Brand advocacy is the currency for future marketers: Experts at Pitch Top 50 Brands 2018

Business leaders discuss what defines brand advocates and how it can be the mantra of success

Building a trust for one's brand has become the mantra for success in today's business world. While brand trust and  loyalty may increase sales and retain one’s customer base, brand advocacy increases visibility and amplifies a brand’s reach. 

Discussing what brand advocacy looks like and the approach towards generating passion in customers was a power-packed panel of seven esteemed speakers across industries at the recent exchange4media #Top50brands 2018 conference and awards show. 

The panel comprised Anurita Chopra, Area Marketing Head, Oral Care, GSK Consumer Health; Anupam Bokey, VP Marketing (CMO), FMCG Business, RP- Sanjiv Goenka Group; Mayak P Shah, Category Head- Biscuits, Parle Products Pvt Limited; Puneet Das, Marketing Head, Tata Global Beverages; Sudhanshu Nagpal, Category Head, Biscuits, Mondelez India; Sandeep Shukla, Head-Marketing & Communications, Jaquar Group; and Soumya Mohanty, MD, NE & Chief Client Officer, Kantar IMRB. 

Consumers-Advocates, what’s the trigger?

The panel discussion began with session moderator Ashwin Padmanabhan, Head, Trading & Partnerships, GroupM, picking up on what it actually takes to convert a loyal customer into a brand advocate, what is the brand content that connects the user with the brand and gets the consumer to talk about it. 

The first speaker of the evening, Anupam Bokey, presented his ideas on how imperative a brand’s commitment is towards its consumers.

Backing brand advocacy, Bokey said, “The key question here is what defines brand advocacy. The progress that a brand makes to bring back its customers, to build a brand commitment and engage on both emotional & mental level with its users definitely sets the ball rolling amidst such fierce competition. Whether it’s the brand’s proposition, a functional or an emotional promise-- delivering back to the consumers is where the seeds of brand advocacy are sown.”

Anurita Chopra was asked how they were successful in creating consumer activities and she brought up the concept of ‘moment of truth’, which she said, mattered the most for a brand when customers first gets introduced to it. 

She said, “A brand has a persona, a connection with its users. Establishing an emotional bond with the users is of paramount importance. Being in this industry, we do realize how painful sensitivity in tooth can be. Our job is to make a difference in the lives of our audience by cultivating faith and confidence in us.”

“We connect emotionally with our consumers by helping them realize the bliss in sipping a ‘garam chai’, the joy of having an ice cream, the fun in drinking cold water, after the oral healthcare we provide them with. It is a pleasure to see customers talk to each other about the brand and recommend it further,” Chopra added.

Echoing the thoughts, Sudhanshu Nagpal narrated how brand Oreo wanted to play a larger role in the consumer’s life. Nagpal largely stressed on three key factors that gave birth to brand love: Product promise, emotional pay-off and larger purpose.

He added, “Oreo is all about building moments of bonding between a father and a kid or siblings. We celebrate this beautiful bond globally & Oreo has been welcomed worldwide for the warmth and delight it expresses to the audience.”

“However, creating brand love today may not be enough to win hearts. A strong consumer understanding, a consistent product promise, rewarding the consumer for his loyalty & amplifying a moment of joy in the user’s life is what it takes to generate brand advocacy,” said Nagpal.

Shifting focus to a brand that awakened the entire nation, the discussion veered towards the ‘Jaago Re’ campaign of Tata Tea that urged India to not react and instead pre-act to prevent tragedies from occurring. Tata tea was successful in recognizing the pulse of the nation which is a driving factor towards customer-brand bonding.

Commenting on the customer-brand relationship, Puneet Das said, “User satisfaction & loyalty are not enough. It is when customers develop a sense of ownership that they feel they are part of the brand and would convert into being brand advocates. The success of ‘Jaago Re’ is entirely attributed to its two-way relationship with its users and not because of a transactional marketing campaign.”

Speaking about translating the advocates of traditional category to the new category product of LED lights, Sandeep Shukla said, “Lighting is definitely a new business. In bathroom space, we own almost 60% market share in India. The founders at Jaquar believe that water & electricity are the two key fundamental factors in one’s life. Hence, we channelize this very thought process in the business we invest in.”

“At Jaquar, we try and cover quite a few aspects of life to make sure that the whole eco-system resonates. The service we provide at Jaquar is known to be trustworthy. Best example being the plumbers in India who are trained at our sites and are provided with tools to enhance their value in front of the audience. A trained plumber changes the game and your business. This trust factor is gradually transcending from the bathroom space to lighting business of Jaquar,” Shukla said.

However, in this fast-moving world, making a consumer fall in love with a brand isn’t that easy. With plenty of distractions and ads around, it is easy for a consumer to engage with several brands at one point in time. Factors such as how different a brand can be from the rest, what is the personal message that a brand passes on and how far can a brand afford to go in order to become an integral part of one’s life are what it take for a brand name to sweep a customer off his feet.

Speaking around these lines, Soumya Mohanty said, “Consumers naturally express self with some brands. When they are unavailable, users are at a loss, missing the brand and the very experience associated with it. A very good example being the 2-min Maggie noodles. Brands like Horlicks, Amul or Thumb Up have no secret formula as such but their moment of truth becomes a part of your life and when they are unavailable you start missing them. This is the true test of how a brand can evoke emotions in its users.”

Mayank P Shah was asked what motivated him to begin a campaign like ‘Naam toh sun hi hoga’. He replied, “It was done so as to give a corporate bend. Only few people were able to relate to the other brands like Hide & Seek, Crack Jack with its mother brand. Post our campaign, they not only related to the mother brand but also got aware of the other many brands that Parle G has.”

Shah agreed that a transactional relationship with customers would do no good. To earn brand advocates, one would need to deliver more than what is promised, he said.

“A consumer starts rooting for a brand when the brand earns ownership of its customer.”

While these were some of the comments made by the panel backing brand advocacy, the speakers also discussed the need to target audience, the importance of segmenting users when a brand technically is supposed to approach more & more customers and make way into their emotional & mental bandwidth.

Below are some key takeaways from the second half of the panel discussion.

Why target audience when brands got to maximise reach?

Answering the question, Sudhanshu Nagpal said, “The laws of Bryan Shaw tell us when the goal is penetration, one has to maximize its reach. And to get to the penetration, the drive again has to be reach.”

“Belonging to the biscuit industry, the entire world is my audience. But then (I need to ask) do I have the budget to do so? No. One needs to make clever choices, prioritize and then maximize its reach. Creating content to engage, inspire, resonate and make the user celebrate the cause will definitely amplify the brand’s reach. We at Mondelez India see brand advocacy as a key factor to leverage our reach.”

Advertising these days is all about educating the consumer about your product.

Commenting on building advocacy with the end customers, Sandeep Shukla said, “The kind of engagement with the customer is very intense in this stage. One needs to help a customer buy your product, in fact re-buy it. Educating the end customer is a game changer and orientation centers are here to do so. We are the only company that doesn’t have a sales target. Our sales team has the responsibility to convert clients into brand advocates instead. It is the memories that our consumers make in this journey with us that counts in the end.”

Picking up on some interesting facts, Soumya Mohanty explained to the audience how Bryan Shaw’s law and brand love both could co-exist.

“As per Shaw’s law, it is important to make your product available where the customer is. But what is crucial is how many time does a brand afford to get a repeat-customer. Creating mental cues which are linked to moments makes a user buy the product repeatedly for different occasions. This is where a brand is perpetually making a trial to a point where the difference between trial & a repeat no longer exists and that is when Bryan Shaw’s law & brand love can certainly co-exist.”

However, with consumers having such strong opinions today, it becomes imperative for a brand to be part of human memories. It’s not about the product a customer believes in, instead it’s the cause the brand stands for, the story it narrates.

Concluding the session, Puneet Das said, “More than looking for a big number, having that one person who is ready to stand with you throughout, who’s there to fight for your brand and to recommend it to others is what takes the brand to the next level. Iconic brands have stood the test of time due to brand advocacy.”

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