Coke Is the Latest Brand to Totally Misunderstand the True Value of Brand Advocates

by Mack Collier

Coke’s CMO Joseph Tripodi recently spoke on Facebook and the value of brand advocates at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.  Here’s a quote from Mr. Tripodi:

“When you think of the continuum of a business, you go from local, to multi-country, to international, to global, but the highest order is network and network advantage is about having brand advocates telling stories for us.”

In other words, the scope of Coke’s vision when it comes to placing a value on their fans is that they can be walking billboards for the brand.  

Unbelievable.  And to be fair, almost every brand thinks this same way, Coke is hardly alone in this line of thinking.  The ‘have our customers tell our stories for us’ line is a rallying cry for marketers everywhere to explore the potential of connecting with their brand advocates.

Question:  When is the last time you heard Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga or Coldplay say that they love connecting with their fans because it gives their fans a chance to tell the rock star’s story for them?  Why aren’t the world’s most successful rock stars talking about how awesome it is to use their biggest fans as marketing vehicles?

Because most rock stars have an emotional relationship with their fans, while most brands have a transactional relationship with their customers.

The first thing that pops into most brand’s minds when it comes to their advocates is ‘How can we leverage this connection to result in a sale?’  The first thing that pops into most rock stars’ minds when it comes to their fans is ‘How can I show them that I appreciate them?’  And shockingly, rock stars cultivate fans with ease, fans that ironically go out and promote their favorite rock star and literally do become walking billboards for these artists.  While brands struggle to find customers that are willing to be their fans and promote them to their friends.

Rock stars cultivate an emotional relationship with their fans.  Ones where the rock star typically goes out of their way to communicate to the fan how much they appreciate and even love them.  As a result, this encourages the fan to appreciate the rock star even more, and to go out of their way to promote their favorite rock star to other fans.

So brands, if you truly want to cultivate fans of your brand, stop thinking about ways to leverage those connections into a sale.  Start thinking about ways you can reward and thank your fans for their support.  Treat them not as a new potential marketing channel for your brand, but as the special people that they are.

That’s how you win and cultivate fans for your brand.

PS:  Want more tips for creating fans of your brand?  Check out my new post at Paper.Li’s blog.

Previous post:

Next post: