We recently brought a grassroots marketing campaign to life in Central Park for the family-owned snack company John Wm. Macy’s. Our experience got us thinking about the core aspects of grassroots marketing and audience engagement, and what it takes to create a successful campaign. It’s a layered concept, so let’s dive in together. 

Starting From a Place of Brand Understanding

Grassroots marketing is, at its core, an effort to target, engage, and expand your audience in a more authentic and personal way. If you’re going to focus energy on a hyper-specific portion of your audience, you need to make sure your brand feels distinct and consistent to that audience. Before you can plan your campaign or start strategizing, fine-tuning your brand voice is a great starting point. The more you understand your brand’s personality, the more you’ll understand your audience and vice versa. Some key brand questions to answer as you prepare for creating a campaign:

  • What physical environment does your product/brand exist or thrive in? 
  • What emotional environment does your product/brand exist or thrive in? 
  • What mood are people in when they turn to your brand or product? Are they alone or with others? Who are they with?

Finding Your Desired Audience

As you answer these questions, you will not only craft a more three-dimensional understanding of your brand—which is always beneficial—but you will also start to figure out who your audience is. Your existing audience is important, but the goal is expansion. The sweet spot lies in the overlap between your existing supportive fans and your desired audience. Since we’re talking grassroots, this takes on a physical meaning. Where can you find your desired audience while still being authentic to your own brand? 

Loyalty Is Your Secret Weapon

The answer is paying attention to the loyalty you’ve already cultivated. Your fanbase is more than a tool; it’s your secret weapon in grassroots campaigns (and beyond). No matter what your brand or product, you have an audience you can engage with. If you’re recruiting people to be part of your campaign, you’ll want people who genuinely believe in your product. This adds a human element and makes your desired audience more likely to trust your brand. And how do you get people to get excited about your product outside of the product being genuinely good? Build loyalty. Make your fans feel cared about. Every fan—whether they are part of your campaign or not—is part of your team. Grassroots campaigns are unique in that you are physically putting your current audience and your desired audience face-to-face. If it sounds intense, it is! But if you treat your existing audience well, they’ll pay it forward. If your potential audience sees people out in the world willing to support your brand, they’re going to be far more trusting before they even land on your website. This is where investing in understanding your brand’s voice and identity is critical. The brand personality you’ve crafted across all platforms has to line up. 

Seizing the Moment

A great grassroots marketing campaign pairs niche elements of the brand’s audience with niche elements of your environment and cultural moment. The face-to-face aspect of grassroots marketing feels fresh and has a strong impact in a world where marketing has become increasingly digital and everyone is oversaturated with screens. When you shape your campaign, think about the mental state people have been in. What has or hasn’t been going on in your city or neighborhood lately? What does your community crave and what are they tired of? Considering these elements will make your campaign feel more intentional and relevant.

A Unique Opportunity for Attention

In the digital world, most of the battle is figuring out how to draw your audience’s attention away from the million other things competing for their attention—another advertisement on the screen, the next Instagram post on their feed, or a text message reminding them of their empty cart. Even being in a store with the product right in front of them, a customer could get distracted by another product’s packaging. Grassroots marketing has the ability to capture someone’s attention and focus their mind on your brand because you are looking into their eyes and speaking to them directly about it. 

The time you spend face-to-face with your audience is precious. Pay attention to when they perk up at certain phrases, such as a particular aspect of your brand’s origin story, a special ingredient or a piece of technology. Another benefit of a boots-on-the-ground effort is that you can tweak as you go and absorb analytics in real-time. If you’ve ever played the game “keep-it-up” as a kid where you had to keep a balloon in the air for as long as you could, this is the same concept. You’re trying to keep their mind on your brand for as long as possible so that hopefully they return to it later. Be sure to have some kind of analytic tracker in place (a QR code, social media component, or other link) so that you can measure success. 

Putting Your Digital Where Your Mouth Is

As we’ve discussed, two of the major components of a grassroots marketing campaign are the strategy and research behind it coupled with the in-person interactions between team and audience. But what happens afterwards? Going back to our “keep-it-up” analogy, this is another way to keep the balloon afloat after that in-person interaction ends: digital. 

Having a digital space for your audience to enter will allow them to continue engaging with your brand after you’ve walked away to the next group. The messaging on your digital platform then fuels the energy of the real-life interaction. Having a landing page or printed materials for your audience can help to create a cohesive, standout image of your brand right out of the gate. This is where you want your brand voice to be defined and your digital pages to appear clean and vibrant. 

Social media is another significant component of grassroots marketing, so much so that there are arguments for some grassroots marketing campaigns taking place entirely on social media. While your main goal might be person-to-person interaction, social media can play an equally strong role if you position it correctly. Running a social media campaign is a smart way to mirror your physical presence with your digital presence. Consistency and a sense of movement on digital platforms makes people even more likely to engage with your brand. Having content ripe for engagement like a fresh blog, new photos, the promise of a discount, or a coming announcement are great examples. When crafting these digital elements, be as approachable as you were when they met you! This could include responding to comments, sharing audience content, and using language that lifts up your audience.

At Vision we’re excited to help our clients find fresh marketing approaches that work best for their brands. Check out photos on our Instagram and Facebook from the Central Park Picnic Event, our recent grassroots campaign for John Wm. Macy’s. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you with an idea for an engaging grassroots campaign that our team can help you bring to life.

Sources

  1. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/13/how-covid-19-changed-the-advertising-industry-.html 
  2. https://www.inc.com/samuel-edwards/grassroots-marketing-in-the-age-of-social-media.html
  3. https://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2016/12/08/grassroots-marketing
  4. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/definition-grassroots-marketing-23210.html
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