Brand Advocate

Extreme Adidas Advocate: The Bob Lanier/Imelda Marcos of Sneaker Collections

NBA player Bob Lanier had big feet. Imelda Marcos has a big shoe collection. Founder of Blippy, AdBrite, and F*cked Company, Phil Kaplan, a.k.a. "Pud," has big feet and a collection of 40 Adidas sneakers all at the same time.

With that kind of collection, Phil Kaplan is undoubtedly an Adidas Advocate. He participates on the Adidas boards explicitly, and wears them all the time so you know he loves these sneaks.

-David Spark, Social Media Journalist, Spark Media Solutions

Extreme Brand Advocate Story: MINI Advocate’s MAXImum Advocacy #Energize

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines,” by Rob Fuggetta, Founder & CEO, Zuberance.

George Hamma is an owner of a BMW MINI. But there’s nothing small about his passion for his beloved car.

Hamma, a youthful-looking 65, enthusiastically recommends MINI to hundreds of his friends, co-workers, and even complete strangers.

The Sunnyvale, CA resident is an active member of the Northern California chapter of the MINI owner’s club. He also shares his passion for MINI on his Facebook page, Twitter @ghamma, and on his personal website, where Hamma – an avid photographer – posts photos of MINI owners’ rallies.

Hamma is an active participant at NorthAmericanMotoring.com, a site where MINI owners meet to talk about their cars and motoring (about 16,500 members). Hamma has engaged in hundreds of conversations with current and (possibly) future MINI owners.

That’s George in the photo standing proudly next to his MINI, a 2011 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4, which he named “Fenton” in honor of a local ice cream parlor where his favorite flavor is also black and tan like his MINI.

MINI’s Super Salesperson

As a direct result of his advocacy, six friends have bought MINI’s. At about $35,000 per MINI, Hamma has generated about $200,000 in revenues for BMW, making Hamma one of MINI’s best – and certainly one of its most cost-effective  – sales people.

MINI hasn’t given Hamma anything – not even a MINI t-shirt or key chain – in exchange for his advocacy. “I recommend MINI because it’s fun to drive. It’s a great product,” says Hamma. “Every time I drive my MINI, I get a big smile on my face,” he adds.

Hamma says he’s such an effective Advocate of MINI that his local MINI dealership has suggested he join their sales team.

“My local MINI dealership wants me to come in and sell MINIs for them,” laughs Hamma. “Hmmm...wonder how much that pays?” he chuckles.

Singing MINI’s Praises

A while back, Hamma enthusiastically recommended MINI to a fellow member of a professional chorus.

“I’m not kidding. The very next week she shows up at chorus practice in her new MINI. Same model as mine,” Hamma says.

Mad about Motoring

Hamma is a car enthusiast who drove BMW cars in the 1960s and 70s on the rally circuit. He occasionally takes lunch breaks from his job as a senior product tester at a Silicon Valley tech company by driving his MINI “quickly around twisty little roads” near the company.

“The other day I went over there and thrashed it pretty good. I came back to the office with a big smile on my face,” he says.

MAXImum Word of Mouth

MINI is one of those passion brands with millions of Advocates and enthusiasts like Hamma. MINI stokes this passion with the MINI Owner’s Lounge, a private, online community for MINI owners; MINI owner rallies and special events; online reviews and more. Plus, MINI gets plenty of organic positive Word of Mouth from user-created online communities, forums, events, and more.

MINI Hazard

One of the few drawbacks of owning a MINI, Hamma says, is that it has caused him to have a sore right shoulder.

“Every now and then, my wife will remind me if I’m driving a little too fast,” chuckles Hamma.

An occasional sore shoulder is a small price to pay for the fun of driving his black and tan MINI, says Hamma. “I tell all my friends and colleagues: If you want to have fun driving, go get yourself a MINI. You will not regret it,” he says.

Read more: “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines”

Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance

Extreme Brand Advocate Story: Justin Dorfman, a CDW Champion and Friend #Energize

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines,” by Rob Fuggetta, Founder & CEO, Zuberance. Most people assume that advocacy is limited only to sexy or cool brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Porsche. Not true. Advocates of business brands can also be just as enthusiastic.

Hard-Core CDW Advocate: Justin Dorfman

Justin Dorfman is a self-described “hard-core CDW Advocate.” (CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education, and healthcare. Ranked No. 38 on Forbes’ list of America’s Largest Private Companies, CDW features dedicated account managers who help customers choose the right technology products and services to meet their needs.)

Dorfman, 26, is a support engineer for NetDNA, a content delivery network based in Los Angeles. Dorfman’s passion for CDW was ignited back in 2004 when he bought his first product – a RAID controller, a device that manages physical disk drives – from CDW while working for Western Costume Company, a costume warehouse in Hollywood. He was so impressed with CDW’s responsiveness and customer service that he said: “Oh my God, I’m in love with this company.”

The Interal CDW Champion

Since then, he’s purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of computer gear from CDW while serving in IT positions for other companies. For example, when he started a new position as a junior systems engineer in December 2009 at Mahalo, he started buying gear from CDW. “I turned Mahalo into a CDW customer,” says Dorfman. In the 16 months he was at Mahalo, the company purchased about $200,000 in computer gear from CDW, largely as a result of Dorfman’s enthusiastic advocacy.

CDW has never paid Dorfman for his recommendations. “I put my reputation on the line for CDW and they’ve stood by me. They deliver every time,” says Dorfman. He adds: “They’re reliable. They don’t lie. You get your own account manager. There’s no calling and waiting on hold. They care for IT professionals. They know what we’re up against. They really get it.”

Establishing Advocate Relationships

Dorfman has become Facebook friends with CDW Senior Account Manager, Matt Cipolla. Cipolla has even recommended Dorfman on LinkedIn. “We know each other’s girlfriend’s names. We’re on a first-name basis. You’re just not going to get that from other IT companies,” says Dorfman.

In addition to evangelizing CDW to colleagues and friends offline, Dorfman recommends CDW online on Twitter (@jdorfman, where he has 443 followers as of July 2011;) by re-Tweeting CDW’s content and deals; talking them up on his blog (blog.justindorfman.com); his personal website Frugal IT; and on Spiceworks, an online community for IT professionals, where he created a “I love CDW” icon.

Lauren McCadney, Sr. Segment Marketing Manager for CDW, says: “I believe he (Justin) has come to represent the future of marketing:  influential Brand Advocates that establish a personal relationship with their favorite brands.  I've worked him for more years than I can count. And it was only in the last five years that I've come to really know customers like Justin as both a source of consumer insight but also as a friend.”

Read more: “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines”

Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance

Extreme Brand Advocate Story: "Starbucks Melody" Goes La La for Lattes #Energize

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming book, “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines,” by Rob Fuggetta, Founder & CEO, Zuberance. Melody Overton of Seattle is such a passionate Starbucks Advocate that her moniker is “Starbucks Melody.”

“I’ve been called Starbucks Melody even when I’m in the courtroom,” laughs Overton, an attorney who works in downtown Seattle, not far from where Starbucks was founded at Pike Place Market in March 1971.

Starbucks has more than 24 million fans on Facebook and 1.6 million Twitter followers, as of August 2011. But it’s hard to imagine any Starbucks customer more knowledgeable or passionate about Starbucks than Starbucks Melody.

Overton probably knows more about Starbucks than most Starbucks employees including their baristas (not unusual for Advocates of Starbucks and other brands.) When Overton talks about Starbucks, you can hear the excitement in her voice, like she’s had a few too many lattes.

Overton is the author of a popular blog all about Starbucks entitled “StarbucksMelody.com.” She also tweets about Starbucks (@SbuxMel), where she has about 4,000 followers. Overton is not a Starbucks employee or paid consultant. “I’m not on Starbucks’ payroll. They’ve never even given me a gift card,” she points out. Instead, like millions of other Advocates of other brands, Overton recommends Starbucks because she wants to share her authentic enthusiasm for Starbucks with others.

A Passion for Coffee

“I have a passion for coffee,” says Overton, who visits her local Starbucks “ritualistically twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.” Her favorite Starbucks coffees are the reserve blends prepared in Starbucks Clover® brewing system, found in some Starbucks stores. On those rare warm summer afternoons in Seattle – for Seattle, that means anything over 70 degrees – Overton likes drinking Starbucks iced passion tea or iced green tea.

“I like the way it (coffee) really has the ability to bring people together,” writes Overton in her blog. “I like the conversations around it. I like being able to have a common ground to connect with people about. Most of all, I fall in love with those moments when you can see some deep joy in a person’s eyes over discovering a new coffee, learning about coffee, or just hanging around the coffee – even if not drinking it.”

Her favorite Starbucks store? “Oooh, that’s a tough question. But like I’ve said on my blog, very high up there would be the store at First & Pike in Seattle, at the entrance to the Pike Place Market. It has beautiful design. The customer service is good. And it was the first Starbucks store to get two Clovers,” Overton says.

Melody Gets “Totally Sucked In”

Overton’s love affair with Starbucks began when she moved to Seattle in 1989 from nearby Tacoma, Washington, where she was in the air force. Overton’s attraction to Starbucks was as strong as Starbuck’s Italian roast.

Overton’s passion for Starbucks kicked into high gear in 2008, when Howard Shultz came out of retirement to the revive the faltering company, which he said had lost some of its “romance” and “soul” as it became a global behemoth. In a highly unusual move, Starbucks actually closed down all of its stores on February 26, 2008 for one evening to train its baristas.

“2008 just rattled me. What an insane year that was for me, as a Starbucks lover. I said to myself: ‘Wow, this is really cool.’ I just got totally sucked in. I became so excited about Starbucks,” says Overton. She was particularly impressed by the launch in April 2008 of MyStarbucksidea.com, Starbucks’s first online community. “I loved it! I felt like I really had a voice; that I could connect with Starbucks and with other people like me and make a difference,” she says.

Melody’s Most Memorable Starbucks Moment

Overton’s most memorable Starbucks moment occurred three years later in January 2011, when she attended the official unveiling of Starbucks’s updated logo. “That was amazing,” says Overton, one of only three consumers Starbucks invited to the event, held at the company’s headquarters in Seattle. “Oh my God, I even got my picture taken with (Starbucks CEO) Howard Shultz. When I walked out of there I was on cloud nine. I felt like I had died and gone to heaven,” she gushes.

Rampant Starbucks Advocacy

Overton continues advocating Starbucks today to readers of her blog, Twitter followers, family, friends, colleagues, and just about anyone who’ll listen. “I’ve been known to randomly bring up Starbucks in all sorts of places, even when I’m sitting in a hair salon,” laughs Overton.

“The hardest people to sell Starbucks to aren’t in Seattle,” says Overton. “People here are hugely over-caffeinated,” she states. “My biggest accomplishment was when I got my sister-in-law, who lives in southern California, to drink a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte,” says Overton.

Exactly how many people has Overton converted to the Starbucks religion as a result of her rampant advocacy? “Hmmm, I’m not sure. It’s probably in the hundreds, or more.”

“I’ll have to ponder that over a French press,” she chuckles.

Read more: “Energize! How to Turn Fans, Followers, and Loyal Customers into Social Media Marketing Machines”

Read more: Extreme Brand Advocate Stories

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance

New Marketing Technologies: CIO's and CMO's Need to Work Together

The new Forrester Research Inc report, “Emerging Technology Applications For Marketing," stresses the importance of businesses understanding up-and-coming marketing technology in order to effectively communicate to customers.  These technologies are a great support to the marketing mix.  Forrester advises CIO’s and CMO’s to work together for ideal business success. In order to stay relevant and reliable, CIO’s should be aware of new technologies that could be incorporated into the marketing strategy, especially in B2B companies. Some key takeaways from this report are as follows:

  • When you address customer needs effectively, sales follow.  Marketing should focus on putting the customer in the driver’s seat, which ultimately benefits the bottom line.
  • 58% of Marketing Professionals think IT and Marketing speak different languages.  56% think IT doesn’t understand our business.  In reality, the two departments are very closely related – both have a clear set of processes that help the organization relate to the customer, enhance the brand experience, collect data and help secure revenue.
  • One of the four emerging technologies to watch in 2011 is: Brand Advocate platforms to energize Word of Mouth (WOM).  Zuberance was given a notable mention as a supplier of this technology!
  • Consumers are increasingly more proactive in their advocacy of brands through recommendations across social media channels, which is extremely helpful for B2C companies.  But, B2B marketers can use Brand Advocate platforms to encourage WOM by loyal customers in order to generate sales leads, references, and share your thought leadership.
  • Encourage your marketing team to get customer feedback on how to improve.  With thoughtful responses you can deliver better customer service and collaborate with IT to find new technologies and vendors to address concerns or opportunities.

In conclusion, IT and Marketing can easily work together to employ new marketing initiatives that deliver more value and are sustainable in our highly social world.

-Lucy Arnold, Marketing Coordinator, Zuberance

It’s Time to Give Your Brand Advocates a Promotion

Marketers are starting to realize that Brand Advocates are important enough to be part of our marketing strategies…  but in my view, we need to take this beyond our Advocates just being “a part” of what we do.  We need to value our Advocates enough to promote them – in both meanings of the word: to bring visibility to, and to raise up.

1. We need to help our Advocates be heard.

We need to get the word out about the value our Advocates add to our brand/ product/ service.  Advocates want – and deserve -- to be recognized, so you should be their microphone:  re-tweet their comments, post their insights on your websites, share their brightest ideas throughout your social networks and make sure to give them credit for all of their work.

As diligent as you are at making sure your Advocates hear you … that is how diligent you need to be about making sure your Advocates are heard by others.

2. We need to place our Brand Advocates in a position higher than the one they currently hold in our companies.

Are you treating your Advocates like prized members of your team? You should be... because they are!   Give them and their role a "promotion" in your marketing team so your team places even more value on their role.  More than an actual position promotion, this is a paradigm shift.  Advocates should be viewed internally as co-leads, with their opinions and insights informing and even directing innovation for your brand.

Promoting our Brand Advocates requires a willingness to give back to them in response to all they do for us.  This give-give cycle is the new marketing, so we need to allocate resources to building relationships with the people who believe in our brand and want to share it with their networks.

In your next marketing team meeting, ask each other about your Brand Advocates:  How do you position them? Is it time for a promotion?

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

The importance of brand “appeal”

More and more, I like the word “appeal” and its implications for marketing and facilitating the building of relationships. The definition of appeal” (according to the World English Dictionary) is “the power to attract, please, stimulate, or interest.” So, if we apply that to marketing, it means that brands that think in terms of “appeal” are more likely to try to attract, please, stimulate, and provide interest for the consumer -- all behaviors of engagement, which is the foundation of relationships.

Appeal” speaks to much more than just what consumers like…  "appeal” is about what draws them in, then keeps them returning and sharing the experience with their networks. This has important implications for creating Advocates, who in turn create sales.

  1. What does it take to attract someone to your brand / product / service?
  2. What does it take to please and stimulate (inspire to action) your consumers?
  3. What does it take to provide interest for your consumer?

These are all questions that marketers need to be asking not just when creating an overall marketing strategy, but also every day and with every task.

When you focus on attracting a consumer, you are constantly paying attention to their preferences and their needs, catching their attention by offering something they will LIKE/LOVE and/or something that addresses their needs. Remember, it is all about them, not you.

To truly please a consumer, you need to reach below the surface and connect with what is important to them. What do they believe in?  What do they long for?  What do they see as the answer to making their daily lives easier?  Find those answers, and then determine how your brand/product/service fits in.  If your brand doesn’t fit here, it’s time for re-work and innovation!   You need to be able to get “underneath their skin” so to speak (but in a good way!).

Stimulate in this case means something like “inspire to action.” You have attracted and pleased your consumer, but if they do not take action, your marketing efforts see no ROI (Return on Investment).  What you need here is to invest in the relationship so you can experience a significant ROR (Return on Relationship).  Use social media to engage with your consumers: ask them questions, clarify their answers, find out what they need, and keep the conversation going.   The more you inspire your consumers, the more likely they are to take action – like buying your product and telling their friends to do the same!

Then keep your consumers interested. Innovate, don’t stagnate. The marketplace is lining up behind you waiting to catch your consumers’ attention the second they lose interest in your brand.  You can’t afford to keep pushing out the same content day after day, so focus on the relationship and the conversations will naturally stay fresh, engaging, and interesting.

Don’t settle for mediocre.  Strive to appeal to your consumers and watch your brand thrive.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

Authenticity increases ROR (Return on Relationship)

“It’s not authentic if everyone loves you.” – Stephen Strong (Alberto Culver) at the Chicago Brand Advocacy Series. That is a message that every marketer needs to hear loud and clear, especially as the focus on social media gets stronger and recommendations carry more purchasing weight than ever before!  The term “authenticity” gets used a lot now, but how many brands actually subscribe to being authentic, not just saying they are?

True authenticity in marketing requires brands to change their public filters.  It used to be that a whitewashed image was the way to get consumers’ notice and buy-in (literally)…but now, if brands filter out any and all slight imperfections, consumers quickly get wary.  If the only product/service reviews you allow the public to hear are about how amazing your product/service is, you quickly lose authenticity points.

In today’s market, REAL trumps PERFECT because real is what creates TRUST ... and trust is what makes WOM recommendations work.  Consumers who trust your brand are much more likely to become Brand Advocates, knowing you will consistently deliver on your product and service promises.  In fact, 76% of consumers recommended companies they trust to a friend or colleague (source: Edelman).

One key way to gain consumers’ trust is to build authentic relationships with them. Give consumers ongoing chances to interact with you and your brand, so they can see that you always tell the truth. Don’t waste your valuable marketing time making things up because your consumers will sense that you are not telling the truth.  Do your products and services have all perfect recommendations, as your brand claims?  Maybe – but unlikely.  100% on-time delivery?  Maybe – but unlikely.

Of course you don’t need to announce your errors or be proud of performance inconsistencies, but if consumers bring them up publicly, consider NOT filtering those conversations out of the media.  Speak directly to any issues consumers have with your brand, and let your problem-solving conversations be public.  These authentic conversations are the ones that build ongoing relationships – the ones that create Brand Advocates.

In my opinion, our new marketers’ motto should be “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation.” In other words, don't waste resources whitewashing your brand.  Put your resources instead into giving Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy.   “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation” = a boost to your ROR (Return on Relationship).

True authenticity is one major thing that can set your brand apart from the rest of today’s highly competitive market.  How authentic is your brand??

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

What is Your Social ID?

Brand identification is changing right along with the other shifts social media has brought about.  It is no longer as much about  the company logo, the colors or whether we use our middle initial in visual materials or not; it is now about “Social I.D.” – our voice and the way we socially present ourselves online. What is your Social I.D.?  What identifies your brand (personal or corporate) throughout your social media interactions and offerings? If your answer includes the colors of your website, you need to think very carefully about where you are focusing your brand identity efforts.  I am not suggesting that colors and logos and graphical elements are not important, but I am suggesting that the way you interact with others online is the identification that will catch the most attention… and hold it the longest.

So what specific actions does a Social I.D. include?  No matter what your brand purpose is or what  products and/or services you provide, all of the following will influence your Social I.D.:

  • Responsiveness: How responsive are you in your communications?  Responding to inquiries, suggestions, and kudos should get as much attention as complaints do.
  • Thought Leadership: How innovative are your ideas?  Are you content to say what’s already been said, or do you share your unique insights to provide real value to your audience?
  • Content Creation: Are you just re-using the other guy’s information, or are you creating new content, in new ways, that your audience can USE, then re-use on your behalf? 
  • Relevance: Do you pay enough attention to your audience to know and provide what is relevant to them?
  • Demeanor: How do you come across to your audience -- are your interactions friendly, helpful, gracious and authentic, or do they suggest you are tired, annoyed, or not being genuine?

Every one of these areas is important because a positive Social I.D. fuels positive Word of Mouth and creates Brand Advocates. Your Social I.D. is about the interactive experience your audience experiences with you and your brand… and that experience is what your Advocates will talk about – so make it positive!

What value are you providing for those with whom you interact?   Think about it… and make any changes you need so your Social I.D. works “for” you, not against you.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist