How Coca-Cola and Yoplait Use “Customer Participation” Marketing – And How You Can, Too

Coca-Cola and Yoplait are enormous brands that already have millions of customers – but while other companies might be content to rest on their laurels (and their customer bases), these brands are also known for their innovative marketing. Most marketers won’t be able to match Coca-Cola and Yoplait’s budgets, but we can take a page from their campaigns.

Here’s how Coca-Cola and Yoplait used customer participation in their marketing to engage their customers, build loyalty, and ultimately drive greater revenue:

Example #1: Coca-Cola

In the United States, the average person drinks the equivalent of 275 (12oz) cans of Coke per year. So a company like Coca-Cola, which has already “acquired” most of the people in the United States, naturally shifts their marketing focus away from immediate sales transactions, and towards a more long-term emotional connection with consumers. Through their innovative campaigns, Coca-Cola has demonstrated that emotionally resonant marketing creates loyalty among your customers…which, in turn, sells you far more Coca-Cola.

For example, their “Share a Coke” campaign (replacing the logos on Coke cans with popular names among young people) encouraged customers to share a Coke with a friend. Essentially, Coke was inviting buyers to participate in a massive social/referral marketing experience.

share a coke with mike

The campaign generated huge customer participation, particularly online – there are a whopping 341,000 posts on Instagram with the hashtag #shareacoke. Coca-Cola also reports that 96% of consumer sentiment toward the campaign is either positive or neutral.

Example #2: Yoplait

Another great example of customer participation marketing is Yoplait’s annual “Save Lids to Save Lives” program. Yoplait donates $0.10 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for every pink foil yogurt lid that is mailed back to the company, with an annual cap of $1,500,000 per year.

Since 1997, Yoplait and their parent company General Mills have donated an estimated $35-50 million. That means that hundreds of millions of Yoplait lids have been sent in by customers.

This campaign encourages customers to engage with Yoplait, and also with a cause these customers identify with and want to support. Yoplait is also building brand loyalty – when customers are actively engaged with the “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, they are far more likely to purchase Yoplait and become brand advocates, encouraging others to purchase Yoplait as well.

Don’t Have Coca-Cola’s Budget? No Problem.

These two major marketing campaigns have truly engaged their customers, activated those customers to buy more products, and nurtured lasting customer relationships that will continue to drive sales and engagement. But both examples come from large companies with seemingly unlimited resources.

How can marketers with smaller teams and budgets build customer participation marketing campaigns? The good news is that customer participation marketing can also happen on a much smaller scale.  If you sell shoes, you might ask buyers to vote on the styles or colors you plan to stock next season; if you have a restaurant, you might build an Instagram campaign with your customers wearing your branded t-shirt.  Even charities like the ALS Association have seen huge success with the extremely viral ice bucket challenge, which continues to engage people around the world and drive greater donations to the charity.

Another lesson marketers should take from these campaigns is a shift in focus – from focusing solely on acquiring new customers, to engaging throughout the customer lifecycle. Companies must continuously engage (and delight) our customers over time, and drive them to become lifelong buyer and advocates.

Do you agree that participation marketing is a smart way to deepen your brand’s relationship with customers? What are some of your favorite examples of participation marketing? Join the conversation in the comments below.