Brand advocates are the people who will support your brand no matter the circumstances. While marketers and PR professionals refer to these people as brand advocates, a popular term used to reference this kind of behaviour is: fanboyism. Brand advocates prefer the things they own because they rationalize their past choices to protect their sense of self. They in time find such an attachment to these brands that they become a walking advertisement (See image).
So the question that many business owners are likely to ask is, how do we leverage these individuals? How do we make these brand advocates a part of our marketing plan and truly leverage their voice for our benefit? Well, the first thing you need to do is identify where they are and how you will connect with them. Once that’s been figured out you can do a variety of different things.
Give them direct access
When I say direct access I’m referring to direct access to the people who make decisions. This can be done in a variety of different ways and can be as personal as you would like it to be. A great example of a brand providing it’s brand advocates direct access is Starbucks and their social networking website, MyStarbucksIdea.com. This site allows brand advocates to share ideas, vote on concepts, discuss the concepts and see the concepts being executed upon.
Give them brand-ownership
This is one of the most important things that businesses need to get used to. Essentially, your brand is only what the consumer believes your brand represents. McDonalds may want their brand essence to be healthy and affordable fast food but in reality, McDonalds brand essence is whatever I want it to be. As marketers, rather than developing programs and campaigns that are complete from start to finish we need to leave a gap that allows the consumer to interject and take control of the campaign.
This is one of the most difficult tasks for large business but for small business this is simply a necessity. When it comes brands like Nike, I have no relationship with anyone at this company. However, at a local cafe the owner always says hello and the staff knows exactly what I’m ordering when I walk in the door. A few months ago I walked in the shop and only had debit – something they didn’t take. They told me it was on the house. Did I tell people about it? You better believe it. Did I blog about it? You better believe it. Create relationships with your customers and reap the benefits.
Use their feedback as R&D
Similar to the Starbucks example discussed in the first concept, you really have to listen to what your customers are saying. Not only do they provide you with truthful opinions they offer you some information that can truly turn a troubled business around. These are the people who love what you offer and simply want to share it with the rest of the world. If you’re able take your brand advocates opinion and use it to developer a bigger and better product/service; you’re one step closer to creating a brand evangelist.
Let them know you care
It can be any kind gesture that lets your customers know you appreciate them. If it’s your customers birthday give them a free dessert – Heck, give them a free meal if you have too. It’s clear that restaurants have some of the highest mark-ups in business. If you’re not in the food business you could send them a card or even give them an extra something the next time their in the store.