The beginning of the year has, as usual, been peppered with marketing predictions for the year ahead, including how ‘influencers’ will take charge of brands. But while South Africa may lead the way in open heart surgery, technology and many other noteworthy avenues, our marketing and brand managers often appear to lack the impetus to embrace some of these new, but internationally proven trends.
Why this may be so is open for debate. But those marketers and brand managers who ignore, or who are reticent, in considering direct engagement with their influential audiences in 2012, will do so at their peril. Consider just how quickly opinion spreads and moulds how brands perform today – this is not a transient trend. It is here to stay and most especially, the growing dominance of a trend we have coined as, the ‘fast moving consumer experience’ (FMCE).
Leading the FMCE race is the escalating power of brand idols – a group of people who spread the word about your brand through every conceivable channel possible, their experience with it and you and most importantly, to anyone and everyone.
Brand ambassadors, advocates and loyalists are certainly not new. But, whereas brands have traditionally aligned themselves with a celebrity or well known personality to convey their messages, brand idols have the pull of collective ‘people power’. They are their own communities – with an average network of at least 190 followers – whom they willingly and passionately attempt to convert to buy or experience your product or service.
Bottom line: The presence of brand idols changes the way you market to your audience and they should be an integral part of any marketing strategy. This is borne out in research conducted by McKinsey in 2011, which shows that “customers within a community are nine times more likely to buy your product than that of your competitor”.
So, who are these brand idols? They are everyday people – the type who would actually purchase your product for themselves, their friends or loved ones. They are esteemed and trusted by their peers, considered trendsetters and/or experts. Their common denominator is that they are all connected – whether it’s face to face or via the social media ricochet. But, and here is the big difference – they like to be heard. As much as they love you, they want to engage with you and know that you are hearing them. This is the crux of brand idol identification and the cornerstone of successful campaigns.
Brand idols can be working professionals, the mum next door who juggles her domestic life and volunteerism with seeming effortless grace and ease or even a four year old boy, who is reputedly Kohler’s biggest brand advocate. Fact is, there is a brand idol for every brand and they are relatively easy to find, because they are very willing to engage in conversation with you.
Caution though: Successful brand idol programmes do not involve throwing a bash for socialites, models and celebrities. There is no need for copious amounts of alcohol to help make the conversation flow (because brand idols haven’t run out of things to say, having not seen each other only last week at your competitors event!). The ‘spray and pray’ and ‘see how much free stuff I can walk off with’ approach doesn’t cut it in an age where results need to be tracked and measured either.
So, whether you like it or not marketers, consumer opinion and its vocal conveyance, is here to stay. With the power at their fingertips through Facebook, Twitter, IM, Chat or basic SMS; around the dinner or boardroom table; at book clubs or even at toddlers tea parties, their word-of-mouth endorsement is the single most powerful medium for conveying your messages. Nine times more than any other means.
With brand idols starting to make their mark in South Africa and the convergence of on and offline worlds, isn’t now the time you consider your brands’ own fast moving consumer experience?
Successful examples of international brands using the brand idol method:
Cirque Du Soleil