As an owner and founder of a creative communications agency, I get asked it a million times: “Okay, but can you show me the numbers?”
In today’s marketing landscape, data is everything. For every campaign or project, we want it tracked and we want the results now.
But, like in life, not everything is data-driven. And often the most important elements are not tangible or easily measurable.
Let’s take an up-close-and-personal look at soft marketing and why it holds immense value for brands aiming to establish a lasting and impactful presence in the market.
What Is Soft Marketing?
Soft marketing is a marketing strategy that involves increasing brand awareness and building connections with your audience. Unlike the often in-your-face nature of advertising marketing, soft marketing operates in the background, creating a more organic and authentic connection between brands and their target audiences.
Why did soft marketing come about? The idea is modern consumers are savvier and more discerning than ever before. They are increasingly resistant to traditional advertising methods, like TV commercials or pop-up ads. We’ve all been there, scrolling through social media, when an ad pops up. It’s easily ignored with a single swipe, and if anything, is a little annoying. Soft marketing takes a more empathetic approach, understanding that consumers want to engage with brands on their own terms.
What Soft Marketing Looks Like
1. Creative Content: Soft marketing is all about creating awesome content that genuinely helps or entertains your audience. This content can be blog posts, videos, podcasts – you name it.
2. Subtle Brand Messaging: Instead of overtly pushing products or services, soft marketing subtly weaves brand messages into the content. This integration comes across as natural and unobtrusive so consumers feel more in control of their interactions.
3. Keeping It Real: Authenticity is king in soft marketing. Brands aim to build trust by being honest and relatable, often by showing the human side of their business.
4. Engagement, Not Interruption: No one likes being talked at without a single second to respond. Soft marketing seeks to engage audiences in a dialogue rather than interrupting them. It encourages two-way communication, often through social media and user-generated content.
5. Long-Term Love Affairs: Soft marketing isn’t about quick flings — it’s all about building long-term relationships and creating brand loyalty that lasts beyond a single purchase.
Examples of Soft Marketing in Action
Here’s some examples of soft marketing you might see or interact with:
- Cause Marketing: Brands that champion social or environmental causes close to their hearts often employ soft marketing to showcase their commitment. By communicating their dedication to a particular cause, brands can attract like-minded consumers who support those values. Bonus: you get to make a difference too!
- Community Building and Events: Hosting events, online communities, or forums where customers can connect and share their experiences is an effective soft marketing strategy. This helps form a stronger emotional connection with consumers and create raving fans.
- Content Marketing and Storytelling: Some brands are master storytellers and convey their messages indirectly. They craft tales that captivate and resonate with their audience. These stories often highlight a brand’s values, products, or even their customers’ experiences. It’s like watching an enthralling movie, but instead of popcorn, you get a brand message.
- Email Marketing: Yep, even emails can do soft marketing. Personalized, relevant email campaigns that provide value to subscribers without pushing hard sales can build trust and engagement over time. It’s like receiving a friendly message from a friend who knows exactly what you need.
- Influencer Partnerships: Ever seen a YouTuber gushing about a product they genuinely love? That’s soft marketing in action, and it works like a charm. Brands can collaborate with influencers who genuinely appreciate and use a brand’s products or services. Influencers create content that showcases the brand in a real-life context.
- Interactive Experiences: Some brands turn marketing into a game. They create interactive online experiences that engage users while subtly conveying their message. This can include quizzes, interactive stories, and gamified content that immerses users in the brand’s world.
- Long-Form Content: Producing long-form content like ebooks, whitepapers, or in-depth guides can be a soft marketing strategy. Brands provide valuable information and insights, positioning themselves as experts in their field.
- Native Advertising: Have you ever scrolled through a page and stumbled upon a post that seemed so interesting you didn’t even realize it was an ad? Native ads fit in seamlessly since they are designed to match the look and feel of the platform you’re using. They blend in like a chameleon and feel more organic to consumers.
- Radio: As a former radio host, I’ve covered tons of stories about brands, and it was always incredible to see how well brand storytelling did. Listeners form a connection with radio hosts, so it makes it a great avenue to subtly promote new brands.
- Social Media Engagement: Brands that ace soft marketing on social media treat their audience like pals. They respond to comments, engage in conversations, and share user-generated content. It’s like joining a cool club where everyone genuinely cares about each other.
- User-Generated Content (UGC): When brands encourage customers to share their experiences on social media or leave reviews, it’s all about authenticity. Imagine seeing real people enjoying a product or service. It’s like getting recommendations from your friends.
So… Why Soft Marketing?
I was a radio personality for 20+ years, and if I learned anything, it’s that soft marketing and brand awareness don’t have a spreadsheet full of data points. So how do you know it’s working?
Well, if yesterday no one knew who you were, but now your community knows your name… it’s working. If you typed in your name in Google before and nothing popped up besides your website, but now there’s tons of new stories… it’s working. And if you have a gradual increase in sales, it’s — yep, you guessed it — working. Because soft marketing may not have an ROI like advertising or social media, but it makes an unbelievable impact in the long run.
Picture this: You’re at a party, and someone mentions a product. If your eyes light up because you instantly recognize the brand behind it, that’s the power of brand awareness. It’s like being the life of the marketing party – people know you, they’re curious about you, and they want to hang out with you. It’s not just about recognition; it’s about creating an emotional bond.
Think of soft marketing as the secret sauce behind successful consumer relationships. It’s what turns a casual browser into a loyal customer. It’s not just about cold, hard numbers and graphs. Brand awareness lives in the hearts and minds of your audience. It’s about being the talk of the town, occupying people’s thoughts, and becoming as familiar as an old friend. It’s the magic that transforms your brand into a household name.
Soft Marketing Metrics You CAN Track
After saying all that, yes, soft marketing and brand awareness do have some trackable metrics. Unlike traditional advertising, soft marketing relies on subtler methods to engage with potential customers. Soft marketing may not have easily quantifiable metrics like click-through rates or conversion rates, but it’s still possible to measure its effectiveness through various indirect means.
1. Social Media Engagement: Soft marketing often leverages social media platforms to create a more personal and authentic connection with the audience. Metrics such as likes, comments, shares, and follower growth can show the level of engagement and interest generated by soft marketing campaigns.
2. Content Consumption: Tracking the consumption of content — like blog posts, videos, or podcasts — can provide insights into the impact of soft marketing efforts. Metrics like page views, video views, and average time spent on content can be a good indication of interest too.
3. Brand Sentiment Analysis: Monitoring online conversations and sentiment surrounding your brand or product can help gauge the success of soft marketing campaigns. Positive sentiment, increased brand mentions, and the quality of comments can offer valuable insights. Plus, some PR tools can give you these powerful insights. For example, we use Meltwater to track all our clients’ PR and brand mentions.
4. Influencer Partnerships: If soft marketing means teaming up with influencers or opinion leaders, measuring the reach and impact of their content can provide a sense of the campaign’s effectiveness. Metrics may include influencer-generated content engagement and audience growth.
5. Customer Surveys and Feedback: Sometimes it’s as easy as asking the source directly. Conducting surveys and collecting feedback from customers can provide valuable qualitative data about their awareness of and sentiment towards soft marketing efforts.
6. Web Traffic and SEO: An increase in organic web traffic, boosted search engine rankings, and the acquisition of backlinks can indirectly demonstrate the effectiveness of soft marketing strategies, especially if they involve content marketing and SEO optimization.
7. Lead Generation and Email Marketing: If soft marketing efforts are aimed at lead generation and nurturing, tracking metrics like lead acquisition, email open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates within email campaigns can tell you a lot.
8. Competitive Analysis: Comparing your soft marketing efforts to those of competitors can provide insights into your campaign’s relative effectiveness. Try comparing factors like social media followers, engagement, and how your content is doing against theirs.
9. Long-term Growth Metrics: Soft marketing usually focuses on building lasting relationships and brand loyalty rather than immediate conversions. This means tracking long-term metrics like customer retention, lifetime value, and overall revenue growth can be big time indicators of soft marketing success.
In a world where consumers call the shots, soft marketing is becoming the go-to strategy for businesses. By respecting your audience’s preferences and showing a little finesse, you can earn trust and turn one-time buyers into lifelong fans.
While soft marketing may not lend itself to direct quantitative metrics, a combination of qualitative and indirect measurements can give you the whole picture. Successful soft marketing campaigns should aim to create genuine connections with the audience, foster brand loyalty, and contribute to long-term growth — which go beyond numbers on the screen.