Advocacy Marketing: how to encourage customers to recommend your brand


18 May 2015

A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer that it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is – Scott Cook, founder of Intuit.

WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) defines “advocacy” as any act that generates consumer recommendations of a brand, product or service. Word-of-mouth recommendations from consumers (i.e. brand advocacy) could have a greater impact on sales than other sources of information. The positive buzz surrounding a brand can enhance the amount of income attained, in the same way that negative comments may result in the opposite effect, as reflected in the BGC report about Advocacy-Fuelled Growth.

The power of recommendations is livelier than ever, thanks to millennials

The truth is, though there is indeed power in the social recommendation, today, even more weight is gained by (in part conditioned by new consumer figures) millennials that:

  • Not only trust in the judgment of other customers, friends and acquaintances, but also in the recommendations of people they don’t know.
  • Share and recommend constantly due to their fear of missing out, through social media and the Internet in general.
  • Seek brand experiences beyond the product. They are not mere spectators; millennials require co-creation and active participation in conversations surrounding the brands.

It is not surprising that McKinsey states that word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) as the main factor that is behind 20-50% of purchasing decisions. The influence of these consumers even extends to developing their own marketing strategies for brands.

So, why do companies insist on directly advertising their products, instead of working to create ‘legions’ of ambassadors? Why aren’t they more inclined to create a balance in their investments that leans more towards earned media? How does one define strategies that put the clients at the center and makes them protagonists?

The great challenge: ROI and measurement of the social recommendation

One of the main handicaps with Advocacy Marketing is the difficulty in measuring its effects. According to the latest study from Brandmanic (2015), only 35% of experts believe that WOMM (word-of-mouth marketing) can have a return on investment through social media strategy.

The most classic measurement system used till date has been Net Promoter Score, which is based on a single question directed at the consumer: “How likely are you to recommend the product or service to a family member or friend?” The customer would rate their response on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is “very unlikely” and 10 is “I’d definitely recommend it.” Then, according to the results, customers are classified as promoters, as passive consumers, or as detractors, which is then quantified in a percentage, thus measuring the quality of a brand recommendation.

However, this system is regarded as simplistic by new sources that claim that the NPS is insufficient; as a result, they have come up with new ways of measurement with the BAI Index from The Boston Consulting Group. The BAI is a strategic metric that measures advocacy with much better accuracy – an effective ROI measurement system that even allows users to create a ranking of the most recommended brands by sector.

Nonetheless, what is most clear is that monitoring and social listening, today, provide us with the tools and technology to measure brands’ social evolutions and the quality of recommendations, thus enabling companies to establish a benchmark and enhance their share of voice beyond their competitors’.

advocacy graph

Examples of Advocacy Marketing

How can the power of people be harnessed to build brand awareness and encourage the recommendation of a product or service? Here are some examples that highlight the work of community marketing:

  1. Convert customers into ambassadors: Favor the recommendation-creating channels where users can have a say and share customized brand and product content. Example: IKEA Share Space; the community where users upload photos of their own homes, decorated with IKEA products and recommend them.
  2. Generate processes and environments of co-creation: The professor Joan Costa is a proponent of the idea of ‘Brandemocracy’ wherein companies have intellectual ownership of brands, but never possess emotional ownership. Example: LEGO Ideas – that fan community, which materialized on their platform through co-creation features that allowed users to propose their ideas for the development of new LEGO products.
  3. Generate brand experiences: Beyond communication, brands must build experiences and be innovative in order to enable customer recommendations. Example: KLM and the Meet & Seat mobile application through Gigya Social – a personal and connected flying experience that allows users to sign up through their existing social media accounts, easily choose seats for the flight, by assessing their affinity with other people who will also be flying.
  4. Automate and facilitate word-of-mouth marketing through referral programs: automated systems that encourage users to invite and turn their friends into product or service consumers. For example, Birchbox Case, ING Direct or Evernote.
  5. Introduce gamification techniques: Having a community of brand “defenders” is not enough to maintain a recommendation strategy; it could be more effective to involve and create a game-based dynamic, and incentive systems. For example, NikeFuel motivates users to compete against each other within the performance of their daily physical activity, and then documents points and rewards the users for their efforts. NikeFuel encourages consumers to share their results through trophies and badges to increase their levels.
  6. Promote user-generated content: one of the cameras that has gained the most consumers in the world, GoPro (INSERT LINK), has over 5 million followers on their Instagram profile, on which their visual and branded content is generated by the product users.

To conclude, one thing to bear in mind about Advocacy Marketing is that according to industry experts, word-of-mouth marketing can enhance incomes by up to 15%. In the words of Ed Wild of PepsiCo: “Word-of-mouth is the invisible hand of marketing effectiveness.” This is something we already know but do not always put into practice: generating experiences and putting the user at the center creates communities that recommend your brand.

Do not look for consumers, look for ambassadors.