With decreasing attention spans is peer power the key to cutting through?

In our increasingly distracted world, with studies showing that the average consumer is exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day, brands have never had so much noise to cut through to get their message across.  Some brands may be tempted to do more of the same to deliver the same results (or even less) but by being smarter we can do things differently and be more effective in engaging with today’s hyper-connected customers.

With 92% of consumers trusting referrals from people they know, unlocking word-of-mouth recommendation, or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) marketing is key to making meaningful connections. Indeed, 82% of consumers proactively seek referrals from peers before making a purchase.

But why does P2P marketing work? Put simply, it comes down to one word – trust. Consumers trust their peers marketing more than paid media, with non-celebrity influencers being ten times more likely to drive purchase intent than celebrities. What’s more, 84% of consumers say they trust recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues, making peer recommendations the highest-ranked information source for trustworthiness.

So how can brands that aren’t connecting meaningfully engage their consumers in the P2P space?

Back in 2005, partnering with others, bluemarlin worked on the global rebrand of Vaseline. One of the products we redesigned as part of this project, Vaseline Clinical Therapy prescription strength skin cream, was successfully launched with P2P at the heart of its campaign. Starting in the wind-swept and chilly Alaskan town of Kodiak, one woman who loved using the product, prescribed it to almost everyone living there, just over 6,000 people in total. The people she prescribed it to also, if they liked it, prescribed it to others, which they clearly did and in just under three weeks, hardy fishermen, farmers and regular families were all using the cream. A great example of the power of P2P marketing connecting people and products.

Airbnb, which now has 150mn guests worldwide, also offers more insight. It discovered that 25-55% of new user growth could be produced through referral channels. It created arguably one of the most successful brand advocacy programmes ever which has proven highly effective at generating awareness and converting prospects.

Working on the philosophy that ‘our users tell a story better than we do’ Airbnb devised a simple and upfront programme. Customers (and hosts) were encouraged to invite a friend using a bespoke URL (or sign up code) so when their friend used the service they saved on their first booking and customers (and hosts) got credits / money.

‘Referrals’ was an exciting project to undertake because it embodies growth: it’s highly measurable, scalable, and is all about identifying a growth pattern that’s already happening but amplifying it at a key moment.

Jason Bosinoff, Director of Engineering at Airbnb

Another approach is for brands to focus on creating great content that excites and delights customers to engage and share stories with their peers. The coffee-based skincare brand Frank Body did just this with its battle of the scrubs campaign where it pitted four teams against each other (according to their scrubs cocoa, coconut etc.,) encouraging users to create their own content to show support for their side. This user-generated, organic campaign was a global success story and helped this new kid on the block grow into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

 Copyright Frank Body

Copyright Frank Body

So to communicate effectively in a way that grabs people’s attention today, brands need to first understand where, how and why they are (or aren’t) being recommended in the P2P space and then set about unleashing the power of recommendation with campaigns that amplify reach through trust, which in turn generates awareness and drives conversions.

Why not have a 300ml skin care product in two parts? One of 250ml and a detachable 50ml travel-size product which can be gifted to friends, or not if you love the product just too much to share! If you think your brand needs to re-engage with its customers in the P2P space and you’re after a different more engaging point of view, we’d love to hear from you. 

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My interest in all things technical started at age 5 years old. I’ve since been fascinated with problem-solving of all kinds. These days I curate blog posts for our audience.