A Framework for Creating Millennial Brand Advocates

November 3, 2016

This article by Pixlee's Kyle Wong originally ran on Forbes.com in December 2016

Word of mouth is one of the oldest and most effective forms of marketing; after all, people trust recommendations from their friends and family far more than they trust ads pushed on them by brands. But the biggest challenge for brands is to foster word of mouth on a wide scale. How can marketers implement a proactive, scalable, measurable word of mouth strategy that actually works?

To scale word of mouth in a cost effective manner, you need brand advocates. In particular, you need millennial advocates. The millennial generation is the largest consumer generation in history. They rely on social networks for product and service recommendations and largely tunes out ads. Other generations have adopted the same behaviors of media consumption as Millennials, making it more important than ever for brands to use word of mouth marketing to reach potential customers.

According to the Center for Marketing Research at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, "millennials filter out advertising and commercial message They look for information before they make purchases, but they're looking for it from their trusted sources, and their trusted sources are not manufacturers or providers of products - they tend to be people in their social networks."

What steps can you take to build a powerful group of millennial brand advocates ? Here are three strategies to get your brand's biggest fans to share about your products through posts, photos, and videos on their social networks.

  1. Exceed Customer Expectations

    Turning customers into brand advocates starts with delivering experiences that go far beyond their expectations. You want your customers to feel surprised and delighted by your product or service, and to consider it "beyond great." When consumers feel surprised by a great experience, they're very likely to share about it.

    For example, Kimpton Hotels is known for delighting customers with personalized notes and "treats" when they stay the night. People don't expect this from a hotel, so customers often share photos of the little gifts on social media. Other hotels offer surprise services such as robots that deliver room service. Providing these type of fun, unexpected experiences is much cheaper than fully renovating a hotel, and creates a legion of brand advocates who share widely your unique offerings.

    For product companies, a customer's entire experience with the product is the brand experience. This makes it critical to deliver exceptional products and services. Of course, it can be costly to constantly exceed people's expectations, especially as customers become more and more demanding of new offerings. If it's too expensive to create an incredible, one-of-a-kind product - or if your product is a commodity - you can still differentiate your products by investing in other parts of the brand experience such as offering discounts to loyal shoppers, free shipping, great packaging, or flawless customer service.
  2. Explain the Why Behind the What

    Consumers are more likely to advocate for your brand if they resonate with the story behind it: why it was founded and what it stands for. One reason consumers will choose your brand over another is because they believe in your story. They believe that your product is truly unique, your mission is aligned with their values, and your service matches their lifestyle choices. Once customers become emotionally connected to your brand story, they'll become vocal advocates.

    The best way to tell your story is through your website, social media, and content marketing. Share your founding story on your website, use social videos and photos to showcase your unique style, and be open about your values. Instead of treating marketing like an opportunity to "sell something," use it as a way to "tell something." Engaging in this type of honest storytelling gives customers more "meat" to share about your brand.

    Airbnb is an example of an excellent storytellers. Its website and marketing materials communicate the company's core value of "belong anywhere." It was founded on the principle of opening up private homes to travelers so they could experience places like locals. Millions of millennial travelers resonate with this mission. Though Airbnb is now a multibillion-dollar company, the core company story is still a reason travelers choose Airbnb. Other consummate brand storytellers include REI, Toms, Everlane, and Kopari.
  3. Make Customers Feel Valued

    Consumers today have almost an endless choice of products and services, and they are loyal to the companies that make them feel valued- and not just valued for their dollar.
Source

"A Framework for Creating Millennial Brand Advocates." Kyle Wong, CEO at Pixlee, 11/3/16.

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