International Friendship Day: the next big thing in the consumer retail calendar

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Mention Me looks at the origins and inspiration behind International Friendship Day.

30 July marks International Friendship Day (IFD), an occasion dedicated to celebrating those we love. It's also the perfect chance for retailers to strengthen customer relationships while reaching new audiences. Offering customers exclusive rewards to share with friends in celebration of IFD has the potential to be your best campaign yet.

If you haven't heard of IFD before, you might be surprised to learn it's been about for more than 20 years. The United Nations introduced it in 1997 to spread kindness and create a better world. Since then, The Beatles wrote a song for it, Winnie the Pooh has become its ambassador, and people across cultures and countries have celebrated it.

Here are three reasons to celebrate International Friendship Day.

To build brand affinity

For retailers, IFD is the perfect counterweight to the hard sell retail bonanzas of Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. Though the latter is this year postponed until September, it typically sees online retail sales to plummet by as much as 20%.

Friendship is one of the most simple and powerful expressions of human connection. By celebrating IFD, retailers can tap into this positive sentiment, humanise their brands and highlight how their products and services can improve the lives of customers' loved ones. Emotionally engaging people, rather than pushing hard sales, creates a powerful sense of brand affinity that'll keep shoppers coming back, long after your promotion has ended.

To increase core marketing metrics

IFD is the perfect opportunity to get people talking about your brand to their friends.

51% of consumers trust a friend or partner's recommendation more than any other source of advertising. By incentivising shoppers to refer friends, brands can significantly increase metrics including new customer acquisition, brand awareness and overall revenue. It's a win-win: brands make more money; customers make their friends' days with special offers for brands they know they'll love.

Last year, brands including PrettyLittleThing, Laithwaite's Wine and Monica Vinader ran IFD referral campaigns. And this year is set to be even bigger.

To fuel long-term business growth

Your current customers are your most powerful marketers. Their recommendation means more – and costs less –than any big billboard or clever campaign. Turn your customers into an army of brand advocates, and you can sustainably acquire high-quality new customers who fit your target demographic. Referred customers spend more, return often and go on to recommend the brand to their friends, continuing the virtuous cycle.

And at the heart of this long-term business growth is one principle: friendship.

Some of the biggest brands in the world have celebrated International Friendship Day. Here are some examples.

Coca Cola

In 2010, Coca Cola set up a Friendship Machine: a 3.5 metre tall vending machine with a coin slot that couldn't be reached alone. Friends worked together to insert their money and subsequently got two bottles of Coke for the price of one, making for a heartwarming online campaign.

Amazon

In 2016, Amazon told a story of inter-faith friendship. Its ad showed a Christian vicar and a Muslim imam noticing each other’s aches and pains in their late years. They subsequently order one another the same gift (from Amazon, of course): kneepads to make kneeling for prayer more comfortable. Celebrating diversity and shared humanity across cultures.

Cadbury

Cadbury celebrated its collaboration with Oreo with a friendship-themed animation depicting the adventures of Pip the block of chocolate and an Oreo cookie. The playful video proved a hit on social media, further promoting the product's 'double the yum, double the fun' message.

But running an International Friendship Day campaign doesn’t have to involve a giant vending machine or television ad. It can be as simple as launching a competition encouraging friends to team up for prizes, or offering friendship-themed complimentary gifts. Make your customers and their loved ones feel special, then watch your customer base grow.

Courtney Wylie, VP of Product and Marketing at Mention Me.

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