Thirty-three percent of internet users say they discover brands via word-of-mouth recommendations, and 24% via comments on social networks.
In other words, a brand advocate strategy should be a crucial part of any wider marketing strategy, and, done well, spreads awareness throughout relevant audiences.
So how can companies use consumer insights to generate brand advocates?
Utilize branded entertainment
An emerging trend in brand discovery is branded entertainment.
The idea behind branded entertainment is to reach target consumers by creating content that not only promotes a company’s brand or products; it is also of entertainment value to the consumer.
The promotion of the brand or product may even be secondary to this aspect.
Some well-known examples of this strategy working are Red Bull’s space jump, which broke five world records and cemented Red Bull as an innovative, risk-taking brand, and The LEGO Movie, which increased LEGO’s sales revenue by 25%.
There are a few obvious obstacles to brands making use of this approach. Both Red Bull and LEGO had the luxury of plenty of existing brand equity and huge budgets that this marketing method often demands.
However, any brand can take inspiration from larger-scale campaigns like this and create something that’s effective for their target audience.
When considering branded entertainment, it’s crucial to remember that while the brand should be heavily featured in the content it shouldn’t be the main component. This allows the content to speak for itself and entertain the viewer while still keeping the brand in front of their eyes.
Offer exclusive content
Exclusive content, such as videos and discounts, is becoming an entertainment trend and is proving popular with brand advocates; 16% of internet users cite this as an important reason to endorse a brand.
This is especially true for U.S. 16-24 year-olds, 19% of which claim they would promote a brand online in exchange for exclusive content.
Exclusive content can be a number of things, such as:
- Access to a scarce number of products or memberships, where potential brand advocates get first dibs on the available opportunities.
- First access to a product or membership, where potential brand advocates get to try it out before others (sometimes in return for a promise of a review).
- Any content which is unavailable to ‘mainstream’ audiences, where brand advocates are allowed to get closer to the brand.
Exclusive content allows potential brand advocates to feel special and more intimately connected to the brand, which should evoke positive feelings and inspire them to recommend the brand to family, friends and social following.
The PC gaming industry has been using Early Access as a marketing and product development tool for years.
Digital game distribution platform Steam offers developers the chance to publish their games before they’re completed, allowing them to build a fan following (who can recommend the game to friends) and get real-time feedback on improvements.
Early Access campaigns have led to the successful release of titles like Prison Architect and Kerbal Space Program which remain popular today.
Identify and entice potential brand advocates
40% of 16-24 year-olds would endorse a brand out of simple love for it without expecting any form of reward from the company, making them truly organic brand advocates.
Similarly, 22% of 16-24 year-olds would endorse a brand when it’s relevant to their friends’ interests, often via their social media accounts.
A great example of a company with this type of ardent brand advocacy is of course Apple.
Thousands of people camped on the streets outside Apple stores in November this year in an attempt to be the first to own the new iPhone X, demonstrating their huge affection for the product and generating plenty of PR for the brand in the process.
Accordingly, owners of Apple products are 4% more likely than average internet users to promote their favorite brand online without any reward.
These insights indicate that brand advocacy can be achieved by simply offering a good quality product or service, as well as knowing your targeted consumers well enough to ensure that the brand’s image fits their profiles and interests.
Encourage user-generated content
Great brand advocates will generate content highlighting the product. Brands can amplify the volume of this by supplying a platform for the content.
A great example of a business utilizing user-generated content is fashion retailer Asos’ online community #AsSeenOnMe, which is hosted on their website.
Anyone who posts a photo on Instagram or Twitter wearing an Asos product can use the hashtag, making their photo appear on a product page on the Asos website.
Asos’s Head of Marketing Analytics, Celina Burnett, has said the specific person who posts the photo feels special ‘but equally it creates value for the rest of the community too as it means they can see a recommendation from a fellow advocate.’
By allowing their customers the opportunity to be part of the brand message itself, they have created a community of brand advocates that will actively create promotional content for them.
Brands can implement these content-led approaches to their marketing plan by utilizing insights into their target audience.
Brand advocates, once generated and continuously nurtured, will become a crucial part of your comms strategy, promoting products and services they love to others.