February 06, 2015

When it comes to sharing, think for a second about the personal connection the giver has with the receiver. For companies hoping to create loyal brand ambassadors, encouraging a kind gesture can stimulate growth.

In fact, a study from the Wharton School of Business found that a referred consumer is 18 percent more likely to stay with a company over time than the average, off-the-street consumer. But image that instead of this passive introduction, your brand “passionates” could more significantly impact your top-line growth.

As these recent examples show, inspiring those who have affinity for your brand to actively promote and generate trial by buying your product for themselves and buying for a friend can translate into exponential growth in sales and a foundation for a stronger base of loyal customers.


What Coca-Cola started in Australia in 2011 has spread across the globe to the United Kingdom and now the United States. The “Share a Coke” campaign replaces the iconic Coca-Cola labels with 250 popular names such as Andrew, Miguel, Nicole and Brittney. It encourages drinkers to buy two: “one to keep and one to share.” Can’t find your name in store? The “Share a Coke” tour travelled across the country to allow visitors to personalize two mini cans–again to keep and to share. Through this campaign, Coke gives consumers the opportunity to gift a relatively low-cost product to spur delight at the receiving end, ultimately leading to incremental sales and positive sentiment.


Slim Jim is taking a slightly different, more comedic route by likening the giving gesture to a rescue mission. Developing a campaign targeting those suffering from “Male Spice Loss,” Slim Jim is recruiting “meat donors” to give the gift of meat. The meat sticks and jerky brand is looking to help men everywhere cure their most embarrassing “spice loss problems” with a Slim Jim. Men are encouraged to “grab a Slim Jim, then grab another Slim Jim” for a friend who could use the “man-medicine.” As a result, the givers experience a feeling of doing some “good,” and the receiver is encouraged to spot another friend in need. Though all in good fun, Slim Jim benefits from a chain reaction and exponentially greater sales of their product as they are shared and shared again.


When Nestlé first discovered that their chocolate wafer bars, Kit Kat, sounded roughly similar to kitto katsu, meaning “you will surely win” in Japanese, they likely hadn’t expected the success they would achieve. The practice of gifting Kit Kat bars as a form of good luck wishes before high-education entrance exams has become so widespread that Nestlé has paid keen attention to this market, developing unique flavors that cater to the Japanese market: Green Tea, Sakura Cherry Blossom Green Tea, and Red Chili are just a few. By marketing their products as simple gifts, Nestlé has been able to imbue Kit Kats with greater meaning. In addition, the tradition of passing along Kit Kats to a friend has lasting potential since the receiver may reciprocate the favor or share it forward with someone else.

Whether you call it sharing, donating or gifting, by encouraging your consumers to buy incremental products to “Share it Forward” with a kind gesture of giving your product to another, brands can achieve a trifecta of business objectives: they can reach new consumers in a more personal way, generate incremental sales and strengthen loyalty.

As you craft marketing plans, consider what benefits might motivate the giver and also add value for the receiver, who then may be encouraged to do the same in the future. This next-level, word-of-mouth tactic can be a powerful tool to unlock incremental sales and build the next group of brand passionates.