Advocacy is key to driving business in industries with a limited number of physical touchpoints.
A service and service brand relies on and needs to pursue such vocal loyalty from their users.
Advocacy is often synonymous with customer referral, but is this a too simplistic way of viewing it? We've put together some thoughts and examples around identity, storytelling and incentives to support the view that advocacy isn't just a transaction: it is emotional currency.
- Customers are loyal to brands with values and beliefs in line with their own, that they can identify with.
- They aspirationally select brands that present the image of who they wish to be: that fit with their perceived 'personal brand'.
- This brand ethos should be an emotional, passionate belief that resonates emotionally with customers.
- A brand that clearly stands for something and importantly demonstrates this through their actions is easier for customers to build a personal relationship with.
- A clear message is easier for a customer to internalise and retell to their network.
- Loyal customers will defend the honour of a brand that they have emotionally invested in.
(RED): Established to help eliminate AIDS in Africa, (red) partners with global brands to create unique (red) versions of their products (iPods, t-shirts, trainers, credit cards etc.) which are coloured red and distinctively branded. When consumers purchase one of these products, a share of the profit goes into the global fund: and they visibly demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
JOHN LEWIS: Celebrated and admired for their co-operative ethos, they publicise their business model, which makes all their staff partners and co-owners. They have detailed employee feedback systems to integrate observations into their systems and processes. As such, they excel in customer service and have a reputation for going the extra mile for customers because for their co-owners, what is good for customers is good for them.
- Customers advocate brands through the stories that they tell each other: anecdotes and titbits.
- Often, to cut through the overwhelming range of choices, people turn to the stories that circulate in their personal networks, either formally or informally, as a starting point when making decisions.
- Customers are loyal to brands that provide rich, unique and engaging experiences that they are motivated to share with others.
- Designing snippets of positive stories that are simple enough to share, and 'sticky', increases the chances of these positive stories going viral.
- Often, bad stories are the most engaging and entertaining to share. So it is extra important to create opportunities for positive storytelling, by planting them across the customer experience, such as through excellent service recovery.
OCADO: An award-winning online supermarket who recognise the value in the small touches. The experience is peppered with delightful and useful touches, ready to be shared as 'sticky' stories with your friends: from colour-coded shopping bags so you know which to unpack into the freezer first, to itemised receipts that list your deliver in order of the use-by-date.
NIKE ID: When this new service that allowed customers to customise their trainers was launched, Nike initially launched it with just a select group of 'mavens': trendsetters and key influencers in fashion, film and music. With the association of the hippest people in the business to spread the word, and the service that allowed you to design your own, unique trainer it didn't take long for word to spread.
- People share information and advocate for social gain, not just financial reward: advocacy is a social act.
- Advocacy is a selfish behaviour: both financially and socially, customers wish to gain by doing so.
- The stakes are high when you recommend a service to a peer: there is the potential for glory, but if something goes badly your credibility might suffer.
- Customers appreciate brands that reward them generously for taking this risk - or equally provide opportunities to gain social kudos for passing on information.
SPOTIFY: When first launched, this online music streaming service allowed early adopters a limited number of free invites to join that they could share with their friends: the more they loyally used the service the more invites they would be sent. Trading on exclusivity, these invites became a lucrative social currency and scarceness promoted some people to trade them on auction sites.
ORANGE ROCKCORPS: Orange's innovative volunteering initiative motivates people to give something back to their local community. They produce some of the most coveted gigs in the music calendar: but you can't buy a ticket, you have to earn it by giving four hours of your time to volunteer in your community. Orange motivates people to participate in this scheme socially: spreading the word amongst their friends so that they can all volunteer together, as well as experiencing the gig as a group.