Last week, at a $20+ billion CPG company, I had the pleasure of meeting with a two-person team that publishes a website independent of the corporate and brands’ websites. They curate interesting and educational content that inspires beautiful imagery. Though the project is little, it has proven to be highly valuable because, through it, the brand collects the all-important consumer currency: email addresses. This team is now responsible for engaging the 130,000+ consumers who have opted in to connect with the brand. Those consumers are not only open to receiving brand messages, but also are potential consumer advocates for each of the 50+ brands this company owns.
This led our discussion to one big question: Who owns the consumer advocate? The truth is consumer advocacy efforts serve a variety of business purposes. It seems that at every meeting I attend, a different department handles them. In a recent article on Momentology addressing the biggest marketing challenges for CMOs, “Leading an Organization Where Everyone Owns the Customer Experience” was ranked among the top. While each company is different, is it time for us to reconcile this long-standing question? Has advocacy marketing matured enough to warrant a common practice among the CPG industry? Let’s take a look at the departments which may engage advocates.
Public Relations: The PR department strives to drive consumers to your brand via relevant and compelling content. They surely know how to excite the consumer advocate with a “pitch.” However, in my experience, this team has transformed to specialize in leveraging paid influencers in the form of vloggers, bloggers and Instagram stars.
Brand Managers: By definition, brand managers are responsible for executing marketing programs that increase brand identity and awareness. Nothing in this definition talks about the relationship with the consumer. However, with the explosion of social networking sites, brand managers are accustomed to aiming towards a direct relationship with the consumer. Social media has made it easy for brands to find advocates and arm them to spread awareness and sales for the brand, thus driving their defined purpose. Having said this, do they have the time or resources to build a long-term relationship with those consumer advocates?
CRM: CRM solutions are often reliant on technology to capture customer data and to provide insights for relevant messaging. Seems customer relationship management is a natural place for consumer advocacy to sit. The challenge is that most CRM programs are still a one-way conversation. In the example above, this test program was collecting emails to send out a bi-weekly newsletter and nothing more. Although the CRM team could own the relationship with the consumer advocate, it does not seem that they are fully equipped to leverage the consumer in the way some other teams are.
Shopper Marketing: The shopper team is designed to help key stakeholders understand how the target consumer behaves as shoppers. Clearly, the shopper team must know and understand the consumer. Although the brand may create organic advocacy, the focus of shopper programs tends to be on driving the consumer in-store versus consumer advocacy.
Digital/Social Media Team: This is the team I met with. They are a small part of a much larger digital and social team, but are highly focused on the consumer, and are using engagement metrics such as likes, comments and shares to measure success of the content they produce. They understand that the consumer advocate will be more likely to share if you give them a reason. Good content builds an emotional connection, will give the consumer a reason to share and advocate.
Pronouncing a departmental “winner” will never be perfectly settled. The reality is that the disruptive nature of consumer advocacy and proliferation of user-generated content is enough to break down siloes. Everyone should own a part of consumer advocacy because a truly successful advocacy program is one that involves all of the brand’s stakeholders. But let’s not dodge the question. My vote for “Who Should Own the Consumer Advocate” goes to the digital and social teams. In my opinion, content is one of the largest drivers. With this focus on delivering the content in a creative and innovative way, the digital and social team have consumers seeking out their brands in ways they never did on the old brand websites.