red rock coffee

Loyal Customers, Brand Advocates, What’s the difference?

As I have talked about the characteristics of Brand Advocates over the past few months I typically use one of my favorite subjects, “Coffee Shops,” to explain the difference between Loyal Customers and Brand Advocates. So grab a cup and here we go… I know I’m not alone, but about 3pm in the afternoon, my craving for that coffee beverage really starts to kick in. Much to my checking account’s dismay, I have become a Starbucks customer almost once a day. My daily routine is largely driven by the fact that my favorite coffee shop is 15 miles down the road and Starbucks is a one-minute walk away.

Do I recommend Starbucks to friends? Not really, but I’m a fairly loyal customer of Starbucks.

But if a friend or co-worker asked me to recommend a coffee shop I would recommend Red Rock Coffee in Mountain View, CA. I have sent more people to Red Rock than I can count. The “Silicon Valley” vibe, locally owned spirit, carefully handcrafted beverages complete with foam art, and coffee making expertise are a beautiful blend. I’m a Red Rock Advocate and a highly valuable customer for their business.

So let me get back to Starbucks to fully illustrate the difference between Loyal Customers and Advocates. The info graphic below shows how 1 in 5 Loyal Customers are Detractors.

This statistic describes my Coffee world well. Even though I spend a lot of money at Starbucks, I’m primarily a Detractor in that the main reason I go there is out of utility and lack of other inspired options.

But something happened over Christmas that actually moved me up the scale towards being a Starbucks Advocate. One of the baristas gave me a hand-signed Holiday card with a gift card inside. I assumed the idea was thought up by someone in the marketing department but I really didn’t care. It was a thoughtful and personal gesture that made a positive impact on my perception of Starbucks or at the very least the Starbucks location to which I go every day.

So what suggestions can Brands take away from my Coffee experience?

  • Don't make too many assumptions about loyal customer’s loyalty or Advocacy. It is quite possible that “loyalty” may simply be from a lack of better choices.
  • Consistently ask your customers how you (the brand) are doing with them. Our recommendation is to ask the Ultimate Question: “How likely are you to recommend our brand or products to your friends?”
  • Continually strive to make customer experiences more human and personal. For example, Denihan’s Affinia hotels give their customers a choice of 6 different types of pillows and allows guest to bring their pets. These great experiences are the corner stones of Advocacy.
  • Don't confuse Loyal Customers with Brand Advocates. Instead, think about these 2 groups as distinct segments.
  • If you have yet to systematically identify your Advocates, your Loyal Customers are are a great place to start because they have the most experience with your brand. There are surely customers in this segment that are recommending your products to their friends, or would do so if you just made it easy for them.