Advocacy and Branding

Who owns your brand?

My sister Rita is a very talented artist.  Rita revels in her art.  I’ve been fortunate over the years to receive Rita’s Missives.  These are cards that Rita creates on handmade paper with small pieces of treasures she finds on the streets of Boston, combined with pictures, feathers, and oil & acrylic painting.  Each one is amazing and commemorates a milestone in my life.  Rita’s Missives are framed and proudly displayed throughout my home.

Each Missive has a powerful personal meaning to me.  One day when Rita was visiting, I pointed to one Missive and shared with Rita what it symbolized to me.  Much to my surprise, Rita told me I was wrong and that the Missive symbolized something else.  Rita said, “the art symbolizes what the artist thinks it is.”  Rita may have been right in the absolute sense, but the Missive on the wall still meant something else to me.

Handmade Birthday Card
Missive created by Rita McMillian
Note from inside the Missive

Historically, marketers and brand managers spent years crafting the nuances of their brand.  They ensured the product was the best it could be, the packaging clearly presented their product in the best light, the pricing was optimized for profitability, and the promotions resonated with their consumers.  These marketers believed that they controlled the way consumers perceived their brand.  If this was ever true, which I doubt, it certainly is not true anymore.

All the work that marketers and brand managers put into their brands is for naught, unless they pay attention to what consumers are saying about their brand.   If marketers are not listening to what consumers are saying about their brands online, these marketers are out-of-touch.

If marketers are not joining the online social media conversation and listening and quickly responding to what consumers are saying about their brands, then these marketers are not doing justice to their brands.  Today, social media and the vocal opinions of Advocates hold more credence than million of dollars worth of TV advertising.

The marketers of today still have the 4 P’s (product, place, price and promotion) at their disposal.  However, they should use these tools when informed by what consumers are saying about their product. Put another way, marketers should consider focusing on a 5th “P”, people.   Marketers would be better served if they spent time listening to what ‘people’ are sharing about their category, their brand and the competition.  Maybe the best people to focus on are your Brand advocates.

Brand Advocates are the cheerleaders of a brand.  When Advocates adopt a brand, this brand becomes a part of their lives and the Advocate now owns the brand and speaks definitively about their perception of the brand.  This perception is reality to the folks Advocates communicate with.  At this moment of communication, the opinion of the Advocate is more powerful than anything the marketer can do.

Today, smart marketers are finding and nurturing advocates.  Marketers are listening to Advocates and fixing problems and creating better new products.  When appropriate, marketers are providing Advocates with “inside” information so Advocates can be in the know and be the first to share breaking news with their friends, family and followers.  These smart marketers are paying attention to the 5th “P” – people.

Tom McMillian

Tom McMillian


Techtao, LLC

This blog was previously published by NJ Entrepreneur, where Tom is the recognized as New Jersey’s Marketing Expert.

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