The Ethic of Brand Advocacy


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.

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