brand loyalty

Coke CMO: Advocacy Has Overtaken Loyalty as the Holy Grail For Brands

Since GM pulled their investment in Facebook Advertising (and are apparently considering returning), the effectiveness of Facebook ads has become a hot topic. At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Coca-Cola CMO Joseph Tripodi defended Facebook against naysayers. According to MarketingWeek, Tripodi believes that Facebook is still in infancy and we should be more focused on what it stands for (building relationships) rather than the platform itself.

“[Facebook] is at the early stages and we’re still learning how we engage and leverage it, but this hysteria that I’ve seen lately [about Facebook], I think it’s very short-termist and not thinking about the long term implications and the implications of engaging with people on that kind of platform.”

The real value in Facebook is that it's a channel to develop and energize Brand Advocates which, according to Tripodi, "has overtaken loyalty as the holy grail for brands.”

“I used to think that loyalty was at the top of the pyramid of classic marketing awareness model, but now it’s advocates. If you can turn people that love your brand from passive loyalists to advocates you create a type of network advantage that means your brand will stay relevant. We all know that losing relevance is the worst thing that can happen to your brand.”

How do you get these passive loyalists to become active Advocates?

Three words: Make it easy! Give Advocates online tools to share their enthusiasm whether it's writing reviews, creating testimonials, sharing offers and other content with their friends, answering prospects' questions, and more.

Here's how three top brands are staying relevant by turning loyalists into raving Brand Advocates:

Beyond loyalty, Advocacy has become the ultimate goal for marketers. Gaining repeat customers is incredibly valuable, but that only really gets you to third base. In order to hit a grand slam, brands must mobilize their best customers to become a virtual marketing force (whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, third party review sites, etc) that will drive leads, sales, and positive Word of Mouth.

-Beau Cowan, Marketing Coordinator, Zuberance

Make Your Customers Feel at Home

In the physical world, when our trusted and valued friends come to visit our house, we often welcome them by saying, “Come in…make yourselves at home!”   In the virtual world, do you do the same thing?  When customers and prospects visit your online site, do they feel at home there? Think about retailers that offer snacks, coffee, samples, valuable information, and sometimes even entertainment in their shops.  They create a welcoming atmosphere for their customers because they know it will encourage them to stay around the shop, browsing the products and learning more about the brand…and greatly increasing the chances of a sale.

Your online site needs to do the same thing.  What do you do to make your current and prospective customers feel comfortable?   What are you doing to add value to their day?  What experience are you giving them? In other words, how are you inspiring them to stick around now and return later...with their friends?

  • If you are selling clothes, maybe give your customers and prospects the latest fashion news.
  • If you are selling food, how about information on nutrition specialists or a free 1-minute video clip by a nutrition specialist?
  • Maybe get creative about sample give-aways by trying social sampling.
  • Invite them to do something:  respond to a poll, watch a video, play a game
  • Give them the “social” of “social media” with easy ways to connect to your brand through various social networks and to share those connections with their friends.
  • And most importantly, make sure they can reach a human being with their questions!

Why bother?  Because when your prospective and current customers feel at home at your site, they will feel at home with your brand in a way that builds trust --  a cornerstone for building relationships.  And the success of social media marketing really is all about relationships.

They say home is where your heart is -- make your site that place for your customers!

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategiest

Advocacy drives “Social Sampling”

Kleenex made waves with its recent "Softness Worth Sharing campaign," which encouraged people to have FREE Kleenex sample packs sent to friends and family.  Earlier this month, a reported 1 million Kleenex packs had been sent on behalf of Kleenex consumers! What made this innovative campaign so successful?  Kleenex gave consumers the chance to not only interact with their product, but to also easily give their friends/family the same experience. In other words, Kleenex identified Advocates, who in turn sent more samples and encouraged their networks to do the same… they were energized and mobilized.  Social sampling at its best!

One important part of this campaign was providing a way for people to track the campaign online – including their own “chain of sharing,”  where a consumer can see if their sample-sending inspired someone else to send sample(s).  When consumers can see the impact of their action, it can easily inspire them to act again and spread the word to their friends about this “cool thing you have to check out!”  Again, it energizes and mobilizes Advocates.

We know how important it is to give our Brand Advocates the tools to market our products for us, and now Kleenex has taken this concept one step further by giving consumers the tools AND THE PRODUCT (samples) to share with their networks.  They have made it easy and fun for Advocates to create a buzz around a specific product and to share the experience of the product.

Successful social sampling campaigns rely on consumer-to-consumer connection, and your Advocates are the most powerful way to create those ties.

-Ted Rubin, Social Media Strategist

How Do *YOU* Define ‘Best Customer’?

Seth Godin has it exactly right when he asks in a recent blog post, "…what if you define ‘best customer’ as the person who brings you new customers through frequent referrals, and who sticks with you through thick and thin?" In other words, what if we define “best customer” as “strongest Brand Advocate”?  How would that change the way we think about and treat our Brand Advocates?

We might:

  • pay even more attention to them: watch, listen, learn
  • get to know their preferences so we can continue to delight them
  • go “above and beyond” in our interactions with them
  • solicit their honest feedback at key brand or product development decision points
  • go out of our way to make sure they know we appreciate them (their insights, time, energy, loyalty)
  • be so aware of their value that we start bragging to our colleagues about the power of OUR Brand Advocates (be careful, though, they are people, not commodities!)
  • invite them to visit with us online, and welcome their friends as warmly as we welcome our Advocates
  • think more often in terms of ways we can serve them better instead of how they can serve us

Notice that all of these behaviors have the beneficial side-effect of improving our brand’s relationship with our Advocates, which gives them reason to be even more loyal and even stronger Advocates for our brand.

The main paradigm shift required is the willingness to first focus on the relationship value of a “strongest Brand Advocate” and wait to make a monetary value assessment until we see the slightly longer-term “income” resulting from numerous referrals, repeat business, and overall brand impact as positive Word of Mouth spreads through your Brand Advocates’ social networks.

In a culture of instant gratification, it’s tempting to keep thinking of our “best customer” as the one who provides the most money the quickest, but we need to start seeing the lifetime marketing value as the holy grail.  And our Brand Advocates are the ones to bring us that treasure.

The "Wisdom of Friends" Powers Brand Advocacy

We are hearing so much now about social media creating a shift from the wisdom of crowds’ to ‘the wisdom of friends’, but what does that really mean for brand advocacy?  A lot.  It’s this ‘wisdom of friends’ that brings a new “social power” to brand advocacy. Social power (the ability to influence) used to be determined by who had the most money, was the most intelligent, or was the most effective at impressing their will on others, but that’s changing thanks to social media.  Now social power comes through connections of friends, or the “wisdom” of friends, so Advocates have much greater influence.

Numbers still hold some power, and they always will, but the strength of connection is becoming even more powerful.   Consumers care about reviews, evaluations and what other consumers say about your product, much more than advertisements… and that is great for a brand.  What they care about even more is what their friends think about your product.  One or two friends’ opinions -- the “wisdom of friends” – carry more weight than many other opinions combined.

Bring Brand Advocates into the equation, and you see the power here.  An Advocate is so impressed by your brand or product that they can’t wait to tell their friends about their experience… and because of this trend toward ‘wisdom of friends,’ their friends are primed to pay attention to those recommendations.  Friends immediately trust their friends who are Advocates, purchase the recommended product, and if that experience is everything they hoped for (and it likely will be, since Advocates won’t be excited about anything less), a new Advocate is born and the cycle continues.

Since your Brand Advocates are seeing an increase in their social power, this means your brand itself now has more power to influence.  And the more social power your brand has, the more Advocates it will create.  It’s a mutually-beneficial relationship circle, all built on this ‘power of friends.”

Advocates are an incredible asset, now more than ever, treat them as such.

Step aside, Aspiration… INSPIRATION is the way to go

Forget Aspiration in the years ahead… the new challenge is to give customers INSPIRATION for your brands and products. I’m not suggesting we throw away our sales and marketing goals (aspirations), just that we give more value to the concept of INSPIRING our customers as a valid marketing tactic.

If your organization’s internal focus is on easily-measurable metrics, that’s the message that will leak out to your customers – that each customer is just another number toward your goals.  If your focus is instead on INSPIRING your customers, they will feel that difference and want to engage with your brand and your products.

I state this as a challenge because it is not easy to inspire someone, especially when the digital atmosphere is overloaded with competing messages now that brands can so easily share their messages through social media.  Your brand needs differentiators now more than ever, but if you can INSPIRE your customers, you will get - and keep - their attention.

Inspiration doesn’t just happen, and is even more of a challenge because it requires a different focus and skill set than most metrics-based achievements do.  In order to inspire your customers, you need to provide the following:

  1. Authentic relationship. You can’t assume that just because you have a good product your customers will be excited about it. Inspiring your customers requires your ongoing enthusiasm and creativity, but even more importantly, your attention and interaction with them around what they want and expect from your brand.
  2. A fantastic customer experience. You need to have a great product and fantastic customer service and use social media to actually engage with your customers.  Customers can afford to be picky, so you can’t afford to give them anything less than a fantastic experience.
  3. Trust.  Trust happens when you do exactly what you say you will do, and when all messages and actions and conversations associated with your brand are consistent, timely, and genuine.  Without trust, your customers won’t have confidence in your product or your brand.

So why put all this effort into inspiring your customers?  Because inspiration naturally wants to be shared … so inspired customers make powerful Brand Advocates. They are the customers who want that experience again, and can’t wait to tell their entire social network about it.

Take the INSPIRATION CHALLENGE – your customers will love you for it!