How to win at social brand building

Rhian Mason
By Rhian Mason | 11 December 2023
Rhian Mason

Social media is constantly creating new opportunities to speak to broader and untapped audiences. With the rise of TikTok and its role in informing new trends, behaviours, and cultural norms, the assumptions about what brands achieve on social has evolved rapidly. As an undeniable cultural force, social has embedded itself into everyday life and is impacting consumer spending habits like never before.

It’s brands that have positioned social as an always-on brand building channel that are seeing the biggest benefits. But what are the key fundamentals needed to build a social brand?

Unlock different modes of social creativity

- From big ideas that infiltrate culture and drive fame, to social first stories and reactive community building moments that humanise brands, different ideas require different creative gears to cut through the noise.

Native first – always

- To forge connection, you must employ an audience-first planning approach. Exploring needs and mindsets of audiences, the nuances and quirks of platforms, and the emerging trends and narrative constructs of specific formats to make ideas resonate.

Collaborate with creators to be a citizen not a bystander

- In an era of brand distrust and scepticism on social, it’s never been more important to collaborate with credible voices and communities to accelerate an idea into culture and make people feel differently about your brand.

With these rules of engagement in place, we had a look at a few recent social brand moments that hit the mark, and some that missed it.


You’ve got to hand it to Kim Kardashian, her clothing brand SKIMS always reads the room and hits the cultural zeitgeist to drive PR and talkability. From having the White Lotus breakout stars Simona Tabasco and Bea Grannò fronting their Valentine’s collection, to launching the new controversial nipple bra that is being hailed as genius by many (and nuts by others), it’s gold standard social brand building in action.

Stanley Cups

When a dramatic TikTok video appeared in our ‘For You’ feeds of a burnt-out car and a video showcasing the damage, things could have turned ugly. Instead, the person picked up her unharmed Stanley Cup from the holder and jiggled it to show it unscathed and the ice inside still intact. It’s potentially one of the best product ads you could ask for to demonstrate quality and durability. In a tonally on-point response, Stanley Cup CEO took to TikTok to address the video directly. His down to earth and empathetic response to provide a replacement cup *and car was met with praise by the Stanley community. They picked up millions of new fans and some new customers as a result.

Athenos Feta Cheese

On the opposite end of the spectrum, when a host of big-name influencers took to social to make the ‘viral’ #roastedfetasoup recipe, a few people scratched their heads. Sure, there had been the feta pasta takeover last year, but this was new. After some investigation it became clear that brand Athenos Feta commissioned influencers like Emily Mariko to spruik the recipe in their feeds. While it’s an interesting tactic, paying influencers to ‘mimic virality’ is a risky move. Audiences can see through it and the 20 uses of the hashtag on Instagram prove that viral moments can’t be manufactured.

Solo Stove

The latest move from Snoop Dogg had fans asking if the truck load of cash was worth it. When Snoop shared a series of post on his socials announcing he was going smoke free, conversation was rife about what his next move was. Fans are no stranger to smelling a marketing ploy a mile off, so theories on a new vape product launch, or even Bic lighters take two were banded around online. Instead, the reveal was a lot more wtf, than whoa.

As one user on Twitter said, “there’s no bigger betrayal than finding out something was a PR stunt I can’t believe an agency convinced Snoop to shake his personal brand for… a stove???”. With talent being used more and more as a default strategy to land cultural credibility, unlocking the power of creators and celebrity talent to accelerate an idea into culture requires complete synchronicity. It must work for the audience, talent, and the brand to succeed. Miss just one of those and you run the risk of leaving people cold.

Rhian Mason is Emotive's Head of Creative Amplification

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