Brand Advocacy Essentials Part 1: What Is Brand Advocacy?
We are all seeing the power of advocacy grow daily, becoming the one tool that can make or break a product, business, or brand. Without advocates pushing through the marketing clutter, brands have a hard time moving the needle in the market. However, with all the different types of brand advocates out there, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for achieving your specific goals inside and outside of retail. With our 35 years of industry expertise and experience driving successful Brand Advocacy programs for our clients, we’re sharing our insider knowledge through this series regarding what Brand Advocacy is, the different types of brand advocates, and why you need them supporting your brand.
What Is Brand Advocacy?
Many marketers refer to Brand Advocacy as the “holy grail” of customer loyalty. It’s more than just an affinity towards a specific brand – it’s a deep emotional connection to a product or brand that makes you want to buy it over and over again, plus share your fandom with others. For us at BDS, we’ve bottled up all the great things that Brand Advocacy is and provide it as a marketing and sales solution for our clients. We hire for the right brand fit, train on both hard product and soft selling skills, and develop employees in their careers to be able to not only represent, but share their love of the brand with customers and store associates. In turn, those customers and store associates continue paying the brand love forward by sharing their positive experience with others. As Hootsuite puts it, “It’s an extension of that age-old tactic: word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s a great way to generate those all-important meaningful relationship moments.”
Who Are Brand Advocates?
Brand advocates are individuals who are not only knowledgeable, but extremely passionate about specific brands and products. They can be paid (such as a BDS employee, a social media influencer, or a store associate) or develop organically (like your friend down the street who swears by that new face cream she bought.) Brand advocates are essentially “people who already love your product or service and are already engaging with your brand.”
How Do I Develop Brand Advocates Organically?
Anyone can become a brand advocate organically. Through excellent customer service, user-friendly product experiences, personalized brand interactions, engaging promotions, in-person recommendations, and more, there are lots of avenues to turn your average consumer into a repeat customer that recommends your product or brand to others. However, nurturing brand advocates organically can take a lot of time, money, and effort, which is why many brands turn to paid brand advocates to speed up the process and boost their marketing efforts. The numbers don’t lie: word-of-mouth (advocacy) marketing has been shown to increase marketing effectiveness by as much as 54%.
What Are the Different Types of Paid Brand Advocates?
With so many possibilities, how do you know which one is not only right for your brand, but will make the impact you need? Here are three high level options that achieve different results inside and outside of retail:
An influencer typically has a substantial audience that follows them, mainly online or on social media, and that individual is able to use their platform to influence consumer brand perceptions and actions. These can be writers, bloggers, video creators, celebrities, and more. The bigger the audience, the more these individuals are paid to promote brands and products, which can be in the form of actual monetary payment, free product, or a combination of the two. Influencers can have a massive amount of impact on consumers: a recent study showed that 48% of people who were exposed to influencer content visited a particular retailer within four days of seeing an ad for it.
In-Store: Sales Associates
With nearly 4.5 million retail associates working in stores around the country, this type of brand advocate is one of the most influential you’ll find at the last three feet of the sale. They hold the keys to a brand’s success or failure in a store, which is why we at BDS usually factor sales associate mindshare and rate of recommendation in every brand advocacy program strategy. And now with increased consumer expectations, sales associates are morphing into sales floor superheroes with even more power to influence and deliver the right solutions to customers, which means your brand needs to be top of mind. At BDS, we offer solutions that not only allow you to influence sales associates at mass retailers, but also allow you to hire, train, and grow sales associates for your own brand shop.
On-the-Go: Brand Representatives
As a brand, the last thing you want to do is leave your message in the hands of others. However, with trained brand representatives, you can control the delivery of your brand message while still achieving your advocacy goals. At BDS, we have a variety of different roles that fall under this category. From student representatives on college campuses and branded staff supporting a roadshow, to Assisted Sales Representatives that demo products during key selling seasons and Market Development Managers that drive sales in their territories, our brand representatives can strongly influence the purchase decisions of friends, family, and others while they are in the store or on the go.
Without advocates, a brand can only go so far. While traditional marketing methods may give you a boatload of impressions, they only go so far when it comes to actual engagement and building brand fans for life. Brand advocacy is a time-tested tool that makes a deep, measurable impact in the short term and long run, plus gives you the ownership, personalization, flexibility, and agility you need as a brand. Just think about it: a consumer who becomes a brand advocate at age 20, with proper interaction and upkeep, is likely to still be a brand advocate at age 40. In those 20 years, they will have paid your brand worth forward by making thousands of recommendations to others. The time is now to develop a strong brand advocacy program – in recent studies published by both Elite Daily and Crowd Twist, millennials are the most brand loyal generation to date, making brand advocacy more important than ever before.
To learn more about Brand Advocacy, read the second part of our Brand Advocacy Essentials Series. Interested in getting things going today? Give us a call!