Brands who produce on a mass level understand that in a crowded marketplace, share of voice often equates to share of market. One tactic to amplify brand voice is to employ strategies that borrow from the concept of limited editions, rarefied and exclusive products and services that inspire cultish devotion from fans and followers.

It is true that there is comfort in familiarity and consistency, but human beings also have an innate desire to distinguish themselves. This instinctual ambition for individuality is becoming increasingly fervent – driven by chronic FOMO aroused by social media. For those who have yet to experience this emotion marked by anxiety and consternation, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”.

One need only look to the rabid following enjoyed by brands like Supreme to see how the right mix of ‘coolness’ and authenticity can send consumers into a frenzy, but the big question is, how can brands create that effect for themselves? Let’s take a look at some of the ways brands create that feeling of exclusivity, and how mainstream brands might steal some moves from that playbook.

Influencer Collaboration

Influencer collaboration could be described as an extension of word-of-mouth marketing. The rise of social media has meant that it’s easier for brands to collaborate with influential users in order to reach a hyper-specific set of audiences in a way that’s far quicker and more pointed than traditional targeting methods. These influencers offer a low-cost / high-impact way for brands to benefit from the community they’ve built around themselves, and their unique relationship with their audience gives them authenticity beyond celebrity endorsements.

One such example is fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni who started her blog, ‘The Blonde Salad’ in 2009 as a way to showcase her daily outfits. Eight years later, she has 7.3m followers on Instagram, 1.2m likes on Facebook, and 14m monthly page views on her website. In the last 12 months, she’s become the first blogger to score a coveted Vogue cover, been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, and been crowned one of the 30 most influential people under 30 by Forbes. She’s the latest to turn her hand to decorating a limited edition Evian bottle incorporating her own logos and designs inspired by the brand. Ferragni’s free-spirited, youthful design pairs well with Evian’s “Live young” ethos while embracing her own playful sense of fashion.

Consumer Collaboration

In a world dominated by social media, brands are fully aware of the value of users sharing and liking their content. But even if a consumer uses and follows a brand, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actively engage with the brand, no matter how good your content is. In fact, research conducted by John Lewis estimated that only 9% of their customers were happy to like and share their content, with an even smaller 1% creating and interacting with content for reward. But for brands looking to boost engagement, not all hope is lost.

Giving power to your consumers can often be a compelling way to make them a part of your brand, and when an audience feel like they’re a part of something, they’re more likely to be vocal on social media. Onken’s ‘YouGurt’ campaign is a fantastic example of this: back in September the brand launched a competition, inviting the public to customise their own yogurt through a combination of three flavours from a set of 12, allowing for a possible 220 combinations, They created ‘a virtual factory’ enabling consumers to mix their own personalised flavours, backed up by a promotional campaign across multiple advertising platforms, including social media. Every day, 50 lucky entrants got their personalised, handmade yogurt pots delivered to their doorstep. This campaign elevated one of Onken’s key unique selling points, flavour, and provided the brand with a high level of shareability and likeability, creating a huge buzz on social media.

Limited Time, Limited Quantity

A simple way to drive desire is to limit both quantity and availability of a product, creating a sense of product scarcity. Alexander Wang and Adidas have collaborated on a number of seasonal launches but the latest was perhaps one of their most audacious. Their SS2017 launch was a limited capsule collection, inspired by the seemingly disparate worlds of cycling and raving. The only way customers could purchase products was by texting a number that could be found on a poster, products were then delivered in one hour by bicycle courier.

The goal of the drop was to disrupt the traditional retail system by turning the streets into a store, giving preference to the brand’s most eager, athleisure-addicted customers. This clever use of basic media channels, coupled with innovative user involvement, amplified the positive brand perception. The disruptive narrative connecting the campaign links strongly to the authenticity and identity of both brands, while the hyper-local, limited availability of the products created desirability and talkability.

Effort For Reward

Though we often talk of instant gratification in our digital age, it can often pay to make consumers work a little for their rewards , particularly when hard work and effort is forged into the core of a brand. Take Nike for instance – their brand is built on inspiring stories of athletes who push themselves on to new heights. For their #Breaking2 campaign, they teamed up with elite runner Eliud Kipchoge – the fastest marathon runner ever – in an attempt to break the world record of 2:02:57 in Berlin on September 24 2017.

On the same date, Nike gave consumers the chance to purchase a pair of the same shoes worn by Kipchoge for his record attempt – one of only 99 pairs in existence. By signing up to the Nike Running Club app, then running a ‘Just Do It Sunday’ 5K, they unlocked the chance to purchase a piece of history. The shoes retailed for an already pricey £429, and have been seen selling on eBay for £1,799. For those who put the effort into obtaining a pair of these sneakers for intangible reasons, the value is even greater. Nike involved their audience in a real way, one that reflected the essence of the brand: active lifestyle and performance. Those that took on the brand’s challenge to ‘Just Do It’ were duly rewarded.

In Conclusion

There is no exact formula for success, but research and experience suggest brands should consider the following:

  • Drive desire – Show a different face of the brand from your everyday expression: surprise and delight your audience.
  • Be authentic – Be true to your brand values and purpose. Amplify the story at the heart of your product or service.
  • Inject fresh thinking – Add new energy, creativity and desirability to retain excitement. Don’t just focus on the here and now, but build your brand for the future.
  • Create a connection – Create a connection through deep insights identifying a need, event or occasion.
  • The best of both – A successful collaboration must be based on a good fit and must bring together the individual strengths of each party.
  • Show us your dreams – Excite your consumer with your brand’s future aspirations.

Not every brand is going to be able to turn themselves into the next cultishly adored hipster icon, nor would they probably want to, but by taking note of some of the tactics used by highly desired and exclusive brands, we can reflect on how to amplify our own brand voice.