This guest post was written by Katherine Gustafson, a Seattle-based writer and editor who covers diverse topics including small business, marketing, and technology. Her first book, “Change Comes to Dinner,” about entrepreneurs and innovators driving progress in sustainable food, was published in 2012.
Trying to get attention for your business in the Internet age can feel like yelling in a crowded football stadium… in the middle of the Superbowl. There’s a whole lot of noise out there. Short of donning crazy superfan costumes, how can businesses grab attention?
“The best way to stand out is to really connect with your customers in a creative way,” says marketing expert Emily Sidley, senior director of publicity at Three Girls Media, Inc.
The following three businesses are great examples of how to creatively show that you’re worth listening to.
Denny’s Diner on Twitter
Denny’s, a national diner chain founded in 1953, is not the first place one would think to look for an innovative social media campaign. But the marketing approach has been as successful as it is surprising: Since the company revamped its business practices in 2011, it has grown system-wide, with same-store sales increasing in 18 of the past 19 quarters.
Denny’s social media voice — most notably on Twitter — exudes goofy, accessible, non-snarky humor. The tweets, as one might expect, often focus on breakfast (from Easter Monday: “all the eggs you didn’t find yesterday are here with us and we’re gonna smash ‘em”). But many also reference history (from March 15: “happy sides of march this is the day when all the side items rise up and stab the entrees”), culture, and politics (in reference to Donald Trump: “be proud if you have sausage fingers they’re probably delicious”).
This omnivorous take on subject matter, combined with an unexpected disregard for capitalization and punctuation, lets Denny’s project an entertaining, fun image that has delighted media-savvy consumers.
GoldieBlox’s Viral Video
GoldieBlox, maker of engineering-oriented toys targeted to girls, stood out as remarkable from the beginning. The company’s initial 2012 Kickstarter video went viral, tapping into consumers’ interest in authentic communications, passion-driven projects, and alternatives to pink-princess girl toys.
Since that time the company has depended heavily on video to portray a personable, caring, inventive, smart, and slightly irreverent persona. The GoldieBlox team focuses on the strength of the videos’ content to catch viewers’ interest, and also spend considerable effort reaching out to influencers, media and their own network. Notably, the brand voice portrayed in these videos reflects the uplifting but serious nature of the company’s core message: Girls are awesome.
“Our message is not that GoldieBlox is remarkable, but that girls are remarkable,” says Beau Lewis, vice president of product. “We think that girls have been underestimated. Simply put, our videos show the triumph of the underdog, which is a cause that everyone wants to cheer for.”
American Giant’s Cult Following
Before U.S. apparel manufacturer American Giant launched in February 2012, the company set its sights on developing a cult following. The company’s focus — selling quality, made-in-America garments directly to consumers online — proved a good match for a young audience hungry for well-crafted goods and comfortable, hip clothes.
“It starts with being true to who you are and true to your core values,” says Andrew Zappala, the company’s brand director. American Giant’s “brand DNA,” as Zappala calls it, is based on the all-encompassing philosophy, “Don’t Get Comfortable” — meaning never settle for good enough. All marketing efforts, from social media to collaborations with public figures who strive for excellence, like dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, are focused on this basic idea.
Such an approach creates “the difference between an email that you simply open and one that you forward to six of your friends,” says Zappala. “Figure out what matters to you and what you believe in. Stand up for that.”
Indeed, decisively and creatively expressing your company’s most essential sensibilities is the mainstay of standing out in the crowd… without resorting to a giant foam finger.