By Paul Archer, founder and managing director of brand advocacy platform, Duel
The Covid-19 pandemic has massively impacted the way brands operate by putting a huge amount of pressure on them to expand their D2C offering and enhance their online presence. When you consider that (according to a report from Retail Economics) 46 percent of UK consumers have purchased a product online that they had previously only ever purchased in store over the last year, this is no surprise.
But this has meant that offline incumbents have aggressively moved online over the last year, which has in turn led to skyrocketing customer acquisition costs and diminishing returns for online brands who have, at the same time, had their budgets slashed. The result? Online brands are just not seeing the same results from their investment in digital advertising any more.
Today’s millennial and Gen Z consumers are also a more sceptical bunch and are increasingly losing trust in many standard marketing practices including paid advertising and influencer promotions. Instead, they are looking for more meaning and purpose from the brands they buy from – something that has only been accelerated by the pandemic. Numerous studies into consumer loyalty point to this. In fact, research from Cone and Porter Novelli revealed that 79 percent of people say they are more loyal to purpose-led brands and research from EY suggests that purposeful companies outperform the stock market by 42 percent.
As a result, long-term brand and reputation building have become more important than expensive advertising strategies when it comes to driving authentic word-of-mouth growth in a post-Covid world. But how can brands do this? By developing a community that they truly own, and therefore can promote to and collaborate with again, and again. Enter Brand Advocacy.
What is Brand Advocacy?
Brand Advocacy is essentially any behaviour that involves a customer supporting or recommending a brand they love. While brand advocates have always existed under different guises – superfans, ambassadors, experts, enthusiasts and evangelists – the concept of developing a strategy for building communities of them and then nurturing relationships with each one at scale in order to drive company growth is a new one.
Examples of Brand Advocacy in action
The billion-dollar global athletic apparel company, Lululemon, was built exclusively on brand advocacy principles. It has built a community of customer and grassroots ambassador advocates that believe in the company’s vision, share in its purpose and are very quick to share stories, convince their friends and family to buy their products and argue in defence of the brand when required. The brand trusts in the power of its customers and wider network of advocates to drive brand and revenue growth for them to such an extent that they never need to use advertising.
British luxury jewellery brand, Monica Vinader, is another great example of a company driving growth through its strong and loyal fanbase. By identifying priority segments within its brand network – the loyalist customer and the social customer – the company designed and built advocacy programs tailored to each group in order to drive loyalty among them. The result? A core group of super fans who tell Monica Vinader’s brand story thousands of times a day, across every social network, driving huge amounts of growth as a result.
Many other brands have followed suit, adapting to this shift in consumer behaviour and finding ways to encourage customers to engage in the practice of brand advocacy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. For example, children’s clothing company, Frugi, shared tips and tricks for keeping kids engaged during the pandemic via its loyal and vast Facebook group through its customer advocacy program and it has correspondingly seen sales grow over the last year. And Dynamic Discs’ expanding fan base has been passionately promoting the sport to friends and family as a way of getting outside and staying active during lockdown and the brand has been growing rapidly as a result.
Brands looking to drive growth in a post-Covid world must look to the likes of Monica Vinader, Lululemon and Frugi as an example of how to do this. Without the need for expensive advertising strategies that are no longer hitting the mark with their respective target markets, these companies have instead focused on growing and nurturing a community of advocates who represent, promote and shout about the brand for them.
This is something that will be fundamental to a brand’s success in a post-Covid world.