Building Your Brand – Brand Advocacy
Building a powerful brand with strong customer loyalty translates into great success for any size company. This article, the last in a series about the five stages of branding, talks about the extraordinary benefits that come from having customers so happy with a brand that they actively advocate for its products or services. The Apple story illustrates the ways in which a company can motivate its customers to be its greatest cheerleaders.
In this series we’ve examined the five stages of branding from unknown to superstar. Once a company or product reaches the fourth level, known as brand insistence, it has an extremely loyal customer base whose members will go out of their way to buy that particular brand. Basically, the company is guaranteed every penny these customers spend on that kind of product.
It might seem difficult to beat brand insistence, but there is a fifth and most desirable stage known as brand advocacy. Most companies can only aspire to this level of customer satisfaction in which a product or line of products is so highly regarded by its users that those users can’t wait to tell the world about how wonderful the company is. Think of them as uber-fans. They need little or no prompting to jump into a conversation with a friend, family member or complete stranger to promote their favorite brand.
The beauty of brand advocacy is that it does five major things for a company:
1. Provides visibility
2. Delivers free advertising and public relations
3. Affords credibility
4. Provides pre-sold prospective customers
5. Makes the owners very, very rich.
So what does a company have to do to create brand advocates? Apple provides the textbook case study in that its customers are extraordinarily committed to singing the company’s praises whenever they can. No self-respecting Mac user would even consider buying a PC and each and every one of them will happily tell a PC person what a mistake it is not to own a Mac. Mac advocates come armed with a list of what’s right about Mac and wrong about PCs.
Apple advocates love everything about Apple. They believe the company stands for great quality and innovation. The love they feel isn’t limited to the products, they are into the entire Apple experience. All the company’s branding elements reinforce these customer perceptions —white Macs, white stores with smart and friendly technicians, wonderful customer service , products that are always the first of their kind, plenty of bells and whistles and hundreds and hundreds of apps. Plus, Apple understands what these techno-savvy customers want and it fulfills their needs, then launches a newer model that does the job even better than the first model did.
Also, once an Apple customer always an Apple customer. Mac users never switch to PCs and will stand in line overnight to be one of the first to own a new Apple product. These uber-fans put up with glitches in first generation products, long periods of out-of-stock items and are likely to pay full price most, if not all, of the time. Since all the Apple products synch with one another, customers can create their own Apple world; there is never a need to go outside the franchise. Advocates consider Steve Jobs a personal idol, are proud of being Apple groupies and can’t imagine being any other way.