Understanding the decision-making process for consumers is key to creating effective marketing campaigns. Consumer behaviour takes into consideration the psychological motivation to buy as well as the social, personal, and cultural factors that influence people’s behaviours. Successful marketing campaigns are able to instil this knowledge into tailored campaigns that drive real results.
Beyond simply just sharing campaigns, brand advocates start conversations and generate genuine interest around a brand or a particular product. The brand endorsement has the ability to engage an unprecedented number of new consumers due to the ubiquitous influence of social media and digital platforms.
There are multiple ways that a brand can harness brand advocates to promote products or services and generate leads. Here are four ways that brands can use advocacy to build a positive brand reputation:
1. User-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is any content that is created by real people instead of brands. UGC can take the form of videos, images, blogs, reviews, posts on social media, etc. According to a report of US, UK and Australian consumers conducted by Stackla, 79% of people say that UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions.
So why is UGC so effective?
The same study indicated that consumers were 2.4 times more likely to say that they found UGC to be ‘authentic’ compared to branded content. The reason for this is because ‘average people’ do not have any commercial interest in promoting a brand; they are compelled to promote a product or service because it genuinely resonates with them. A consumer endorsing a product or service creates trust and gives a sense of credibility to a brand. When done well, this content sparks brand desire from an advocates network — if they like it, so will I. In this sense, UGC is the new word-of-mouth.
Some simple ways that brands can utilise UGC in their marketing is by sharing or ‘regramming’ customer posts on social media or by encouraging users to post using a specific hashtag. A good example of this is handmade cosmetics brand Lush who regularly features users on its social media and gives consumers a compelling reason to get involved by featuring their content or through product giveaways. Another fantastic example of UGC campaigns is from technology and camera retailer GoPro who regularly features users on Instagram by sharing a photo of the day. Other brands might utilise UGC in the form of reviews on their e-commerce site, like Amazon or ASOS. Other brands like Shopify take reviews one step further by featuring customer testimonials on their websites.
One of the most important aspects of utilising UGC in marketing is having a clear strategy and understanding what kind of UGC works for your brand — for example a travel or food brand might succeed with images or videos, where as a different brand might be better suited to written reviews. Once a brand understands exactly what sort of UGC works best it can offer clear and concise guidelines to users and build a simple rewards structure or incentives for getting involved. It is also important to credit users appropriately for their content and build a strong sense of brand loyalty.
By turning customers into brand advocates businesses can create a platform for them to share their passion and knowledge within their networks.
2. Brand ambassadors
A brand ambassador is a person that embodies the values and characteristics of a particular brand. They could be a loyal customer, a high-profile person, or even a seasoned professional or expert from a relevant industry that offers credibility. When choosing an appropriate brand ambassador, it is important that a business considers the demographics of the ambassador and verifies that the potential ambassador’s network aligns with its own target audience. A brand should also consider if an ambassador authentically represents its values and has a clear understanding of the tone and personality of the brand.
A good example of a brand advocacy is Australian dairy company Bulla and their long-standing ambassador, well-known pastry chef Kirsten Tibballs. By aligning with a respected pastry chef, Bulla builds its reputation as a high-quality product that is trusted by industry professionals. Bulla can connect with Tibballs’ large and engaged audience of food enthusiasts and regularly be featured in engaging posts and delicious recipes. As for Tibballs herself, she aligns with Bulla’s branding of being a family-owned local business because she is well known and accessible to Australian audiences through her appearances on televisions series like Masterchef.
According to a 2018 article in the Journal of Marketing Management and Consumer Behaviour, using brand ambassadors can affect electronic word of mouth advertising and have a positive effect on customer buying behaviour.
Influencer marketing relies on endorsements from individuals who have built social media followings on social platforms and are considered authorities on particular topics. By engaging social media influencers, a brand can collaboratively create highly engaging content that resonates with a specific target audience. Research MediaKix says that 80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective and 71% rate the quality of customers that influencer campaigns generate as better than our sources.
Brands can work with celebrity influencers with large followings or work with ‘micro-influencers’ with smaller but loyal followings. A study from The Keller Fay Group and Experticity says that an impressive 82% of survey respondents said they were highly likely to follow a micro-influencers’ recommendation.
According to a report from Business Insider, the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022. An advantage of using influencers as brand advocates is that they often specialise in a particular category and are experts in appealing to their dedicated audience. With more people engaging with social media than ever before, influencer marketing is an irrefutable marketing strategy that yields genuine leads for brands.
4. Employees as advocates
Some brands are now utilising the power of their workforce as brand advocates on digital platforms. Research from LinkedIn says that employees have a network that is 10 times larger than a company’s follower base. This represents a cost effective opportunity for brands to engage with networks and build positive conversations that resonate about their brand.
In order to use employees as brand advocates, a business must create a plan and adequately train employees on how to use social media, as well as provide guidelines for use.
Computer technology company Dell is a good example of a brand that has successfully activated employees online and turned them into brand advocates. The former Director of Social Media Training and Activation, Amy Heiss said of employee advocacy: “One of the big tenets of our social media and community training is that we want people to post 80% about topics that are informative, helpful and relevant to our customers or are personally interesting to our employees, stuff that reflects their own interests. Only 20% of the content they share should actually be about Dell.”
Using brand advocates is a viable marketing strategy because modern savvy consumers trust and consult opinions before making a purchase. A brand advocate is someone who is genuinely invested in a brand and can promote it an engaging and enthusiastic way. By tapping into the social networks of advocates, businesses can boost awareness, generate leads and truly influence future consumer behaviour.