The secrets behind some of the UK’s favourite brands
Love is something that all brands should aim for. To be loved by audiences and customers is to garner loyalty and advocacy which helps in retaining and attracting customers. Brand love is a powerful marketing strategy that helps businesses grow, even in times of economic difficulty. We recently released our report featuring the top 50 most loved brands in the world. Using the same methodology, we identified ten of the UK’s favourite brands. How do they generate love?
How to achieve brand love
We’ve established that brands who are well loved by the public are likely to be successful over the long term and gain a bigger share of the market. But what exactly defines a loved brand?
When we took our long list of brands and whittled them down to the final 50, we identified 11 factors that contribute to generating love for a brand. These include:
- Customer experience
- Employee engagement
- Trend engagement
- Influencer marketing
- Social media engagement
For the 10 brands in the UK that we identified as well-loved, all of them have invested in some way in influencer marketing and/or social media engagement.
Both of these factors centre around the idea of creating community. Creating strong relationships is essential in building love and trust towards a brand, because it encourages audiences to engage with brands as if they were friends, rather than a commercial organisation.
Influencer marketing provides a way for brands to immediately tap into an existing community with similar interests and concerns. This is why it’s important for brands to partner with influencers that truly reflect their aims and values. It makes the feeling of community gained through influencer marketing more authentic. According to social media and marketing consultant and founder of Creative Impact Co, Fab Giovanetti, “...understanding the science of influence is essential. Brands have a relatability issue. This is where introducing them to a trusted, familiar face might be all it takes to get skeptical consumers on board. It all comes back to persuasion and influence. We are influenced by peers and strangers hundreds of times each day. An influencer can provide this, a recognisable figure with a built-in following who applies their story to your messaging”
Social media marketing, when done well, also creates a sense of connection, but this time the connection is directly between the audience and the brand, rather than through an ambassador. Brands that are able to converse with their audience through social media can create a stronger sense of community.
Let’s take a look at how these well-loved brands in the UK have successfully leveraged influencer marketing and social media engagement.
- Four Seasons
- Build-A-Bear Workshop
- Urban Decay
- Warner Bros.
Four Seasons Hotels is the first of four hotel groups that makes it into this list, which is not that surprising given that there is a focus on customer experience in the hospitality industry, and the feeling of creating a home away from home. Four Seasons, in particular, is very good at connecting with their audiences on social media. As Lucy Hall, Founder of SocialDayUK notes, “When they are mentioned by customers on social media they are responsive and human in their replies and by acknowledging these customers in turn makes them feel extra special.”
Four Seasons have also implemented an interesting influencer marketing strategy. They were one of the first brands within the travel industry to implement a strategy that focuses on influencer content, rather than the number of followers. Their Envoy programme leverages ‘Zepto-influencers’ (a term coined by them) to help promote the brand. These are not considered traditional influencers, but instead are creatives with a story to tell. The first iteration of this project took place in 2018 with spoken word artist, Marshall Davis Jones, followed by a collaboration with visual artist, Missy Dunaway in 2019.
Following the first collaboration, the Envoy content reached almost 24 million people and the video linked to the campaign received almost 500K likes, comments and shares and almost 80K clicks.
American toy brand Mattel has been incredibly successful in creating an influencer marketing strategy that’s tailored to its key audience: kids. Taking inspiration from the thousands of adult influencers promoting fun and exciting lifestyles, Mattel has turned their iconic doll, Barbie, into their very own influencer.
Barbie (@barbiestyle) has amassed over 2 million Instagram followers, putting her in the category of celebrity influencer. Interestingly, the majority of followers are between 18 and 34 - not the expected audience, given most would be considered too old to be playing with dolls.
Barbie also has her own YouTube channel with over 9 million subscribers, where she posts video content regularly. All her content is relevant and highly targeted to her audience, mimicking the best ‘real life’ influencers. For example, during the pandemic, content has been very focused on helping kids to cope during what is an extremely strange, and potentially scary time for them.
Mattel’s whole Barbie strategy really shows how influencer marketing can create community, transcending different audience demographics, to build on a shared love for an iconic brand.
It couldn’t be considered a list of well-loved brands in the UK without this British chocolate brand making an appearance. Cadbury are well-known for their emotional and thought-provoking campaigns, such as the recent ‘This doesn’t need to end’ ad. This focuses on all the community-spirited acts of kindness that have resulted from COVID-19, ending with a hopeful message that this can continue even once the pandemic is over.
Being a chocolate brand though, Cadbury also has a fun side which is often communicated over social media. Back in 2016, they were the first confectionary brand to leverage the power of Snapchat in reaching their target audience. As part of their ‘Friday Feeling’ strategy, Cadbury launched a Snapchat filter to help create a buzz around their products. This went down well, with well known-celebrities, such as Zoella, getting involved. By creating this interactive opportunity for fans, Cadbury was able to evoke the feeling of fun and joy associated with the brand among its audience.
Whitbread is the UK hospitality industry giant, incorporating brands such as Premier Inn and Table Table. Each individual brand interacts with social media differently, but Premier Inn are excellent at using it as a platform to not only connect with customers, but also to highlight their charity affiliations (tapping in to another one of the key factors that contribute to a loved brand: CSR).
During the pandemic they highlighted the work they were doing to provide hotel rooms and food to key workers. They also held a number of quizzes on Facebook Live to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Join us on Facebook Live tonight for the final edition of The Big Quiz, in association with @GOSHCharity & hosted by @TheLastLeg's @alex_brooker!— Premier Inn (@premierinn) May 29, 2020
We'll be giving you the chance to win some great prizes, as well as raising money for a fantastic cause!https://t.co/A6AwF4fitg pic.twitter.com/roVmB0IkN0
Obviously, these actions in isolation are good for giving a temporary boost in engagement, but Whitbread brands consistently engage with their communities - online and offline - which helps to build loyalty and trust overtime.
The third hospitality brand in the list has, again, taken a slightly different approach to influencer marketing. Rather than rely on ‘professional’ influencers to promote their brand (although they do use them, e.g., Lily Rose with their luxury ‘Andaz’ brand), Hyatt encourages their guests to be the influencers. By uploading their own holiday snapshots to social media using either the hashtag #InaHyattWorld or #sharemyhyattpic, Hyatt was able to amass an amazing amount of user-generated content.
Not only does all this content help promote the brand, offering more authentic advertising direct from the consumers, but it also creates a sense of community. Anyone who has been a guest at a Hyatt hotel is immediately part of this exclusive club as soon as they share their experiences.
Emirates is known for providing excellent customer service via their social channels, responding to all messages in a way that seems genuine and personal, not just the copy-paste option that many brands use.
They also have a very unique take on influencer marketing as they benefit from their own staff acting as influencers on their behalf. Emirates cabin crew epitomise the glamorous lifestyle of international travel that many aspire to. As influencers in their own right, many of the cabin crew have amassed tens-of-thousands of social followers by posting pictures of their travel interspersed with pictures of them in their uniforms and at work. For example, cabin crew member, Yanusya Sheludko (@little_sky_miss), has over 16K instagram followers and actively promotes her employer in her posts.
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In leveraging this type of influencer marketing, Emirates has been able to tap into one of the other key factors that create brand love: employee advocacy. As Gordon Glenister, Global Head of Influencer Marketing at BCMA puts it, “it’s not just about selling a product nowadays but creating a great customer and employee experience. It’s this that adds brand equity.”
Since the appointment of Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing (now VP of Client Solutions at Twitter) to the board of directors in 2016, it’s clear that social media has become an important part of the Build-A-Bear’s growth strategy. They’ve seen a big increase in the number of engagements with them on social media since then.
Where they really excel is in the content they share via YouTube. As we revealed in a recent report, YouTube has seen a big increase in usage since the pandemic, so it’s an important channel for marketers to consider.
Realising the diversity of their audience of almost 100K, they have created a great selection of content for different age groups, including their ‘Build-A-What?!” video series which gives fun tips on how to create accessories for your bears. All of these are presented by kids, which creates a sense of ownership and authenticity to the videos.
They also share their ‘Build-A-Bear Radio’ interviews on the channel too. Through this, they are able to connect with a slightly older ‘tweenage’ demographic, hosting interviews with celebrities and influencers and creating music playlists that resonate with that age group.
By creating content that resonates with their target audiences in a way that is not patronising, Build-A-Bear’s social media engagement strategy helps to build a community that really loves the brand.
Urban Decay is known for breaking the mould of traditional make-up brands, and its recent global influencer marketing strategy shows this. Using the tagline ‘Pretty Different’, the brand aimed for an inclusive message. They chose to work with influencers that you wouldn’t normally associate with a make-up brand e.g., Ezra Miller and Lizzo
The fact that they included a man in the promotion of what is traditionally considered a female-only product, showed that Urban Decay created a community for all. You can see engagement from men with the brand increased by over 10% around the Pretty Different campaign.
Gender split engagement with Urban Decay (top) vs Urban Decay AND Pretty Different (bottom)
In the UK, Urban Decay has also successfully leveraged more local influencers that fit with their brand message in order to promote their products. Celebrity make-up and beauty influencer, Jordan Lipscombe, is a regular promoter of Urban Decay products, reaching over 500K Instagram followers and 1.8million YouTube subscribers.
Most brands have become successful at leveraging platforms such as Instagram and YouTube for social media engagement, however Warner Bros. have experimented with engaging on other platforms. This creates a novelty and allows them to do something different to other major brands that is more likely to capture audience attention.
A great example of this is their IT:Chapter 2 launch where they worked with Pinterest to create a first-of-its-kind campaign. As part of the promotion, Warner Bros. created a real life replica of the terrifying funhouse that features in the film. For those who couldn’t attend in person, they created an interactive experience via Pinterest. Using a 360° scan, they allowed people to visit every area of the real space from their computer.
By creating this immersive experience online, they were able to reach so many more fans than could ever attend the real-life experience in person. Sharing this through Pinterest, rather than through their website, meant they created a space for the community to come together and talk about the experience, thus amplifying the excitement and messaging.
The final brand I’m highlighting in this blog is another hotel brand. As mentioned previously, hotel brands have been very successful in leveraging social media and influencer marketing to generate love towards their brands. “Hospitality operators are known for their expertise in customer service. As a social media agency with clients across the globe in the hospitality industry, we find that at the heart of the strategy for hospitality brands truly is the customer”, according to Charlie Terry, Founder & Manager of CEEK Marketing.
“The anticipation of the customer's wants and needs comes naturally to hospitality operators. Along with typically having unrivalled access to content, high levels of customer engagement and high footfall; hospitality centric social media accounts have one unfair advantage... emotion. A weekend escape, a romantic dinner or an aspirational cruise; the hospitality industry commands emotion and can, with the right strategy, leverage this emotion within their digital strategy.”
This is exactly what InterContinental does on a regular basis through their social media channels. At the end of 2019, they launched their #BeThereIRL campaign, which gave away 10,000 free nights via social media and events. They asked people to share their stories of people they want to see and places they want to go in real life.
This resulted in some heartwarming stories, including one family who were able to visit their sick grandma on her 71st birthday. Encouraging people to share these stories, and being able to reciprocate, creates a connection that taps into this ‘unfair advantage’ of emotion. This means the connection will last beyond that one social media campaign, but instead will stay in people’s memories long term.
By looking at how these well-loved brands in the UK engage with their audiences, we can see that social media engagement and influencer marketing can really create a sense of love and affinity with a brand. But these are by no means the only two methods that can be used to generate brand love. Read our Brand Love Story report to discover what other factors some of the most loved brands in the world use and learn how to implement them within your own business.