your products, but it's a whole other thing to provide a fanatical atmosphere for your customers. Consider getting your audience together to share their energy and celebrate your brand. No joke intended, but that's what a brand like Red Bull does all the time. They have giant events that get people excited about the brand and the lifestyle.

For years, MLM companies have borrowed the techniques of the non-MLM marketing world. Why not take some time to identify their strongest characteristics? I think you will be surprised by their effectiveness.

Footnote: I'm neither endorsing nor discrediting the multi-level marketing model. There are things to be learned from every different type of business, and the above findings were a side-effect of my financial research.

Tags: gen y
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2 comments about "Channel Their Energy ".
  1. Jessica Hogan from JD Power & Associates , September 18, 2009 at 12:32 p.m.

    all true but way old news. any marketer worth their salt knows and practices this approach. i just started subscribing to this feed and i guess i'm just shocked at the amateur nature of the information coming through.

  2. Gretel Going from Channel V Media , September 18, 2009 at 2:17 p.m.

    Jessica, I think you've unknowingly pegged the problem: most marketers simply aren't worth their salt. This type of information must be continually reiterated. There are a million brands out there trying to cater to the Gen Y demographic and they're failing miserably because this type of stuff just doesn't sink in for them. In the end, old dogs, no new tricks.