Brand advocacy is one of the most popular, effective marketing strategies today. This marketing concept boosts brand awareness through word-of-mouth advertising. Companies are constantly innovating new ways to engage employees, customers, business partners, and influencers to spread the good news about their business.
So, how does an effective brand advocacy program look? This article dives into the concepts of brand advocacy, its benefits and challenges, and best practices in forming a solid program for any company.
What Is an Example of an Advocacy?
A fitness company may be ready to launch a new workout product. They find an Instagram influencer who posts workouts for 200,000 followers. When they establish a relationship with the individual and provide them with a free product to try, the influencer will then post about it. Now, that brand is in front of 200,000 potential customers.
What Is Brand Advocacy?
Brand advocacy comes in many forms. However, brand advocacy simply means that any time someone distributes written or verbal content about a business’ brand, they participate in brand advocacy. This content could include positive online reviews about the company’s services, products, or customer service. People on social media can also post about a company’s product to thousands or millions of followers.
Brand advocacy involves four main stakeholders: employees, customers, influencers, and company partners.
(Brand Advocacy Word Cloud. Source: BrandWatch)
Employee Brand Advocacy
When employees serve as advocates for the brand, they will tell their friends, family, and acquaintances about how great the company is. Employee advocacy is worth a lot because they interact with the company’s leaders and products. They also experience the company culture every day, which has a massive impact on how the company approaches its relationship with its customers.
Employee brand advocacy is critical to boost sales, talent acquisition, and recruitment. Internal team members can explain the flexible work hours, perks, and benefits. They can also talk about how they feel empowered to be creative within their role. If the company is coming out with a new product or product line, the employee can spread the joyous news to people on social media or within their close circle to provide early access.
Customer Brand Advocacy
Customers are another key stakeholder in spreading the good news about a product or service. When we purchase a good or service that makes our lives better, we will always tell others about the experience. Gaining new customers is what drives revenue for the company, so having these people advocate for the brand is critical.
Cell phones and social media are powerful marketing engines for customer advocacy. If you eat at a quality restaurant, it is easier than ever to share your location or link with your friends via text messaging. Influencer marketing is a similar principle, which we will explain next.
Influencer marketing is one of the most effective forms of brand advocacy. Brand development is all about attention, and social media owns a lot of that real estate. There is a large pool of social media influencers with millions of followers who are all waiting to learn about your brand.
Each influencer has a “niche.” Their pool of followers may follow them for a variety of reasons related to their niche. Companies can contract influencers to post about their product, which boosts brand awareness through peer-to-peer marketing. Influencers can elevate brand visibility organically, drive more sales, and strategically position your product or service.
Business partners can also play a pivotal role in brand advocacy. Reliable partnerships, vendor networks, and affiliate networks can help increase brand image and awareness within the industry.
Your network partners are also critical for your business success. They can help optimize your supply chain, offer you better pricing, and introduce you to other businesses that could use your product. By engaging with these external stakeholders in a meaningful way, you can increase brand awareness and gain trust.
Why Is Brand Advocacy Important?
Your business can market itself as the best solution. You can have the best product or service, a great company culture, and a robust marketing strategy. However, why should your customers trust you?
With brand advocacy, other people’s testimonials about your business carry much more weight. Your potential customers are more likely to trust other people who have used your product or interacted with your company. Word-of-mouth breeds trust, which is why brand advocacy is so important. Brand advocacy will differentiate your business because it will transform how people view your brand.
There are many other reasons why brand advocacy contributes to the long-term success of your company.
Differentiates Your Company From the Competition
The best companies can position themselves at the forefront of customer’s minds. If your brand is what people are talking about the most, you are already ahead of the competition. If your company’s product or service is innovative enough, people will soon forget what your competitors could provide.
What is the best way to stay relevant with your customers? Brand advocacy. Whether you launched a new advertising campaign, product, or service, people are sure to hype up your company. If your employees love where they work, they will constantly tell their friends and family how valued they feel.
Boosts Customer Loyalty and Brand Awareness
When you treat your customers right, they will always come back for more. Loyal and happy customers will also proclaim the great news to their various circles. As these people discuss your product, service, or brand, it will impact what those other people will buy.
Drives Business Growth
Each sale to new customers will drive profits for your company. Brand advocacy is a free marketing tool that allows you to grow your business without draining your budget. Word-of-mouth marketing efforts can be challenging to track and measure, but it is critical in scaling your company. Brand advocacy can also lead to new clients in target market groups.
Serves As an Engine For More Content Creation
A brand advocate serves as a critical marketing engine for the business. Whether posting an article, sharing a video, or writing a review, these people create meaningful and engaging content for your brand.
The best thing about user-generated content from brand advocates is that each piece is unique. Every stakeholder has a unique story. Every brand advocate also interacts differently with your business. Brand advocacy taps into all the different perspectives about your company, which is why it is so powerful.
Helps Your Brand Expand Into New Audiences
Your company may have a set target market that it advertises to. Sometimes companies struggle with identifying new segments and customer profiles to reach. However, brand advocacy can solve this problem by locating new audiences to engage.
For example, your product or service may cater to a specific age group or demographic. Those loyal customers may mention your brand to someone in their circle who is outside the existing target market. While your initial marketing strategy may not win this new group over, they will be more likely to engage with your brand if they hear about it from someone they trust.
How Do You Build a Solid Brand Advocacy Program?
Now that you know how valuable brand advocacy is, you must also learn how to build reliable brand advocacy programs. Most companies are searching for ways to properly engage their internal and external stakeholders through an organized system.
Before this can occur, there are several principles and behaviors to establish within the organization. Below are some of the best practices for forming, implementing, and monitoring programs for brand advocacy.
Consistent Communication For Each Brand Advocate
Without buy-in from the employees and internal stakeholders, you cannot have a strong brand advocacy program. This step starts with consistent, internal communication. Without everyone on the same page, these programs will fail.
Your marketing team oversees the program initiatives, but it is also up to the internal leaders to communicate with the rest of the teams. All employees should understand what makes the brand unique and how they will convey these advantages.
Form Clear Training Programs For Brand Advocates
Employees will have different levels of knowledge when it comes to social media. While the younger generation might be more proficient at sharing content on social media, the same may not go for everybody else. Therefore, it is critical to coaching your employees on what to share, how to share, and when to share.
Brand advocacy policies and training programs are excellent places to start. It would be best to organize marketing campaigns and internal training events to make sure everyone understands the policies, best practices, and overall goals.
Establish Short- and Long-Term Goals
When outlining your ideal brand advocacy programs, it is essential to have milestones to strive for. Having these goals in place will keep all stakeholders focused on the same thing. Depending on the department, some stakeholders may have slightly different goals. Whether it is customer support, human resources, sales, or marketing, performance metrics should always be in place.
Here are a few brand advocacy examples with specific goals:
- Increase social media followers by an X%
- Boost new website traffic by X%
- Elevate talent pool by X applicants
- Achieve X sales in the next quarter
- Increase customer retention by X%
Incentivize People To Distribute Internal Content
When your content is unique and engaging, it will naturally make your brand advocates more engaged. You should always give your employees a solid reason to share and engage with the content. It starts with initially developing creative content, which will inspire others to do the same.
Marketing teams should test different formats of content, including videos, podcasts, articles, infographics, photos, quotes, and even virtual reality. Identify the highest performing content forms, and then see your brand’s advocacy program take off.
Reach and Target the Correct Audiences
Each of your brand advocates may have access to different target markets. Therefore, not every content or piece of information will be relevant to everyone. As you develop your brand advocacy strategy, be mindful of the content and its intended audience.
Employees may have different interests and goals based on the role or department they work within. Contractors, suppliers, and other vendors will consume and distribute content in different ways too. When you segment your audiences, it will allow your brand advocacy goals to be much more effective.
Brand Advocacy Obstacles and Challenges
Although brand advocacy is effective, that does not always mean it is easy to implement. Companies are still struggling with best practices in creating, launching, and managing their brand advocacy endeavors. As your company forms its brand advocacy system, here are some glaring challenges to consider and overcome:
- Consistently creating engaging and creative content
- Keeping employees motivated to contribute to the mission
- Employees struggling to adopt the program
- Lack of leadership or synergy among managers, directors, and other influencers
- Budgetary concerns
- Difficulty in measuring success and monitoring return on investment
- Obstacles with technology or other tools
- Regulatory or legal compliance
- Inappropriate content sharing
When your team develops its brand advocacy strategy, it would be wise to have policies or practices to combat the items listed above.
Brand Advocay Campaign Examples
1) Coca-Cola’s Happiness Machine
In 2010 an unsuspecting college campus was about to get euphoric, courtesy of Coca Cola’s Happiness Machine. Over 15 million people saw this brand advocacy campaign within the first week of its release, no doubt a happy day for the company’s marketing department.
The Happiness Machine was a vending machine that dispensed what seemed like an unlimited supply of the popular beverage, and as customers realized what was happening, hidden cameras captured their excitement, and in many cases pure joy.
The ad itself was only $60, 000, though the positive results mirror those of others that cost far more. This alone showed that a campaign doesn’t need to go overboard, to garner incredible results.
By merging human interaction, a popular product, and the reactions as customers shared their delight and bounty with each other, Coca-Cola was able to create brand advocacy that could not be bought.
Around the world, people smiled and laughed along with those onscreen, the joyous feeling their moments brought infectiously.
For the company which is no stranger to social media prowess—they have over 3.2 million followers on Twitter, and over 98 million on Facebook alone—this was a basic idea that led to phenomenal results, as even now customers still talk about it.
Now that’s awesome campaigning!
2) Red Bull Gets Facebook
At the beginning of 2010, Red Bull had 8 million fans and by the end of that year, the number had jumped to 14 million!
By understanding its brand and what it means to their target audience, the company has been able to create brand advocacy that has shown no signs of slowing down.
Now with over 46 million likes on Facebook in 2016, Red Bull has proven that its simple yet effective technique of developing content that relates to its message is perfect for its brand.
Red Bull content includes fantastic company projects, asking users questions geared at energy drinkers and posts showcasing extreme sports’ photos and videos.
The Captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belt sign. 👀 pic.twitter.com/SAActRX2KY
— Red Bull (@redbull) September 14, 2016
Some of the posts are sponsored by or have athletes who are sponsored by Red Bull.
The company also created a path into the online entertainment sector with the Red Bull soapbox race, interactive media, and their Procrastination Station—the social games tab.
Having various options for visitors to enjoy, including those that link back to the company’s website, have created a Facebook community of loyal fans and customers who leave thousands of likes and hundreds of comments on individual posts daily.
Users can follow the sports and games they love while enjoying the energy drink that many swears by to keep them going throughout the day.
Red Bull has made its mark in its industry, and the company continues to find new ways to expand its brand advocacy yearly.
3) Make-A-Wish Goes Batty
Just when you think Batman can’t influence the world outside of Gotham, his counterpart Batkid does.
When Miles Scott’s Make-A-Wish request was highlighted by the foundation in 2013, they did it in a way that everyone was talking about.
After over half a million #batkid hashtags, 1.89 million social impressions, a site crash as the Make-A-Wish Foundation donation numbers soared.
It remains one of the hugest brand advocacy successes in recent years.
Miles, a five-year-old leukemia patient at the time, saw his wish granted on a grand scale. The city of San Francisco and the foundation came together to create an elaborate setup that sent him on a one day adventure throughout the city.
He helped others, fought crime, and emulated his hero for a day, an experience that brought joy not only to him but those that watched the viral video around the world.
With 12,000 volunteers making sure Miles’every desire was met, and that Batkid got the authentic feel of being a superhero, brand advocacy shot through the roof as social media came alive with the story that no one could get enough of.
It didn’t end there either—Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World, is a biography movie that followed the incredible results and was released in mid-2015.
So think about it, all this started with a simple viral campaign that spun into something that will last forever.
The name Batkid is now synonymous with brand advocacy that truly hit its mark, as popularity for the Make-A-Wish Foundation also soared following its Miles’ big day.
4) Starbucks & @tweetacoffee
Starbucks is one of the juggernauts when it comes to brand advocacy campaigns. All over the world, the name is synonymous with getting the day started and keeping you going throughout, especially on those long work and school days.
Whether consumers complain about prices or not, Starbucks continues to be a leader when it comes to one-stop-shops for all your coffee needs.
It’s no surprise then that this is mainly because of successful social media campaigns.
One of their consumer favorites was the @tweetacoffee campaign in 2013.
Users just needed to tweet to the handle provided, add the Twitter handle of the individual they wanted to “Tweet-A-Coffee” to and just like that, customers were able to order free Cups a Joe for someone else.
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) September 14, 2016
Even cooler was that this entire process could also be done on smartphones, which made it pretty easy for those on-the-go that still wanted to take advantage of the great offer.
When lucky recipients were gifted coffee, all that was necessary was a couple of clicks to add the gift to their Starbucks’ account and voila, steamy mugs of delicious coffee were there just waiting to be slurped down.
Other brand advocacy campaigns from Starbucks that were quite successful were hashtag #TreatReceipt, where discounts were given on coffees bought in the afternoon if a customer had already purchased that morning.
The Blonde Roast campaign when the company launched this coffee flavor back in 2011—they also used Facebook and Twitter ads to target certain cities for more personalized promotion.
— Frappuccino (@frappuccino) August 26, 2016
The return of their Pumpkin Spice Latte flavor, which gave customers the chance to have the returning flavor in their town a week before everyone else did.
All these brand advocacy campaigns sent customers crazy on social media, as they tried to rack up points, retweet, or whatever else was required to take part and get their yummy coffees while they were at it.
5) Inception in the Real World
In 2010, there was a film that movie-goers couldn’t wait to see, and many were puzzled, enlightened, or plain freaked out by at the end of watching it.
What there were no misconceptions about, however, is that this film had an excellent social media campaign surrounding its success.
Inception was one of director Christopher Nolan’s top movies and earned a Best Picture nomination at the Golden Globes.
The internet campaign that surrounded the movie is nothing to sneeze at, and the marketing team involved must be commended for their work.
Warner Bros. didn’t just leave it to social media to get their fans talking and involved, but the brand advocacy campaign was also linked to a comic that the company created which could be found on Yahoo.
This comic gave more insight into the characters’ lives, and consumers ate it up, loving the possibility of learning more about characters they’d enjoyed watching onscreen.
There was also a maze game that was designed with the movie in mind, that let fans jump right into the story with these characters, and determine what dream fate they could expect.
In 2016, there are over 11 million fans who still follow news about the film, take in original content related to it, and enjoy more sneak peeks into its immersive backstory.
By getting fans on board to enjoy and explore behind-the-scenes moments, production activities, the movie’s beloved and hated characters, and story overall, brand advocacy continues to be seen worldwide, as it’s still a film that many suggest as a watch to those that haven’t yet seen it.
6) Adidas and Athletes
Adidas showed the world, its loyal and potential customers, and its athletes that it wasn’t about to leave anyone behind due to a little unpopularity.
The company stepped up its brand advocacy campaign game with the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team which they sponsor, as they sought to reclaim the team’s lost popularity.
For a team that hadn’t been very prominent since the 80s, this wouldn’t be the easiest of tasks, but Adidas’ marketing team was up for the challenge.
By utilizing one of the most popular social media campaigning methods out there today—viral videos, Adidas was able to shed light on the edgier side of the team’s game, gaining interest from old and new fans alike.
Six viral videos were created for this task, and over 5.5 million people watched them, substantially raising awareness about the volleyball team.
To date, well-edited, interesting, viral videos, are one of the easiest ways to get thousands to millions of new fans, likes, and customer interaction.
By giving customers a look at what inspires, excites, and interests them and, a look from the brand’s point-of-view, companies can tap into a new network of possibilities as it relates to potential customers.
In the case of Adidas and the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team, this approach worked very well in making a team that had lost all hope of the limelight, relevant again.
7) Gap Groupons
Who hasn’t heard of Gap? It’s one of those brands that by now you’d think wouldn’t need to do any campaigning to be heard in the marketplace.
Whether this is the case or not, Gap continues to stay up-to-date with the latest social media trends and uses brand advocacy campaigns as well.
Promoted in 2010, Gap’s Groupon campaign was one of these and resulted in the company earning $11 million in revenues.
The promotion offered a 50 percent discount for $50 purchases, and along with all of the brand’s social media outlets pushing it, there were also emails that were sent out about the offer.
Before midday on the first day of its release, 534 Gap offers were sold per minute, making Groupon a huge success.
This was a major risk that paid off for the retail company, as it was one of the first top brands to try this kind of approach.
Gap is also a great example for those interested in trying new approaches to brand advocacy campaigns.
At times companies will need to hop further outside of the box and what is expected of them, to take a risk that could—as was the case for Gap, result in positive brand awareness.
Many early social media campaigns were built on trial and error, and as time goes on and there are more methods of determining success.
It has has been made easier to see what will work or not.
However, tested and proven techniques aren’t always the way forward for a company, and as Gap discovered, sometimes you just have to take a leap.
Final Wrap Up
There is no doubt that word-of-mouth marketing and brand advocacy are critical to the long-term success of your business. Employees can spread the good news about company culture and new product launches. Customers can proclaim how effective the product or service is at solving their unique needs. Contractors and vendors can help spread brand awareness to external stakeholders.
The key lies in gaining buy-in from these critical stakeholders. When your business approaches brand advocacy with a solid plan of action, the sky’s the limit.
Still want to learn more about brand advocacy? Below are some of the most common questions marketers, business owners, and other professionals ask about the concept.
Customer brand advocacy is when your customers share the positive qualities of your product, service, or interaction with your business. Your customers practice brand advocacy when they share on social media, talk with their friends or family, or engage directly with your brand.
● Suppliers, contractors, vendors, or other business partners
● Social media influencers
Brand advocates are the engine behind word-of-mouth advertising. What they have to say carries more importance than any marketing campaign derived from the company itself. Brand advocates promote your business to help drive more sales, increase brand loyalty, and recruit better employees. Companies can also use brand advocacy to stand out from the competition.
Building brand advocacy takes a lot of effort to create and implement. The most effective brand advocacy tactics involve:
● Establishing clear lines of communication
● Defining clear goals and objectives
● Developing policies and training programs on the best practices
● Forming engaging, creative content for advocates to share
● Identifying the optimal target audiences
Measuring brand advocacy depends on a few things. Companies that offer a product and a service may have different goals, while departments within the business may measure it differently. Below are some methods of how you can measure brand advocacy:
● Engagement rate with followers
● Social media follower growth rate
● Customer retention percentage
● Sales growth over a month, quarter, or year
● Number of new job applicants
● Employee engagement rate