October 17, 2017, was a winning night for LeBron James, and it had nothing to do with the Cavs defeating the Celtics. Where James made the biggest splash wasn't with his athletic prowess but with his fashion statement.
When a photo of his jet-black LeBron 15 Nike shoes emblazoned with the word "EQUALITY" in gold letters hit social media, his influencer cred got the viral version of a slam dunk. Now you're lucky if you can find any LeBron 15 Nikes. Unless you're willing to hock those precious NBA season tickets, you might as well accept that you've allowed this ball to whiz past you.
Marketers everywhere could have a field day analyzing this triumph. Nothing was said, yet the statement was loud and clear: This beloved athlete supports equality with style. Want to join him? Get out your credit card, and start swiping through Nike's hottest offerings before they're gone.
No wonder brands have long relied on everyone from Olympians to college stars to hype their products. In an era where everyone -- including all those wonderfully divisive political figures -- leans heavily on social network interfaces, businesses are wise to plot ways to hit the viral lottery. Obviously, Nike made the right choice; the LeBron 15 has remained a bestseller, which is why the company has contracted with James for upward of $1 billion.
While not everyone can afford LeBron James' price tag, it's possible for just about any organization to boost product frenzy by taking a few strategic steps:
1. Collect audience data to determine your message.
In order to craft a relevant message, you first have to determine what your audience wants. During a sporting event, fans all over the stadium are using their mobile devices to share this exact information -- a fact that companies like Umbel, FanThreeSixty, and ProSuite use to their advantage. The companies' platforms gather data from fans' mobile activity during sporting events to determine what they're sharing, discussing, and enjoying to build a picture of who the team's fan base truly is.
Wade through all the information you can glean about your strongest targets. That way, you'll have a courtside understanding of the most relevant messages for your audience, making it easier to envision your ideal buyer persona.
2. Narrow your target persona for each image.
Even with all the right data at your fingertips, countless small details can affect how much certain audiences respond to your content. After using data to uncover a brand's target audiences, savvy marketing firms like to craft and test unique creative messages for each customer persona until they find the perfect formula that inspires action. Even performing A/B testing on the smallest of adjustments -- such as background color -- can drastically impact engagement.
Chart which individuals are going to be drawn to which images, as well as why they are likely to gravitate toward your messaging. Then you can craft a post that's designed to specifically appeal to whichever customer segment you want.
3. Tap into trending news -- wisely.
Images go viral for wide-ranging reasons; be cautious when devising yours. Kendall Jenner's Pepsi ad upped the hype, but it didn't exactly shine a positive light on the corporate beverage maker. Instead, the spot fizzled out because it lacked a deep understanding of what Pepsi drinkers really felt about a politically and racially charged issue.
On the other hand, James' "EQUALITY" shoe statement successfully rode a similar trend: the intermingling of politics and sports figures. The shoes worked because they were subtle -- albeit unmistakably political -- product placements properly worn in the right forum.
4. Partner with the right influencer.
James and Nike couldn't be a better fit. Who's your business's perfect "face"? Every company can get the benefit of influencer marketing, perhaps one of the most exciting types of marketing methods available. If you're just entering the waters, focus on Instagram and Facebook for big impacts, as suggested by more than half of influencers in a 2016 poll. Whom should you pick? Look for someone with power among your target personas and design irresistible messaging that rocks.
5. Allow your images to speak for themselves.
Nobody likes to be told what to think, so avoid verbosity. James didn't have to open his mouth to spark tremendous fanfare; he allowed his footwear to do the talking. Nike realized long ago that words clutter up emotion-packed photos; therefore, use phrases and sentences judiciously. Otherwise, your intentions will feel forced rather than organic.
You could be one image away from sales glory. All it takes is thoughtful planning and a deeper understanding of what makes your audience tick. Now get out there and hit nothing but net.