The Ethic of Brand Advocacy

Posted by | Advocacy, Communities, Reciprocal Altruism, Relationships | No Comments

An army of brand advocates can be a very powerful marketing force.  More and more, marketers are seeking to create or ignite brand advocacy.  They are creating price promotions, leveraging Social Media, and creating experiential campaigns all with the hopes of getting consumers to advocate for their brand.

All of us know different versions of the Golden Rule; “Do unto to others as you would have others do unto you.” The Golden Rule or the Ethic of Reciprocity is a universal philosophy having roots in a wide variety of world cultures and religions.  What if we applied the Golden Rule to Marketing?  What if we created an Ethic of Marketing? “The Ethic of Marketing” should state, “Do unto your consumers as you would have your consumers do unto you.”  Every brand wants consumers to be passionate, loyal supporters of the brand.  They want to create Word of Mouth.  They want Brand Advocates.  If a brand wants to create Brand Advocates, should not a brand first be a Consumer Advocate?

Advocacy is the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending. If we want consumers to recommend our brands, we need to support the consumer.  A Consumer Advocate is someone who passionately supports the consumer.  They do things on behalf of the consumer.  A consumer advocate embraces consumer-centricity to the point of Reciprocal Altruism (a concept introduced by Robert L. Trivers in 1971). Reciprocal Altruism is basically the act of doing something for someone (at some cost to the doer) with the hope that someone would perform an altruistic act in return.  Unlike a common “Tit for Tat” model, a condition of Reciprocal Altruism is that the performance of the altruistic behavior must not depend on receiving an immediate benefit in return.  For the most part, marketers employ “Tit for Tat” models. Every time brand marketers create a consumer engagement, they expect something immediately in return.  They create to get.  They do not create to give.  These are very different ideas.  When we create to get, we are Brand-centric.  When we create to give, we are consumer-centric.

Consumer-centricity places the consumer in the center of our thoughts and actions. It’s about giving what the consumer wants, needs and desires rather than what the brand wants, needs and desires.  Reciprocal Altruism is about consumer-centricity. It’s about supporting consumers.  It’s about being a Consumer Advocate.

In short, if brands really want consumers to be Brand Advocates; Brands should first consider being a true Consumer Advocate.  “Do unto your consumer as you would have your consumer do unto you”:  the new Ethic of Brand Advocacy.


Does Your Business C.A.R.E.?

Posted by | Advocacy, Communities, Engagement, Relationships | No Comments

When we think of the word care, we think about being concerned, having regard or simply having a liking for someone or something. When we think about the acronym CARE, many will think of the international humanitarian agency delivering emergency relief and long-term international development projects.  In both cases, there is an emotional affinity towards and, in many cases, a desire to advocate on behalf of a cause or people.

At ADVENGAGE, we want you to think of C.A.R.E. in a slightly new way.  C.A.R.E. is our acronym for Consumer Advocacy by building deeper Relationships through better Engagements.  This is our mission and our mantra.  For us, it is simple.  If you apply C.A.R.E. to your marketing efforts, consumers will reward you with greater volume.  Our five-step model and assessment tool will help you introduce better C.A.R.E. to your business.

Consumer Advocacy is the desired end state that marketers want for their brand.  We want consumers to be emotionally attached to our business and strongly support it.  Word of Mouth is the desired action we want our consumers to take in support of our brands. An army of consumer advocates spreading the benefits of our brands can be the most powerful marketing force. Advocacy and Word of Mouth are not mutually inclusive. Just because someone shares something of yours doesn’t mean that they are advocating for you.  It just means they are sharing.  For example, you can give a person five coupons to hand out.  They leave all five in their work office around the lunch table so that others can use them. They are not advocating.  They are sharing. Some will even call this Word of Mouth. No one should ever confuse it with Advocacy.

Advocacy and loyalty are also not mutually inclusive.  A person who is loyal to a brand may not necessarily publicly espouse its benefits to their friends, family or co-workers.  An advocate, however, will be a loyal user who, because of their emotional bond with the brand, will spread positive sentiments about the brand publicly.

Basically, there are three different types of brand loyalty; Promotional Loyalty, Performance Loyalty and Emotional Loyalty. Promotional loyalty is what brands get from consumers as a result of the common practice of couponing or in-store discounting.  These price-off or discount promotions incentivize the consumer to purchase more of the brand.  Performance loyalty comes when the product performs a task or function in such an appreciably way that competition cannot match.  Lastly, Emotional loyalty happens when a consumer develops a relationship with a brand that is more than transactional.  This leads to an emotional bond built on trust and a perception of reciprocity.  In a previously written article, “The Relationship Continuum,” I highlight the differences in relationship types.

Promotion loyalty rarely provides a sustained competitive advantage versus other brands as price discounting and couponing is easily copied. Performance loyalty provides a nice advantage versus competition until the performance is copied or exceeded by new technologies.  Volvo is a great example.  For the longest time, Volvo stood for safety.  It held a significant safety technology advantage versus other competitors.  The problem is that many other competitors have either caught up or exceeded Volvo’s safety claims.  Emotional loyalty, stemming from a deeper than transactional relationship, has significant advantages.  The stronger the emotional bond to a brand, the more difficult it is for the consumer to separate from the brand because of price.  Developing relationships with consumers can help insulate brands from competition as long as the brand continues to invest in the relationship.

Relationships are built through engagements. Are the brands trying to sell to the consumer every time the consumer engages with them?  Is the brand creating engagements that are Brand-centric or consumer-centric?  Is the brand trying to connect with the consumer on an emotional level or seeking to communicate all the features and benefits the brand can deliver? Is the brand creating multi-sensory consumer experiences or are they only reaching out via efficient mass media vehicles? Are brands developing marketing with the expectation that consumer will immediately purchase their product or are they being altruistic in their marketing?

There are many factors that contribute to developing a relationship between a brand and a consumer.  In my article, “Moving from CRM to CRD”, I discuss five of the six factors I have uncovered through my years of developing consumer relationships for P&G and Vocalpoint.  Frequency, breadth and depth of communications as well as listening, responding and inspiring are essential component to developing greater interactivity between brand and consumer.  Greater interactivity leads to greater familiarity.  Greater familiarity leads to greater comfort.  Greater comfort leads to greater trust.  Greater trust, in turn, leads to a deeper relationship.

Relationships can only develop if the consumer chooses to engage with the brand on an emotional rather than functional level.  Interactivity is critical to relationship development.  Engagement is critical to interactivity.  If a consumer chooses not to engage, there will be no interactivity.  No interactivity means no familiarity and so on and so on.  Therefore, the nature of the engagements is critical to developing a relationship.  The ADVENGAGE model teaches brands how to engage in a manner that leads to greater interactivity that ultimately leads to Advocacy.

Advocacy just doesn’t happen.  You do not create advocates because you are using Social Media.  How you engage and the messaging you use to engage are more important. Again, at ADVENGAGE, we believe in C.A.R.E.  Contact me at gdejesusllc@gmail .com and let us show you how to C.A.R.E.


The Relationship Continuum

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Developing deeper relationships with consumers should be a key priority for every CMO in the country. Common sense dictates that the greater the emotional bond a brand can develop with a consumer, the stronger the loyalty to the brand. So many wonderful business building benefits come from this.  Deeper Relationships result in Brand Advocacy.  Brand Advocacy results in Word of Mouth recommendations.  Word of Mouth recommendations creates trial amongst new users.  New users can create a new audience for Brand marketers to develop deeper relationships.  This results in a wonderful upward spiral.  Ultimately yielding a scenario where Advocates beget Advocates.

This all sounds great, right?  So why don’t more Brands focus on developing deeper relationships with their consumers?  There are many reasons however, the first reason is the fact that many brand marketers loosely use the term relationship.  “My brand already has a relationship with my consumers.”  This statement is actually true.  Every brand has a relationship with consumers.  The problem is that most brand relationships do not go beyond a Transactional Relationship with the consumer.

Relationship Continuum

There are the four types of relationships people form. Understanding these relationships help marketers create experiences that are relevant to consumers and their communities. The deeper (or further right) the relationship becomes, the greater the level of trust between Brand and Consumer.

Transactional. In many respects, the most basic relationship. Most brands have established this relationship with its consumers. This is a basic quid pro quo arrangement with a consumer. There is very little “experience” beyond product performance expected or provided. You have a product and they give you something in order to get it. For most consumer-brand relationships, this is where it starts.

Neighbors. At this level, you and your consumers are not exactly friends, but you have a deeper relationship. An emotional tie begins to develop. Belonging to the neighborhood creates a bond and a point of specific relevance. You are cordial to one another when you are both out in the yard and sometimes you talk for a few minutes over the fence line. You will help each other by providing advice or recommendations. Sometimes your neighbor (customer) will even ask to borrow something, perhaps a tool or a helping hand, which your brand is happy to lend. And perhaps, after a while, you will move on to the next level of relationship. Developing a “neighborly” relationship with your customers will provide significant benefits to both you and your customer.

Friends. This is where reciprocity becomes interesting. There is greater emotional connectivity leading to “altruism.” You do things for each other without expecting anything in return. If a consumer needs something, they expect you can provide it, without expecting something in return. And equally, you can go to your passionate “friends” among your fans and ask for help on a project, or for input, or for the all-important pass-along on a key piece of content, and they’ll do it without even asking for a small gift in return. Developing a friendship relationship takes many years of interacting with your consumers. The benefit of this type of relationship is tremendous.

Family. There is no quid pro quo at all expected here. You can always borrow from your mom, and she will always lend it, even if you don’t pay her back. Most brands are never going to make it to this level of relationship with a consumer. Here there is complete trust and open sharing and giving, with no need for reciprocity at all. And you can talk about anything, anytime. The Holy Grail. A member of the family will actively support another member, no matter what. And will want to share experiences with them, too. How to get into that tribe? Can a Brand develop a Family relationship with a consumer?  You will be surprised how powerful some Brand-Consumer relationships can be.

Driving deeper relationships is not easy.  It takes time, effort and sustained commitment.  Developing a deeper consumer relationship is not much different than developing personal relationships.  If Brands really want to drive to Brand Advocacy; they have to first focus on building relationships.

Moving from CRM to CRD

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Companies spend millions of dollars executing CRM plans against databases of millions of consumers.  I do not understand the appeal of CRM or Consumer Relationship Management. Why would consumers engage with brands that want to manage their relationship? Who wants their relationship managed?  Try this.  Go home and tell your spouse or significant other that you want to manage the relationship. What do you think their reaction would be?  It would probably not be very positive.

Managing relationships yields underwhelming results. Tiny percentages of consumers are responding to a brand’s marketing efforts.  The average large brand only has a 1% “like” rate of their Facebook page posts.  Open or view rates are in the single digits for many brands owned sites.

Managing relationships connotes cold maintenance. Relationships should never be managed.  They should be developed; they should be nurtured; they should be deepened.  This may sound like semantics to some but if you think about it, there is a very big difference between developing a relationship with consumers rather than managing them.

What would you do differently if your brand wanted to develop relationships?  How can we move from CRM to CRD (Consumer Relationship Development)?  Think about the efforts required to develop or deepen a relationship vs. simply managing a relationship. Relationships can be defined by the frequency, depth and breadth of interactions; as well as listening and responding.

Look at your current relationships you have with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members.   The intensity of relationships is directly attributable to the frequency by which you engage with a person; the breadth of topics you engage on; and the depth within a topic you engage.  These three factors (frequency, breadth, depth) help to define the level of familiarity, comfort and then trust you have a person.  Intuitively it makes sense.  The more you interact with someone, the more you will be familiar with them.  The more topics you chat about with a person, the more you will get to know them.  Lastly, the greater the depth of conversation you have with someone on any given topic; the more deeply you know them.  Knowledge drives familiarity.  Greater familiarity makes you feel more comfortable.  Increased comfort with a person increases your trust in the person.  It is only through developing familiarity, comfort and trust that you can develop a strong relationship.  Think about the intensity of relationship you have with a sibling (who you’ve known your whole life) and a co-worker.  Those relationships are very different.

Listening and responding is incredibly important in developing relationships.  It is only through proper response that others know we are listening.  Let’s go back to your spouse or significant other. Let’s pretend you are watching a really cool show on television. Your significant other asks you a question and you do not respond.  They ask you the question again, and you still do not respond.  How do they feel?  Why is it unfair to think that consumers wouldn’t feel the same way?  Everyone wants to feel that they are being heard. It is only through responding that someone feels heard.  It is part of feeling valued in a relationship. If a brand does not respond to consumer comments, are they truly making the consumer feel valued?

CRM is very expensive and does not build significant relationships.  CRD does.  Developing deep relationships with consumers takes a significant amount of time and effort.  This time and effort is an investment that leads to creating Brand Advocates.  Brand Advocates are loyal consumers and will generate word of mouth. Word of mouth recommendations will generate new users.  New users will build incremental volume.  Incremental volume will improve your relationship with your boss.

The bottom line is that developing relationships will yield incremental volume and profit; managing relationships will not.  Which is your brand doing?

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