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To Master Brand Advocacy in 2020, Be Worth Advocating First



Senior account executive at Press Kitchen Amanda Drum discusses the tricky terrain of brand advocacy and important points to consider

To Master Brand Advocacy in 2020, Be Worth Advocating First

'Brand advocacy', as it’s traditionally used in marketing speak, refers to the longstanding aim of any B2C company: to get its consumers to champion their various products and services. Whether by the virtue of their quality or craftsmanship or customer service, there are lots of pillars that might inspire a community to rally behind a brand.

But brand advocacy can be tricky terrain during turbulent times. 2020 brought to light consumer hardships and long-standing failings by major brands who were forced to hold the mirror up to themselves. Brands publicly recognised their workforce may not be diverse enough, or they have said and done things that alienated minority communities, for instance. By holding themselves accountable and working toward actionable improvements, many organisations strive to do better.

What does this mean for brand advocacy? For business leaders, it means recognising that new generations of buyers are critically assessing a brand’s values, both in speech and in action, and aligning their dollars with a company’s ethos. Many studies show these buyers are only loyal to brands who uphold their causes and move on to their competitors if they don’t. Brands have to make plain - as an entity, and from C-suite executives within their companies on down - which causes they champion and where they stand on social issues of importance.

As this year has proven, particularly in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests and beyond, companies cannot sit in silence and expect to retain consumer loyalty. Even momentary slip-ups can spark a wave of social media cancellations.

Here are some points to consider for brands who want to uphold a standard worth advocating in this new marketing era:​

1. Address your past and present mistakes

Brands should start their new advocacy journey willing to change. Earning trust, or earning back trust, always begins from a place of total transparency, including when it comes to talking about your transgressions. Where has your company slipped up, internally or externally, in the past? What have consumers called on you to change that previously fell under the radar? Before aligning your values with movements of change, recognise where you have failed to resonate with those movements first. A dose of humility goes a long way.

2. Talk and walk

Your values shouldn’t be relegated to a social media post, doomed to wither in a stretching feed or disappear in 24 hours. If your company mission, values and stances aren’t publicly available from the homepage of your website, make them so. Consider abbreviated versions of these messages on your social media bios, rather than just posts (although well-considered posts are still very important from time to time). Your top-level principals should consider the same on their individual business profiles.

Then, take action. Most major brands pursue philanthropic efforts; which organisations will you support? Do you make those alliances public? How, throughout the year, will your brand donate time, money, expertise or all three to causes that align with your values? It’s as important to consider your alliances over time, and include new and diverse organisations periodically, rather than hang your hat on one or two and then stop.

3. ​Ally vs. Accomplice

Brands should educate themselves on the subtle distinction between being a 'good' ally - as opposed to a performative ally, or someone who aligns with good causes more for their own clout than the actual movement - and being an advocate themselves. Herein lies the distinction between acting as an ally for your brand causes, and performing the role of an accomplice. On the one hand, allies stand with marginalised communities, and not for, or in place of, those community members. On the other, accomplices work with those communities to see their causes through. Both are intertwined, but simply standing for a cause does not automatically mean acting for that cause.

Digital-first generation buyers especially see brands as their own entities of action and expect a dose of humanity in the brands they support that includes championing just causes and doing the work to support those causes. Where former brand advocacy marketing could mean an exceptionally expedient or polite sales pipeline, great products or captivating ads, now brands have to step back and ask themselves what they really stand for and explore how they will help improve society around them. In today’s world, more and more buyers would only then advocate for a brand, and be quick to move onto another that doesn’t meet these criteria.

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Press Kitchen, Tue, 21 Jul 2020 08:30:25 GMT