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

Short-Term Lease vs Long-Term Relationship: The Difference Between Influencers & Advocates

I’ve written about the topic of Influencers and Advocates previously, but after reading Jay Baer’s recent post on “Why Online Influencer Outreach is Overrated,” (I 100% agree!) and since advocacy is truly becoming top of mind for marketers, I thought I’d throw in another two cents. Let's back up and first look at what defines an Advocate and an Influencer. I've heard many people interchangeably use these terms when in fact, the two groups have very different characteristics and motivations as you can see from the chart below.

(Click here to enlarge)


In general, Influencers are defined by the size of their audience (Twitter followers, blog subscribers, etc) whereas Advocates are defined by their genuine satisfaction with specific brands and products. Now, this is not to say that an Influencer cannot be an authentic Advocate for your brand. In fact, when this happens (rarely), you’ve hit the jackpot!

Influencer Outreach vs Advocacy Marketing

The challenge of an Influencer outreach strategy is that Influencers have their own agenda. Out of the all of the companies throwing free trials or perks at them, they’ll choose to promote a company/product if it aligns with their goal: to build their personal brand. By getting an Influencer to tweet or blog about them, brands are “renting the conversation” as Edelman Digital's Michael Brito says. And unfortunately, it’s often a very short-term lease. After one tweet or mention in a blog post, they're on to the next company or product that's showing them love.

The beauty of a brand advocacy strategy is that it’s mutually beneficial; you want to drive awareness about your products (and ultimately sales), and your Advocates are more than willing to help you out. As our CEO, Rob Fuggetta, puts it, "Advocates crave engagement from your brand." They want to be the first to know about a new product feature or event you’re hosting, and you don’t have to give them a free trial or even a free key chain to tell their networks about it. Advocates are there to promote, support, and even defend your brand.

Now, I’m not saying that all influencer outreach strategies should be left behind because there is certainly room for both an influencer and advocacy strategy in a brand’s overall marketing mix. But brands need to consider the outcome of each strategy. Jay Baer put it perfectly: "True influence drives action." So what will drive action for your brand? A short-term rented conversation or a long-term authentic relationship with your Advocates?

What are your thoughts on Influencers and Advocates? We'd love to hear to hear your comments below!

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance

How Much is Too Much? 3 Things to Consider When Engaging Brand Advocates

I get asked many times by customers and others how often they should be communicating with Advocates. Marketers are rightfully concerned about appearing spammy and about “wearing out their welcome,” especially with an audience as valuable as Advocates.

Here are three things to consider when engaging with Brand Advocates:

1.      First, keep in mind that these are Advocates, not average customers. Advocates are your most engaged, most loyal, and most enthusiastic customers. They crave engagement with the brands they love and recommend. They even name their kids after you (like the Rubio’s Advocate who named her daughter Ruby.) If they don’t hear from you, they wonder where the love has gone. Therefore, the rules about how often you should communicate with Advocates (vs. other customers) are very different.

2.      There is no fixed formula (like once a month) on how often you should communicate with Advocates. You should communicate with Advocates when you have something of value to communicate. That can include news about a new product; an invitation to share an offer or a piece of content with friends; a request to express themselves via a story or review; an opportunity to help a prospect by answering a question; etc. The question really is: “Is this something our Advocates would find value in?”

3.      Measure response rates and adjust accordingly. If response rates drop, take heed and adjust. Online marketing is all about measurement and testing. So is advocacy marketing.

-Rob Fuggetta, Founder/CEO, Zuberance, Author of "Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force"

Top 5 Takeaways from “Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer”

Forrester Research Inc Analyst, Josh Bernoff, released a report recently entitled, “Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer.” The report discusses the only sustainable competitive advantage in the current customer-centric era: engagement. Below are some highlights from the report.

  • Key takeaway: Companies need to adjust their business strategy from being customer focused to customer obsessed. The proliferation of social media has disrupted every industry and created empowered consumers. They now have the tools to rave about your products, complain about your customer service, or follow your brand within the interconnected social web.  Customer obsession should be business’ #1 priority over any other strategic imperative.
  • Value versatility over lock-in. Focus your strategy, energy, and budget on processes that improve knowledge of and engagement with customers that take priority over maintaining traditional competitive barriers. Don’t back your “loyal” customers into a corner through contracts and proprietary technology. Instead, aim to create authentic advocacy by adjusting to customer needs. Enthusiastic repeat business is much more valuable than content customers (who might actually be detractors) that are stuck in a contract.
  • We are now in an empowered-customer-centric era. Shift your thoughts and budget accordingly. As Ian Wolfman of imc2 said, “Stop using ads to cover up a weak reputation and unhappy customers. Prioritize Word of Mouth over mouthing off.” Bernoff suggests cutting 10% of your traditional advertising budget and reallocating it to strategies that include a viral potential like social, devices, and content. Ads are far more effective when consumers are primed to believe them through the influence of their peers.
  • Find ways to sell more to current customers and get them to recommend your brand to their networks. New customers are more expensive to acquire than repeat customers; and repeat customers are much more accessible. Let your current customers, particularly you’re Advocates who are willing and ready to spread their enthusiasm, be your customer acquisition force by making it easy for them to recommend your brand.
  • Measurement is key. Prove your word of mouth marketing efforts are successful but measuring results. Appropriate metrics will vary across companies, but companies must measure campaigns that can tie back to business results such as leads, database sign-ups, inbound clicks, etc.

Brands- Stop thinking that all eyes and ears are on you. All eyes and ears are actually on your customers. Download “Competitive Strategy in the Age of the Customer” here.

-Cara Fuggetta, Marketing Manager, Zuberance


Build a relationship with an Advocate like you would with a friend #NYBAS

For so long brands have operated on this model of selling and showing product, explained Avi Savar, Founder of Big Fuel at the New York Brand Advocacy Series event he co-sponsored with Zuberance at his offices.

Brand Advocates can’t be bullied into liking your product. You need to create a relationship with them. That can often come from just having a great product, great customer service, or both.

If you want Brand Advocates, you need to shift your communications from a “Show me/Sell me” model to a “Help me/Entertain me” model, said Savar. Building a relationship with a customer to turn them into a Brand Advocate is no different than building a relationship with a friend.

The best way to create engagement with customers is through social and digital platforms, Savar suggested. Content drives conversation and advocacy. It is a commodity which can be leveraged on behalf of a brand. Audiences are engaged by content especially when delivered in the right context.

If you do it right, you can build a relationship with the customer for life, said Savar.

-David Spark, Social Media Journalist, Spark Media Solutions

The Missing Link in Social Media Marketing

While attending several OMMA Global sessions this week I noticed that something was fundamentally missing from most conversations about social media marketing: how to drive real sales and ROI – beyond just listening and engagement, from social media. In fact, Ellis Booker, the editor of BtoB Magazine recently wrote, “How best to use - but not abuse - social media for sales conversion is the $64,000 question, and will preoccupy marketers, agencies, and media companies for the foreseeable future.”

Social media is powerful – Obama’s social media strategy during his election campaign and the power shift that is occurring in the Middle East speak to this point clearly, but as marketers we’ve forgotten to look at why social media is so powerful.


People trust people, not marketers. According to Nielsen, 92% of customers trust Word of Mouth, and more than 90% of customers say that a Word of Mouth recommendation is the leading influence on their purchasing decisions (source: Zocalo Group).

Now, the question is - who drives Word of Mouth for your company?  It's your Brand Advocates (highly-satisfied customers who proactively recommend your brand or products without being paid to do so), a highly influential segment that every company has.

But, have you identified your Advocates?  Are you energizing them via social media to drive sales and ROI for your brand?

Advocates recommend brands because they genuinely “want to help people” (source: Comscore & Yahoo!).  And, social media is so powerful because it gives everyone a voice – one that can be heard.

Have you tapped into this energy, and made it easy for your Advocates to share their positive experiences with your brand or products?