Clubhouse for Brands: What You Need to Know

Clubhouse is the newest social media app stealing the spotlight, and like with any new popular social platform, brands are beginning to consider whether they should add it to their marketing mix. We’ve broken down what you need to know about this new platform and enlisted three members of our team across strategy, creative and media to weigh in on what brands need to consider before jumping on the Clubhouse bandwagon.

What is Clubhouse and how did it become so popular?

The audio-based app enables users to drop in and out of ephemeral chat rooms to take part in a range of gatherings — from one-off “water cooler”-type conversations to larger, more organized discussions featuring expert panels on specific topics of interests ranging from business and entrepreneurship to fitness and wellness and more. Some compare it to podcasts, except the conversations aren’t saved and the chats are unedited and more casual in nature. Also, one key element unlike any other social media app is that people must be invited by an existing user to join, increasing its feeling of exclusivity in the marketplace.

The app was launched in March 2020 by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Davidson and Rohan Seth and by May 2020, despite boasting only 1,500 users, it was valued at $100 million. However, Clubhouse began to gain massive popularity when Elon Musk hosted his own chat on the platform, with his influence increasing their user base to 2 million users by February 2021. This massive growth has captured the attention of marketers and advertisers across industries and begs the question: How can brands take advantage of this new platform?

How are brands using it?

There are a few brands that use it, but most are treading lightly. It’s not exactly an overtly brand-welcoming space considering the first rule of Clubhouse is that you must have a real name and identity to use the service, which discourages brands or mascots to have a presence. That didn’t stop the Kool-Aid Man from randomly joining chat rooms to drop his signature “Ohh YEAHHH” into the conversations, but most brands, at this point, are still trying to understand how and if they should leverage the platform. Adding to the uncertainty around brand involvement in Clubhouse is the fact that the platform continues to evolve by the day. They just announced a new accelerator program, Clubhouse Creator First, where they’ll support 20 creators with resources they need to bring their ideas to life. On a positive note, brand reps or thought leaders can easily build a presence or participate in conversations about topics where they can build their visibility and influence. One of the biggest pros of Clubhouse for marketers is that every room contains a group of people highly focused on a particular subject, offering brands a wealth of rich targeting opportunities.

What can be learned from early adopter brands of social media channels in the past and how can those learnings be leveraged with Clubhouse?

Integrated Media Planner, Eleni Philipon says:

“Brands that hop on a new social media channel early on have two options — get creative with it, or copy and paste your old strategy onto something that might not fit the mold. Those who get creative and succeed early have the potential to become the new ‘case study’ for the early majority/late majority brands. Most marketers consider Chipotle, Dunkin’ and e.l.f Cosmetics ‘winning’ TikTok, and brands still look to these accounts to see how they’ve gone about creating content to draw inspiration from. If you want to be known, be early. And if you want to succeed early, be creative.

“That same strategy can be leveraged for Clubhouse. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s not ad-supported yet, so brands will have to get creative and keep in mind Clubhouse is about people connecting with people, not them connecting with you. Thinking outside of the box is the name of the game here until/if a formal ad buying platform exists on the app. Brands that are building their own profiles and a following are Milk Bar, Kool-Aid and Politico. Some unique ways of advertising on Clubhouse include hosting Q&As, happy hours, having a dedicated room with a focused subject and working with influencers/moderators. Hold off on the hard selling when getting on Clubhouse and instead think awareness and relationship building.”

What do brands need to remember to use the app to its fullest potential?

Senior Strategist, Jenna DiCicco, has three key takeaways:  

#1 Remember it’s about them, not you: Clubhouse is People-Powered.

Clubhouse users go to the app for the purposes of learning from experts and gaining exclusive information. To that end, their user base was built around influencers and thought leaders, making it ripe for brand leaders to join the conversation and boost brand awareness or credibility. However, it’s imperative brands remember the consumer mindset on this channel is aspirational, authentic and seeking familiarity among the micro-communities in each “room.” Clubhouse is people meeting people, joining to talk (about anything), tell stories, develop ideas, create friendships, network and meet interesting people from around the globe. The brands that’ll win will have people behind them. The brands that aren’t transparent or don’t want to have real conversations should stay away — ultimately, your brand must be willing to participate in what’s essentially an unfiltered broadcast of opinions, as the power of moderation is limited. Just like all other platforms, understanding the context into which you’re entering is vitally important.

#2 You should already be an active participant in their culture: Brands that win will be more than a product and already be engaging in dialogue with their consumers.

To engage within a Clubhouse conversation, you must be embedded in the culture, solving a real consumer problem or disrupting the status quo — without one of those things, you risk being perceived as an unwanted intruder. So, make sure to have a clear POV when building a presence in-app. Consumers have a lack of patience for conversation without perceived value, and for moderators without a clear direction. Identify your one distinct takeaway and provide that educational value to the listeners.

#3 The goal is connection + community > traditional engagement metrics.

The goal is connecting people with other people, not you connecting with them. So how can brands foster the connection of people? Things like conversation prompts, live Q&As, dedicated rooms with a focused subject, a recurring series, CX and one-time events are all great ways to do so. People are growing fatigued by screen time in the context of COVID-19 — understand this is their way to tune in passively, so measuring KPIs won’t be active engagement. Additionally, metrics shouldn’t be compared to other social channels, as users are limited to a “hand raise” within a moderated room and who speaks outside the main panel is subject to the group’s moderators. Not every hand raise equates to vocal participation.

How can brands come to life authentically but in a way that makes sense for the platform?

Creative Director, Cristin Barth says:

“Authentic, personal and sometimes even intimate interactions with consumers on social media platforms can be difficult for brands. A brand’s presence on Clubhouse is complex in execution. To approach a brand strategy for Clubhouse properly, it’s important to understand the purpose of Clubhouse at large. There are three roles you can play — a speaker, a listener and a moderator — to determine how your brand can best play into these roles. If your brand’s a speaker, use the equity of the individuals with influence within your company to educate the Clubhouse community on a certain topic. If your brand’s a listener or moderator, open a room on a topic relevant to your brand that can add value to the listeners and then facilitate a conversation with thought leaders of that topic.

“Remember, it’s not about ads, it’s about adding value to the consumer’s life. There may not be short-term results or an immediate spike in sales growth, but if you can dedicate even 10% of your marketing dollars to let consumers know there are living, breathing human beings behind your brand, the long-term effects can result in deep brand loyalty. Clubhouse is a great place to test this approach.”

Audio-based content for the win.

With brands like Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify and Facebook taking notice and beginning to launch their own lookalike competitive versions of Clubhouse, it’s clear audio-based content forms are here to stay. Whether Clubhouse can continue to stand on its own two feet, or if it’ll have the same fate as Vine, is left to be determined — but what’s certain is brands today need to begin mapping out exactly how they can play in the audio-only space successfully.

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