Learn To Be Loud – Should Your Brand be using a Message Amplifier?
The concept of the brand advocate is gaining strength and currency as forward-thinking businesses realise just how little trust reposes in their relationship with their consumers. That’s a truth we’ve always had hovering over us of course – but with the dawn of the age of social media it has become something we can no longer afford to ignore. The brand advocate is not employed by the company, nor yet is he or she in any way beholden to it. So when he or she opens his or her mouth in praise of the brand and its products – people listen.
Now, there are advocates and there are advocates. Someone you have never met, for example, who tells you in a pub about this or that great item, is less trustworthy than a friend. Because humans automatically trust people they know over people they don’t and we also impart a good deal of trustworthiness or otherwise to encounters according to the environment in which they occur.
So for example – if you have an encounter with brand advocacy on a commercial radio or TV channel, in the form of an advert featuring someone famous (Iggy Pop selling his rock and roll soul to the corporate devil is a perfect example of how not to do this), you’re less likely to trust the information you receive, than if an actual friend of yours was telling you the same thing in your house.
Companies have long experimented with what might be termed weak brand advocates – either famous people, who can be seen as selling out and therefore no longer trustworthy; or “people in the street”, clearly actors and actresses pretending to be real people with real opinions. We don’t really trust either because we know a company is paying them to do the work.
Obviously the companies doing the paying are working on the right lines, though. There is already, and has been for some time, a recognition out there that brands can’t talk directly to their target audiences and be fully accepted.
The above isn’t to say that a famous person can never help a brand spread its word. It simply says that doing so in an obviously paid and advertorial way isn’t very useful to anyone.
What people really want, when they take a recommendation, is an opinion. Preferably, they want the opinion of someone they see as qualified to hold it – an expert, in common parlance, and a person of influence in the language of the marketplace.
Professional products, for instance software packages aimed at business, will be spoken of with most authority by other professionals. Unsolicited advocacy on the part of a successful person in the right field amplifies the advocate message for a specific professional product – to the point where the marketplace as a whole starts to pay more attention to it.
Bizarrely, the most closely related marketing practice to this is sponsorship. When people who do a certain sport see the best people in the world at that sport using a specific brand of shoe, they go and buy the shoe. Amplified advocacy works in much the same way.
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