Social Reciprocity Can Work For Your Brand, Too

At this point on the calendar, marketers tend to reflect on the best marketing of the year and consider how to apply others’ successful strategies to their own brands and categories. Think of it as sideways inspiration.

Looking back on 2014, it’s been exciting to see how many fashion brands introduced new and innovative social media campaigns that tapped into consumers’ desires to build up their personal online brands. Urban Outfitters, Kenneth Cole and Madewell all invited consumers to interact with their brands in ways that enhanced the participant’s social profiles but that also helped to shape and market these brands. They created opportunities for social reciprocity, and their approaches offer plenty of inspiration for CPG brands looking to hone their social media chops in 2015.

First, let’s take a look at what these fashion brands did.

  • Urban Outfitters continued to build on its #UOOnYou initiative, which invites its shoppers to upload and tag their photos of themselves wearing OU’s items. The retailer selects photos to feature on its website, Instagram, Tumblr and even on specific product pages. The shopper gets to be a model, other shoppers are inspired by these authentic styles, and for current items, the images link back to OU’s e-commerce to make them shoppable.
  • Kenneth Cole’s #DressForYourSelfie provided participants in their selfie-powered contest with downloadable message strips to hold in their images. The brand then collected the images and posted them online on a dedicated section of its website.
  • When Madewell (J.Crew’s edgier banner) noted that shoppers were posting online pics of one of its most popular bags—the transport tote—it launched a contest encouraging them to tag the images #totewell for a chance to be featured in Madewell’s advertising. Long after the contest closed, shoppers continue to add lots of great, artful images to their own social profiles and to the brand’s various online outlets. 



In all three examples, the brands invited shoppers to show off their style by tagging and uploading images of themselves sporting the brands’ wares. In return, consumers were featured on the brand’s websites and, in some cases, in their marketing campaigns. The brand engagement created content that these consumers could easily share—in a way that enhanced their social identities—while collecting authentic imagery and content to resonate with today’s consumers and shoppers. 

As these types of campaigns catch on with consumers, CPG brands have an opportunity to offer their consumers similar opportunities. Three best practices form the foundation for successful social reciprocity initiatives.

1. Be consumer first. Reset the focus of your social strategy to be consumer first. Emphasize helping consumers build their social identities while providing them with ways to shape your brand’s digital presence. 

2. Showcase consumer content. Design your digital platforms to showcase consumers’ content. Consider whether your visual identity and style blends well with the look and feel of personal content that consumers are creating and sharing via their own social profiles.

3. Inspire social behaviors. Encourage the types of behaviors that consumers are already embracing within their social networks. Basically, keep it simple and don’t ask people to work in order to interact with you. 

Social media offers participants platforms to create, evolve, promote and amplify a personal and unique online identity. They are their posts, pins, tweets and selfies. Online, people now broadcast who they are and want to be. CPG brands—especially in categories like food, beauty and beverages—can be markers of identity, and therefore, when done well, social reciprocity can enhance loyalty and prompt consumers to share their relationships with these categories. 

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