3 Ways to Build Brand Love by Elevating Small Businesses

Building brand affinity is a constant challenge for marketers, especially in industries where trust and brand love can be difficult to come by. As Meta’s creative lead working with businesses in financial services and real estate, I often see brands attempting to tell their story through traditional means, such as manifestos, celebrity spokespeople and branded content.

But increasingly, consumers respond better to authenticity and community outreach. In my experience, when brands take meaningful action, it can be a more effective way to shift brand perception. Looking for a place to start? Ask yourself, “What problem can our brand help solve in the community? And how are we uniquely qualified to pitch in?” If you can find a solution that naturally aligns with your brand, consumers will recognize your authentic efforts and more closely associate your company with doing good.

As many people know, small businesses have been hit especially hard by Covid-19, with 55% of global small businesses reporting a decline in sales in January 2021, compared to 2020, according to the April 2021 Global State of Small Business Report. During this time, we’ve seen examples of big brands across industries stepping up to make a difference. Consider how these three proactive approaches could help small businesses in your community, while also helping market your brand to consumers.

1. Pass the mic

Have you considered a campaign where you hand over your brand’s organic and paid media channels to a smaller business? While it might sound scary on the surface, sharing your platform could be beneficial for you and the small business you’re elevating. Local entrepreneurs have become some of the most dynamic creators and influencers on social platforms. Allowing them to raise their voices on your behalf can help deliver your message in a way that authentically connects with your audience.

​​Mastercard’s recent “50 Years and Running” campaign in support of the New York City Marathon did this by showcasing three small businesses near the marathon route that have overcome obstacles in the face of adversity. These included Grandma’s Place, a Black-owned children’s toy and bookstore in Harlem; Davey’s Ice Cream, a Brooklyn shop focused on quality, local ingredients; and Bronx Native, a clothing store committed to changing people’s perception of the Bronx. Leveraging social media channels, including Facebook from Meta and Instagram from Meta, Mastercard was able to amplify these small business owners and their stories.

“Mastercard recognizes the need to support and empower the tremendous small businesses that serve as the pillars of our communities,” said Cheryl Guerin, EVP, North America marketing and communications at Mastercard. “The ‘50 Years and Running’ priceless campaign allowed us to not only give these impressive small businesses a platform to tell their story, but also provide them with digital tools and resources to help them succeed in the new normal.”

2. Gift your expertise

With the ongoing economic recovery top of mind for many consumers, financial literacy and education are important topics. And the need for knowledge sharing isn’t limited to individual consumers, as small businesses often get overwhelmed when it comes to securing credit and financing. This could be an ideal moment for your brand to connect by proactively educating small businesses on marketing, product and financial topics.

T-Mobile’s Facebook Advertising on Us program offered new business customers a $200 prepaid card to spend on Facebook ads, up to three one-on-one consultations with a Facebook ads expert and access to an exclusive landing page with links to thought leadership resources.

“We have a long history of providing education, resources and financial support to empower small businesses and help them grow,” said Allan Samson, SVP of T-Mobile for Business. “Since launch, this program has become the most viewed section of our site, with more than 40,000 views each month and no sign of slowing down.”

And there are opportunities to do even more. Imagine launching a Messenger from Meta experience that walks entrepreneurs through the steps to launching a small business, or a Facebook Group that connects business owners with experts who can help. At Meta, we see customer interactivity—enabled across organic and paid ecosystems—as the future of business marketing.

3. Innovate for the little guy

There’s constant opportunity for brands to bring new thinking and solutions to small businesses by helping them do things they don’t have the scale, expertise or financial capability to do themselves. AR and VR unlock myriad opportunities to help connect small businesses with consumers. According to the 2020 Emerging Trends Research report, 78% of people surveyed say AR is a fun way to interact with brands, and 74% of respondents believe it helps bridge the gap between online and offline. Imagine creating a branded AR filter that allows consumers to “drop” a virtual pin on their favorite small business, making it easy to share the location with their followers.

As part of its “Everything to Sell Anything” campaign, Squarespace—the website building and ecommerce platform—created an AR/VR experience with a window installation at Fotografiska New York, to drive awareness for small businesses powered by its platform. This type of work not only benefits small businesses, but it also helps position Squarespace as an innovator with consumers.

If you’re shopping for a way to help build brand love and connect with your audience in an authentic way, putting small business needs at the center of your campaign is a good place to start. With the increasing fluidity of commerce, and new digital marketing tools available to marketers through Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and other apps, this can be a moment of opportunity for marketers looking to scale impact for small businesses and build brand affinity.