Success doesn’t equate to spending money

Nikon ran a terrific program to get their brand cemented to the multi-million strong Flickr community. Oh, and it couldn’t have cost that much to implement. Here’s how it shook out:

The program is called Nikon Stunning Gallery. Nikon encouraged Flickr users to tag their best images with "nikonstunninggallery". Then they give away Nikon cameras. Here’s their call to action:

What is stunning?

Stunning is a look.
Stunning is a moment.
Stunning is a vision.

See what stunning is in the eyes of the Flickr photographer.

Upload your photos and share them in the Nikon Stunning Gallery.

Far too many brands try to roll their own functionality from the ground up, ignoring existing audiences and tools. Nikon has not just saved a bucket of money on both building a custom Web tool and marketing to drive to their site. They’ve also created an ongoing relationship with a few million photographers who now think they’re the coolest camera brand around.

Replicating the success is simple:

Participate before you build – Join the existing activity before you start brainstorming your custom version.

Spend money as a last resort – Spend your money figuring out the strategy for participation in existing communities. The size of your budget doesn’t need to show your placement in the food chain – success does that just fine.

Make meaning – Taken straight from the man, this is a huge part of the process. If your customers (and potential customers) can connect with you through a "higher cause", they want to support the same things you do.