We’ve all admired how the Nike brand catapulted into fame with their ‘Just Do It’ campaign to become part of popular culture. It’s a branding success story of epic proportions, and now that your growing company is in a position of having a healthy marketing budget, you want to harness a little bit of that Nike magic to gain your own brand awareness. 

Not so fast, because the days where you could simply create a big budget commercial, pay for air time and enjoy the resulting market share—are gone.

Brands that previously used massive media budgets to force themselves into your homes and lives are rapidly losing brand traction and market share. This ‘brand spam’ worked when advertisers had a tightly controlled stream to share their content, but today’s audience has thousands of streams, with the option of where and how to feed that content. 

Today’s savvy consumers want to listen and buy from brands they feel a connection with, to follow and support companies who share their beliefs, emotions and causes. What today’s brands must deliver is substance and authentic content, from real people. There is even have a fancy new buzzword for this authenticity—Crowdculture. 

What is Crowdculture?

Otherwise known as ‘cultural branding’, crowdculture, according to Douglas Holt in a 2016 Harvard Business Review article, is authentic content created by everyday people rather than by brands.

If you are a business-to-business (B2B) company you may be wondering how, and if, crowdculture applies to you. Many of our B2B clients are still struggling to decide if they need a new website, so asking whether crowdculture is right for them might seem way too forward thinking. So maybe the question you should be asking is not if you should be doing it, but what will the repercussion be if you don’t do it?

The truth is, if you keep marketing and branding the way you have in past years, your sales leads will continue to diminish. Why, you ask? Quite simply, your audience feels no connection. They are bombarded with content in all aspects of their lives and have no reason or purpose in reading your content or visiting your website. Even if you have a content strategy which includes producing keyword-rich blog articles, is your audience going to feel connected to your article, enough to click to read them? 

If you want to generate true brand traction today, you need to look at ways to implement crowdculture into your marketing strategy. Relatable, genuine content that speaks to a connection you have with your customers. Content they can buy into, and can’t resist reading. Content they absolutely must click to read because they want to hear what you have to say.

There aren’t a lot of B2B companies, or really, any companies in general who have successfully adopted crowdculture, but we are proud to have one of them as our client. That company is Modern Engineering and they are a great example of how a company can use crowdculture to generate brand traction. 

Modern Engineering is based in Delta, BC and is a CNC machine shop (they make widgets, literally). It’s lead by Udo Jahn, an engineer who has always believed that you need to be different in order to succeed. In fact, that’s why he says he hired Studiothink, because according to him, “what other machine shop would hire a branding agency owned by women?” 

Opinions are highly underrated.

Although Udo is opinionated, he has never been fond of the limelight. In 2013 he launched Modern Engineering’s first blog. His strategy for the blog was to do what SEO experts advised, and focus on writing articles full of relevant keywords.

He tried for a while, but found his enthusiasm soon wained. He wasn’t passionate about writing keyword-rich blog articles, and found the task painful and uninspiring. How could an audience connect to his articles if he, himself, couldn’t feel connected to the articles.

Against the advice of SEO experts he changed course. He didn’t even know about crowdculture, but he knew he needed to write with conviction. He began to write about topics he believed would help other manufacturers, like himself. 

Udo began to write relevant, authentic (and often opinionated) content that spoke to his audience. Articles such as ‘How to Automate your Business to Compete with Offshore Manufacturers’, and ‘Why Manufacturers Should Care and Do Their Part to Reduce the Skills Gap’. He began to tap into very specific manufacturing sub-crowd cultures such as Saw Filers, and wrote blogs such as ‘Tips for Improving the Saw Milling Process’.

His blogs started cautiously, however it wasn’t long before he saw traction and engagement being generated from his honesty and opinions. He gained sales as a direct result of a single blog and he was blown away. So he continued to share his thoughts, opinions, beliefs and causes in the world of machining and manufacturing, he continued to be authentic. 

A following based on authenticity.

In the years following his first blog posts, Udo has continued to build on his crowdculture strategies, and is now a guest speaker at industry conferences, a guest writer for industry magazines, has his own video blogs, and has even developed his own personal brand—UdoJahn.com.

For those who belong to the Udo and Modern Engineering tribe, there is also an online store called ModernWear featuring products with funny sayings written specifically for his crowd of followers.

Before Udo chose to step up and be authentic, there was no one else in the world who generated content on topics related to this specific group of people. Followers have come out of the woodwork (pardon the pun) to ask Udo questions, invite him to present and praise him for his valuable insight and advice. He’s kind of like the Steve Jobs of sawmill workers.

The result? A growing tribe of like-minded followers who believe in, trust and buy from the brand. A culture of customers who are engaged, loyal and connected to Modern Engineering. So, if you are asking yourself if you should use crowdculture to gain brand traction for your own company, perhaps the answer might be found on this coffee mug, “What Would Udo Do?” 

Key takeaways.

• Know your audience and think of how you can help them improve their life or workplace.

• Be authentic. Assert a point of view, don’t be afraid to have an opinion or share your passion.

• Be willing to try marketing strategies that aren’t industry ‘norm’.

• Get started. Production doesn’t have to be perfect, you can perfect and improve over time. Ensure your brand is integrated.

• Don’t get stuck in the past, continue to evolve to keep engaging your crowd.

Related articles.

Harvard Business Review: Branding in the Age of Social Media

Branding is dead, long live Crowdculture

If you’ve got the passion to build a crowdculture, we’d love to work with you to create you brand. Come have a look at how we roll and see if we jive with your own core values.