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Then and Now: Is BRANDvocacy Still the Holy Grail of Marketing?

by in +branding, +marketing, +strategy



I first wrote about BRANDvocacy a few years ago and it is becoming more important than ever in building credibility for your product or service.

The methods and mediums marketers use have evolved even more. Brands no longer have the sole responsibility of promoting awareness of their product or service; they now have the opportunity to empower consumers to be advocates of their brand—BRANDvocacy. In Erik Qualman’s Socialnomics video, The Social Media Revolution 2015, he notes that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. While we still take a three-phased approach at building brand loyalty and leveraging word-of-mouth marketing, let’s explore what’s changed…

Phase 1: Awareness – Influencers vs. Advocates

If you want people to buy your product or service, they have to know it exists—that will never change. We still use a mix of marketing tactics like Search Engine Marketing, TV and email marketing to bring awareness to brands. However, building spheres of influence to attract new prospects and customers is a growing trend among marketers. In Jay Baers article, Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated and How to Fix It notes, “…we tend to confuse audience with influence. Having a lot of Twitter followers or a ‘large’ blog readership doesn’t inherently make a person influential in any way. It gives them an audience. True influence drives action, not just awareness…”

How can you use this thinking to build awareness?

By building brand love through customer testimonials, case studies and peer reviews of your product or service. You can then use this information to pitch editors of influential publications, engage hot industry bloggers, share on your social media sites and even send to your LinkedIn connections.

Phase 2: Engagement – Engagement is not a strategy.

The evolution of new media and social communities has supported the explosion of different social media platforms and information sharing networks. This trend is important for growing product or service awareness and giving the opportunity to join the conversation with or about the brand. It opens the door between consumers and brands to communicate.

But one of my favorite authors, Mark Schaefer, says loudly, “Engagement is not a strategy”, and he points to Apple as his proof. Apple has the most valuable brand at $124.2 billion according to Forbes but completely ignores social media. His point is that engagement on social media is very time consuming and must be tied to business objectives. Engagement does not automatically ensure financial success. Companies like Apple have elected to put their time and resources in other marketing efforts.

That doesn’t mean that engagement should not be part of your overall strategy, but like ALL MARKETING tactics, you must be intentional about your goals and monitor your outcomes.

Phase 3: BRAND Advocacy (or BRANDvocacy)

Today, Brand advocacy is still the holy grail of marketing. When consumers generate positive content about your product or service, they have the influence that no amount of impressions, page views or TV commercial viewership could replace. They have endorsed your product or service to their friends and family, and validated its excellence.

According to Kimberly Whitler’s article, Why Word of Mouth Marketing is the Most Important Social Media, WOMM or Word of Mouth Marketing, is the most valuable form of marketing and only 6% of brands feel they have mastered it. Whitler says, “If you want to win the marketing race in 2015, you need to unleash the power of word of mouth.”

Army of BRANDvocates

A friend of ours who is famous for their army of BRANDvocates is Nick’s Pizza & Pub. From the moment you walk through the heavy, wooden barn door, the Nick’s Pizza & Pub staff is making every effort to guarantee you, as their guest NOT customer, have the best possible experience—or as they say, “The Nick’s Experience.” They are firm believers in BRANDvocacy, and they understand that one poor experience is vital, especially in the restaurant industry. A bad experience may not only result in a poor tip or upset guest for the evening, but you are also losing a lifetime guest and the ability to control a powerful driving factor of sales “word-of-mouth.” This is as impactful for positive experiences as it is for negative. If you were to look up Nick’s Pizza & Pub on social media, you would see as many supportive posts shared by their BRANDvocates as by the Nick’s team.

Branding has come a long way in a short amount of time, and its changes will surely continue alongside technology advances of the future.

Do you have a great BRANDvocacy example? Share it with us!

About The Author

Kathy Steele
Kathy Steele - View more articles

Kathy Steele is the President and CEO of Red Caffeine. She loves the crazy ride of being an entrepreneur, building brands, simple user experiences and happy employees. She is married to manufacturing, literally. Connect with Kathy on Twitter and LinkedIn.