Every business’s dream is to have loyal fans who will choose its brand over others, advocates who will recommend the brand freely and will be there whatever happens.
All of the people around your brand--employees, colleagues and external stakeholders--are incredibly valuable marketing channels. People trust other people, so their social media channels are golden tickets for you when they are willing to help you.
One interesting marketing measurement is how many people want to connect their personal brand to your brand. Their likes, shares and tweets about your brand are an indication that they endorse your products. If they tell their friends about how they use your brand, even better. When someone does this all the time it’s clear that they are a brand advocate.
One of the first steps in understanding brand advocacy is to understand how you yourself react to brands and their messages, and the feeling you get when you interact with them. What brands interest you? What brands would you tell a friend about?
We live in a world with far too much information floating around, and your customers take in lots of information every day. Big, established household brands will always be remembered because of what they are and their long-term position in the market. Smaller, less well known brands need to do things differently.
You need to learn what makes people remember your brand. This is where personal branding is so important.
When anyone talks about your brand--in real life or online--they are sharing a story about who they are and what they stand for. It’s a small statement.
If your brand has a story worth sharing then more people will be likely to share it. That’s one of the reasons brands with a strong backstory are easier to connect with. If the ‘why’ in why your brand exists is connected with helping your clients reach for a better future and a better world then your brand story is even better and more will share it.
Positive And Negative Reinforcement
A lot of marketing talk highlights pain, weaknesses and the fear of missing out (FOMO). An example may be a friend trying to push you into attending a course by pointing out your weaknesses and how attending the course will ‘fix you’. This pushy attitude is a bit tiring.
If you would like to create loyal brand advocates, you need to change the pain-based marketing concept into a positive concept. Of course, the pain and FOMO techniques will continue to work, but in the long-term you will have much more success if your brand is connected to appreciation and a feel-good experience.
We are all seeking meaning and purpose in our lives and, as marketers, we need to make our brands connect with people on a deeper level to create more brand advocates. The younger generation in particular wants to feel that the brands they interact with are making a positive contribution to their lives and those of others.
Live And Breathe A Brand
One way to grow brand advocates is to create a strong sensory experience among and between people. It’s the feeling of belonging to a group that makes people stay together. The lone wolf experience of your brand doesn’t breed the same kind of loyalty. We are more likely to tell others about experiences we’ve had in a group than alone.
Many sportswear brands hold gym classes in their shops. They’re often early in the morning or in the evening. The participants are literally breathing in the brand in the shop and are very close to its products when doing a class.
John Osborn, President and CEO of advertising agency BBDO New York, said in a lecture: ‘Every brand has a head, heart and soul that connect a product to its customers.’ In other words, people are more willing to engage with a company’s product if the brand represents a higher purpose, such as corporate responsibility or generosity.
Businesses that encourage social responsibility get more loyal fans. In November 2011 Patagonia ran the ‘Don’t Buy this Jacket’ campaign to encourage sustainability and avoid over-consumption.
What happened was that their fans thought again before buying a jacket and when they did they stayed loyal to Patagonia and got another of their jackets. At the end of the year they had increased sales and have done so every year.
When you point out that your customers have a choice, as Patagonia did, and help them feel better about themselves, you create strong brand advocates whose loyalty brings new possibilities.
Focus on what will make your customers feel good about themselves and you will be one step closer to nurturing more brand advocates. Help them feel better about their lives and they will pay you back.
We have all seen false promises made in marketing: eat this and get thin; wear this scent and women will love you. These negative, pain-focused messages push us to believe that we need to be ‘fixed’ before we can be loved.
Looking at things from a positive marketing angle is enlightening and many people are now appreciating brands that connect with a higher purpose. This prompts true brand advocates to naturally evolve their own brand rituals and share their best tips with others.
Many customers forget what’s good in their lives. Smart and ethical marketing with an optimistic viewpoint can help them remember.
For further reading about positive marketing and positive brand building, check out The Centre for Positive Marketing, based in New York. They also publish a yearly report about consumer values in the US.