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Quick Take – Incentivizing Brand Advocates

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Just finished listening in on a wonderful debate between Joseph Jaffe and Zuberance’s CEO, Rob Fuggetta on the topic of whether a brand should incentivize its advocates.  I’ll let you listen to the podcast, as the discussion is well worth the hour.  My quick take on one point of the conversation is below.

Rob mentioned that research has shown the NUMBER ONE reason a customer recommends a brand is because he/she “wants to help friends out”.  He then went on to use Chili’s restaurant as an example and Joe argued the idea that a customer would go out of his/her way to provide free promotion for a restaurant.

Here’s my take.  I believe we’re moving towards an extremely vital moment where true psychological motivations will be revealed and worked into the marketing mix more effectively than we’re currently seeing.  My unscientific opinion on the matter at hand is that people are inherently selfish (in varying degrees) and motivated mostly as such.  As Rob mentioned, Person A recommends a restaurant to Person B not because she wants to see the restaurant increase profits, but because she wants her friend to experience a happy dining time and she wants to be linked with that experience. That entire situation exists without the need to incentivize (assuming you don’t classify kick-ass customer service as an “incentive”). However, when talking long-term brand advocates, I believe the concept of incentives needs to be introduced somewhere along the timeline in order to continue that strong relationship.  We can’t make the advocate feel dirty (I’m not a fan of “tell a friend and get $5” promotions) or used and we can’t always attach the incentive to the brand’s bottom line.  (Andy Sernovitz, the WOM mastermind,offered a good example today.)

But I do feel the right balance of creating amazing experiences followed by gentle and attractive incentives can make for the best possible campaign for your brand.

Interested to hear other people’s take on this subject.



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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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