Key Takeaways: The Power of Brand Advocacy 🔥
- Brand Advocacy is Genuine Endorsement: A true brand advocate promotes a product or service without being prompted, stemming from genuine satisfaction and trust in the brand. This organic endorsement is more impactful than traditional advertising, as it comes from a place of authenticity and personal experience.
- The Decline of Brand Advocacy Passion: The initial excitement around brand advocacy in the early days of social media has diminished. While influencer marketing is rising, the genuine connection and trust that come with brand advocacy shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Brand Advocacy Defined: Brand advocacy occurs when customers voluntarily and enthusiastically promote a brand because of their genuine affinity. Unlike influencers with massive followings, brand advocates are everyday people who genuinely love a product or service.
- The Power of Reciprocal Altruism: The foundation of brand advocacy is rooted in giving without expecting anything in return. Brands prioritizing this mindset can achieve better business outcomes and a higher ROI than other marketing strategies.
- Measuring Brand Advocacy Success: Key metrics such as engagement, reach, and conversions are crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of brand advocacy programs. For brands with online communities, metrics like active users, posts per day, and resolved issues can provide deeper insights.
A Brand Advocacy Example
A great example of brand advocacy is when a customer is so satisfied with a product or experience that they become an unofficial spokesperson for the company. They share their experience with friends, family, and colleagues and actively recommend the product to others. This type of marketing is incredibly powerful because it comes from a trusted source–an existing customer.
About five years ago, my wife received a departing gift from a colleague starting a new job at Roku. It was a Roku Ultra. I didn’t know much about the company or product other than I could stream Netflix using their device. As a lifelong subscriber to Comcast/Xfinity, I didn’t see a need to use it at the time.
So I put it in the garage, where it collected dust for months. And then I put it in storage along with some other stuff. We moved, unpacked, and somehow the Roku ended up back in the garage. Fast forward a few years, and after watching a Marie Kondo episode, I decided to organize the garage and clear up some room. The Roku ended up in the Goodwill pile, but my wife suggested (well, told me) to try it.
I’m so glad that I did.
Every TV in the house is connected to a Roku streaming player. I have two Streambar Pros, two wireless speakers, and two subwoofers.
I cut the cord about six months ago and access all my media through Roku. I love it. The UI is easy to use and navigates to what I want. There’s little to no lag when going through different screens. The remote works and it’s fast. And even the Roku Originals are fire–Most Dangerous Game, Don’t Look Deeper, The Stranger, and my favorite, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.
In every conversation at work or with friends about movies, we’re watching or what episodes we’re waiting for, I always bring up Roku. Always.
The PR team at Roku doesn’t pay me to say good things. They didn’t ask me to write this blog post. They have stellar products that add value to my life. I love their products and am still trying to convince my wife to get the Roku TV.
This is my story. As long as Roku continues to innovate and release good products, I will always be a repeat customer and tell all my friends and colleagues about my experiences.
This is brand advocacy.
My only issue, and it’s not a big deal, is the free games in the app store. Terrible. And I wish I could connect my PS5 to the streaming player.
The Passion for Brand Advocacy Has Withered
When social media first arrived on the scene, brand advocacy was a big topic of conversation among the online community. The bright and shiny object was social listening and listening to customers and engaging with them directly. Every community manager was on the front lines of that interaction. Mistakes were made, but we all learned from them.
The media was all over it, too. Articles and blog posts were written about the daily interactions between brand channels and customers. They highlighted and celebrated all the positive engagement when a community manager would respond to a comment or attempt to solve a customer service issue. They would also highlight those brands that had not yet fully grasped the idea of community management and blasted them for not responding to problems on their channels. This was when brands would be criticized for hiring interns to run their social media channels.
It was a fun time. But something changed.
That passion for brand advocacy has withered over the years and replaced with alternative ways to reach customers online. Influencer marketing is hot, and marketers are allocating massive budgets to these programs.
A report from Business Insider shows that 67.9% of US marketers will use influencer marketing in 2021, up from 62.3% last year. In 2022, that figure will rise to 72.5%. I am curious how much of their digital marketing budget these marketers have carved out for a brand advocacy program.
What is Brand Advocacy?
Brand advocacy happens when your customers talk favorably about your company, brand, product, or service without you having to ask them to do so. They have a natural affinity towards your brand and love your products. They aren’t shy about telling the world, either.
The truth about brand advocacy is that it happens whether you know about it or not. The caveat is that you have a valuable product or service that meets your customer’s needs.
It’s important to note here that brand advocates are just people. They aren’t TikTok influencers with thousands of followers or podcasters with a million subscribers. They are everyday, regular people who buy your products.
The foundation of brand advocacy stems from reciprocal altruism. This is a biology term, but in this context, it means “to give without expecting anything in return.” Suppose marketers can change their mindset and prioritize how to turn customers into brand advocates. In that case, they will yield positive business outcomes and a higher ROI than most digital marketing plans.
How to Launch a Brand Advocacy Program
A brand advocacy program is a strategic marketing initiative designed to generate positive word-of-mouth for a company.
The first step is to make sure there is a budget to support the initiative. Brand advocacy programs are not free and will require an investment. The good news is that once the program is up and running, it has the potential to be a self-sustaining marketing channel.
The second step is to understand what motivates your customers. This will require you to invest in research or a customer needs analysis to identify your customer’s core values, wants, needs, and expectations.
The third step is to tap into your existing CRM system and identify your most active and vocal customers. These are the people who are already talking about your brand online. You want to invite them personally to your brand advocacy program. They are the ones that will help you recruit other brand advocates.
The fourth step is to document an operational plan outlining how your brand advocacy program will work. This should include social technology investments, content strategy, recruitment approach, marketing and campaign integration, and the measurement approach.
The fifth step is to announce the launch of your brand advocacy program and get ready to start winning.
The Benefits of Brand Advocacy
|Increased Customer Loyalty
|When customers become brand advocates, their loyalty to the brand strengthens.
|They will consistently choose your brand, making repeat purchases over time.
|Improved Customer Retention
|Brand advocates tend to remain loyal customers for longer durations.
|They are less likely to churn, cancel subscriptions, or switch to competitive products.
|Higher Customer Lifetime Value
|Brand advocates exhibit enhanced loyalty and have prolonged engagements with the brand.
|This increases revenue generation over time, boosting the overall customer lifetime value.
|Brand advocates not only make purchases but also influence others to do the same.
|They are four times more likely to refer your products to others than average customers.
|Improved Customer Support
|Engaged customers, especially those who feel a sense of community, are more proactive in seeking support.
|Such customers reach out for assistance and actively help other customers when given a chance, fostering a supportive community around the brand.
Most marketers today should understand the importance of customer referrals and word-of-mouth marketing. But a gentle reminder never hurts. There are many benefits of brand advocacy, but these are the top five:
- Increased Customer Loyalty. When customers become brand advocates, they will buy from you and continue to buy from you, over and over and over.
- Improved Customer Retention. Brand advocates are also more likely to stick around longer as customers. They are less likely to churn, cancel their subscription, or buy competitive products.
- Higher Customer Lifetime Value. Brand advocates are more loyal and have a longer customer lifespan. They also generate more revenue over time, increasing customer lifetime value.
- Increased Sales. Brand advocates are not only more likely to buy from you, but they are also more likely to refer others to your business. Brand advocates are four times more likely to refer your products to someone else than the average customer.
- Improved Customer Support. Customers who feel part of a community are likelier to reach out for support and stay engaged with your brand. They will also help other customers when given the opportunity.
How to Measure the Success of Brand Advocacy Programs
Brand advocacy offers manifold benefits that directly impact key performance metrics:
- Strengthened Loyalty: Advocates become deeply loyal, consistently choosing the brand over competitors. Their affinity and trust run deep.
- Improved Retention: With strengthened loyalty, advocates stay customers for extended durations rather than churning. Their relationships with the brand endure.
- Higher Lifetime Value: As loyal customers over long periods, advocates generate increased revenues over time. Their lifetime value amplifies.
- Greater Sales: Advocates don’t just buy more; they influence purchases, too. Their referrals convert at high rates, driving sales growth.
- Enhanced Support: Engaged advocates proactively assist other customers, fostering communal goodwill. This creates a supportive community around the brand.
In short, advocacy’s positive impacts on loyalty, retention, revenues, referrals, and community add to substantial long-term gains. Developing brand champions pays dividends across the customer relationship, delivering compounding returns over time.
For brands with online communities, consistently tracking key performance metrics is crucial. Monitoring these metrics provides strategic data insights into an advocacy program’s health and trajectory. Tracking over time shows where growth is strongest while diagnosing dips uncovers areas needing attention.
Most importantly, measurement enables optimization. Setting performance goals and adapting programs to hit key targets transforms advocacy into an engine for continual improvement. Without diligent measurement, advocacy efforts risk falling short of their full potential.
- Active Users: Measures community engagement levels and audience size. Are advocates retained over time?
- Posts Per Day: Quantifies member participation and content contribution. Is advocacy growing organically?
- Monthly Visits: Gauges community traffic and awareness. Is reach expanding or stagnating?
- New Users: Monitors growth of member base. How well are new advocates being acquired?
- Topics: Identifies popular and emerging community themes. What resonates most with advocates?
- Resolved Issues: Demonstrates community support impact. How effectively do advocates assist customers?
- Engagement: Calculates response levels across posts. How strong are member interactions?
Brands today cannot afford stagnant advocacy. A metrics-driven approach clarifies what is working while guiding investments toward high-upside activities. Ultimately, data fuels advocacy excellence.
Examples of Successful Brand Advocate Programs
Here is a table summarizing the brand advocacy campaign examples:
|Encouraged tweeting gift cards to friends, inspiring viral peer-to-peer sharing
|Curates and shares great photos taken by customers on iPhones
|Rewards owners for referrals with free upgrades and discounts
|Video of the Day
|Features different user videos daily, inspiring UGC creation
|Asked for stories about feeling welcomed by hosts, generating emotional advocacy
|Leverages celebrity ambassadors like Jordan and Williams to promote brand
|Enables content sharing through forums and simplifies creation
|Engages top developers through insider access and networking
Impactful brand advocacy often stems from creative campaigns that inspire organic promotion from passionate customers. Savvy brands across industries have succeeded by launching initiatives that leverage user-generated content and empower advocates to share authentic experiences. From Starbucks prompting viral sharing of coffee gifts to Airbnb collecting emotional travel stories, these brands demonstrate best practices for cultivating brand champions.
Their campaigns underscore the power of advocacy to build community, highlight product value, and drive real business results. The following examples provide a blueprint for developing innovative programs that harness the immense potential of customer advocates. By making fans active partners in promotion, brands can foster lasting connections and propel word-of-mouth in our hyper-connected world.
Starbucks’ Tweet-a-Coffee Campaign
Starbucks generated positive buzz by encouraging customers to gift Starbucks eGift cards to friends on Twitter. Recipients frequently continued the chain, tweeting coffee gifts and amplifying the campaign. This drove social engagement while showcasing Starbucks’ role in inspiring everyday acts of kindness.
Apple’s “#ShotOniPhone” Campaign
Apple leverages user-generated photos tagged #ShotOniPhone across social platforms. Showcasing pictures taken by real customers highlights iPhone camera quality while making advocates part of the marketing process. The hashtag has been used over 5 million times, creating a constant stream of authentic advocacy.
Tesla’s Referral Program
Tesla motivates referrals through incentives like free upgrades for existing owners who refer new buyers. This leverages their most passionate advocates to promote the brand within their networks. Tesla credits referrals for significant sales, demonstrating the power of customer advocacy.
GoPro’s “Video of the Day” Campaign
GoPro features different user-generated videos daily across its website and social channels. Showcasing real customer videos inspires UGC creation while positioning GoPro as the top choice for adventure filming. GoPro has curated over 5,000 customer videos, letting fan content power its marketing.
Airbnb’s “#AirbnbCitizen” Campaign
Airbnb asked customers to share emotional stories about feeling welcomed and connected by Airbnb hosts. This generated authentic and on-brand advocacy by highlighting the community and belonging consumers feel via Airbnb. The campaign resulted in over 7000 positive stories.
Nike’s Celebrity Athlete Sponsorships
Nike builds advocacy through high-profile celebrity sponsorships like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods. These ambassadors help promote Nike worldwide with their legions of fans. Nike also fosters community via its Nike Run Club app, connecting users around fitness goals.
GoPro’s User-Generated Content Ecosystem
GoPro empowers customers to share experiences through forums, contests, and social engagement. This UGC showcases products creatively while the community builds connections between fans. GoPro further enables advocacy through tools that simplify content creation and sharing.
Google Cloud’s Innovators Program
Google Cloud boosts advocacy by giving developer advocates special badges, insider access, and networking opportunities. This makes them feel valued while incentivizing promotion. Microsoft pioneered a similar model with its MVP program recognizing active community contributors.
Brand Advocacy Video Breakdown
This video emphasizes the immense value of transforming satisfied customers into active brand advocates. It outlines cost-effective techniques to drive advocacy organically, including ensuring satisfaction, exceeding expectations, maintaining engagement, getting testimonials, and providing incentives.
Final Thoughts on Brand Advocacy
There are two lenses to examine when defining brand advocacy–transactional and relational.
Transactional refers to the visible value exchange between a brand advocate and the brand itself. This happens when marketers operationalize their brand advocacy programs and proactively activate word-of-mouth marketing (WOM). Using software technology, they integrate brand advocacy into other marketing initiatives, including loyalty or referral programs.
One of the first brand advocacy platforms in the market was Zuberance, which used NPS to identify and activate brand advocates.
Relational refers to how you live out its brand values and customer relationships–being engaged, centered, grounded, generous, and kind, demonstrating its core values, and publicly showing humility in everything you do. This is where reciprocal altruism takes root. It’s a mindset and should be the foundation of a brand advocacy program–goals and objectives, brand voice, and your overall brand story.
A few dependencies must be considered before launching a brand advocate program. First, you need to have a good product or service. That’s a given. Brands must also share the same values as their customers and prioritize issues like social responsibility and corporate citizenship. If you don’t have that, well … maybe you’re working for the wrong company.
Technology and social media software will also play a critical role in the success of a brand advocacy program. You can only go so far using email or a private Facebook group. And just like every other data-driven marketing program, you’ll need the internal resources to make it happen, like a solid measurement plan.
The importance of brand advocacy in business must not be overlooked, de-prioritized, or replaced with influencer marketing programs. Smart marketers are now integrating the two and surround-sounding prospects with relevant and consistent stories from all angles.
Everyone online is influential in some capacity, and while the brand advocates are not necessarily influencers, if you love them, they will love you back and tell others.
Brand advocacy occurs when customers speak favorably about a company, product, or service without being prompted, showcasing their genuine affinity towards the brand.
The four main steps to launching a brand advocacy program are securing a budget, understanding customer motivations, tapping into your CRM system to identify vocal customers, and documenting an operational plan for the program.
To create a brand advocacy program, you must ensure a budget, understand what motivates your customers, identify your most active and vocal customers, document an operational plan, and then announce and launch the program.
Brand advocacy is useful because it generates positive word-of-mouth, increases customer loyalty, improves customer retention, enhances lifetime value, boosts sales, and augments customer support.
Initially, with the advent of social media, brand advocacy was a significant topic. However, its fervor has diminished, with influencer marketing becoming more prevalent.
While influencers might have vast followings, brand advocates are everyday people who genuinely love a product or service and promote it without any external motivations.
The success of brand advocacy programs can be gauged through metrics like engagement, reach, conversions, active users, posts per day, and resolved issues in branded online communities.
Nike, GoPro, and Google Cloud have successfully harnessed the power of brand advocacy through various strategies, ranging from celebrity endorsements to community-building.
The two lenses are transactional and relational. Transactional refers to the visible value exchange between a brand advocate and the brand, while relational refers to how a brand lives out its values and customer relationships.
Technology, especially social media software, plays a pivotal role in the success of a brand advocacy program. It aids in scaling the program, ensuring consistent communication, and measuring its impact.