Turning Customers into Brand Advocates

by MAi Research September 4, 2019

In September of 2016 Walmart acquired Jet.com — one of the fastest growing startups in history — for approximately $3 billion. Much has been written about what constitutes “the secret sauce” behind Jet’s rapid growth (before the Walmart acquisition they’d garnered 3.5 million loyal fans). Jet CEO Marc Lore attributes the company’s success to its commitment to helping its customers save money:

“We’re going after a different type of customer with a different need. We are about saving people money and empowering them to shop in a smarter way. And our technology is built to help consumers and retailers pull costs out of the overall ecosystem. So it is a more efficient way to buy product.”

That’s certainly true, as is Jet’s success in creating an online experience that’s similar to what shoppers would find in a retail store. But there’s something else Jet does that inspires their customers.

If there’s a problem with your Jet order, you simply respond to their email confirmation and tell them what the problem is. Within minutes, you get a response — a highly personalized response from a real person. If there’s a missing item, you get a refund with that same email. Jet doesn’t just tell its customers that they’re important, it shows them. That’s what brand advocacy is all about.

What Drives Brand Advocacy?

Jet created millions of brand supporters by offering great features at a great price with great customer service — but what worked for Jet won’t necessarily work for other businesses. To understand what drives brand advocacy, social@Ogilvy explored advocacy mentions in social media and came up with the following list of advocacy drivers in the US:

      1. Product Features: 33%
      2. Price/Value: 24%
      3. Emotional Benefits: 20%
      4. Customer Service: 12%
      5. Advertising: 11%

While the research did reveal that advocacy drivers can differ sharply between markets and across product categories, it clearly suggests that brand advocates can’t be created through marketing alone. To turn users into advocates, a brand needs to understand what motivates its customers, tailor its brand promise to those expectations, and then deliver in a big way.

Here are three brands which managed to do just that:

1. Apple: Keeping It Simple

Technology can be complicated and difficult to understand. Apple gets over that hurdle by focusing on simplicity and relevance in its messaging. Take for example their product announcements for the iPhone 7. They first conducted research to find out what iPhone buyers care about most in their smartphones, then crafted their promise to deliver on those features in simple and direct language:

“iPhone 7 dramatically improves the most important aspects of the iPhone experience. It introduces advanced new camera systems. The best performance and battery life ever in an iPhone. Immersive stereo speakers. The brightest, most colorful iPhone display. Splash and water resistance. And it looks every bit as powerful as it is. This is iPhone 7.”

Key Takeaway: Take the time to find out what your customers care most about, and incorporate those concerns into your brand promise in simple, straightforward language. (And, of course, make sure your product does what you say it will!)

2. The Dollar Shave Club: Keeping It Consistent

Smartphones are arguably much easier to create a buzz about than shaving products — the razor blade is not exactly high-tech technology. Dollar Shave Club (DSC) solved that branding problem with humor. Take a look at their launch video, in which CEO Michael Dubin highlights the benefits of the company’s service in a bit that could have aired on Saturday Night Live — and that rapidly created a brand buzz around DSC that drew in thousands of eager customers and helped build a billion dollar business.

More important, DSC maintained that messaging through every aspect of the branding experience, from witty emails to inspired packaging. As DSC explained: “From our packaging to our digital presence, the DSC brand identity informs everything we do.”

Key Takeaway: Integrate your brand promise into every piece of marketing and every customer touchpoint. Consistent, smart messaging reinforces the brand’s promise and image, and helps inspire the kind of trust which turns customers into brand advocates.

3. IKEA: Keeping It Real

IKEA’s brand vision is both simple and powerful: “to create a better everyday life…. to offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low, that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”

Keeping that promise, however, means thoroughly understanding what “a better everyday life” means to its customers. Naturally, IKEA conducted consumer research to explore customer concerns about cost, product assembly, and the like — but they went one step further, sending design experts right into people’s homes and beginning a one-on-one conversation that’s become a hallmark of their branding success.

Key Takeaway: Keep your brand authentic by taking your research a step further and starting a conversation with your customers. You can’t necessarily visit your customers’ homes the way IKEA does, but you can initiate and follow conversations on social media sites, provide feedback loops on your website, and even carefully analyze online product reviews.

Conclusion

Consumers start to become brand advocates the moment they begin to think of a brand as a friend, someone they like and trust. As you consider the strategies you want to employ in a brand advocacy campaign, think about the qualities you look for in your best friends. Great friends are often seen as honest, reassuring, and always ready to talk — and so are great brands.