In social media marketing brands have to become personal. If this is done, strong brands will be created. Reverse branding is when a customer creates a brand with its own brand. This is critical in creating strong brands. One of the fundamental rules of social marketing is that customers and brand must create relationships with one another.

A marketing important statistic is that 97% of all brand purchases are done because of a friend’s recommendation. Only 10% of all purchases are done because of traditional, old media. Creating friendships and having “friends” to recommend our products is simply basic fundamental social media marketing. A great deal of a marketer’s time is now spent on creating brands that create “friendships” with customers.

In my research, I’ve found an interesting development. This development is what I call reverse branding. This is when a customer creates a relationship with their brand. The brand then has a personal relationship with the customer that intensifies brand presence.

There is a case of a university fundraiser. They were having some success in raising money for this university for scholarship funds. The manager of this fundraiser group had an idea. He created a five minute meeting with students who had gotten scholarships through the efforts of this group. These were students who never could have afforded college without the efforts of this fundraising group.

These were kids who had “compelling” content. These were kids who came from middle class background. They had hardworking parents who never could have afforded to send their kids to college without the efforts of this group. These talks were a game changer for this fundraising group. The talks made their jobs—their brand—personal. These students created a brand with the fundraisers. They had names, they had faces, and they now existed, in comparison to other college students.

The talks created differentiation, positioning, and strong branding. The talks created a reverse brand. The students created a differentiated and positioned brand with their brand. The end users created a brand with the brand. At this particular fundraising group, after the talk with the students, the weekly fundraising productivity increased by 400%. The reason for this is that the students were now a brand, etched into the minds of the fundraisers. This brand now became personal.

Three things create reverse branding. Customers create IMPACT with their brand. Employees see for themselves how their work benefits others.

Reverse branding creates APPRECIATION. Employees come to feel valued by end users. Even though employees know intellectually that their contributions make a difference, gratitude from end users is a powerful reminder of the value of continued quality improvements and innovation.

Reverse branding creates EMPATHY. Employees develop a deeper understanding of end users problems and needs and thereby become more committed to helping them. Researchers have found that when product development teams had contact with customers, they were more likely to create offerings that exceeded projections for sales and market share.