In high school my SAT tutor nicked named me AutoMaddock. It didn’t stick but the name is useful for this post.
My friend Brendan Cooper ran a great article yesterday in which he discussed his frustrations attempting to navigate the web presence of major brands. In the post he briefly mentions two types of companies – those that have Advertising Influence with those that have Advocate Influence. I think this is a really good way to look at corporate marketing programs, so I’ll write about it today.
Companies with Advertising Influence push a message out to their customer relentlessly. They inundate the masses with billboards, radio ads, TV spots and online banners, all vying to hijack your attention, and ultimately influence you in their favor. Today I was at SM, the largest chain of malls in the Philippines. There are plenty of brands in SM with major Advertising Influence. But I came across one that really hit home – Whatchamacallit – a candy bar with peanuts and carmel. There was a small Whatchamacallit billboard advertisement in my elementary school. In first grade I walked past it everyday and slowly but surely I found myself really wanting to try a Whatchamacallit. This was my first conscious experience with Advertising Influence.
To find companies with Advertising Influence all you need to do is think of companies that you see everyday – Coca Cola, Verizon Wireless, Honda, Geico, McDonalds – the list goes on. The one thing all of these brands have in common is that they are fighting for your attention. They want to remind you that they exist. More important, they want to tell you over and over again who they are. Coca Cola will refresh you. Verizon has the best 3G coverage. Geico is insurance with a sense of humor. To accomplish their goal this they spend tens of millions of dollars every year and employ tens of thousands of people, to tirelessly hijack your attention.
In stark contrast, Advocate Influence is effortless. Company’s with Advocate Influence find their customers do all the work for them. They tell their friends, they write blogs, tweet and post updates on Facebook. This is the essence of word of mouth. Companies with Advocate Influence include In-&-Out Burger, iPhone (from Apple), and Emergen-C. All of these companies also pay for Advertising Influence. But the one thing that defines the companies with greatest Advocate Influence is that they do not need to spend money on advertising. In-&-Out could never run another radio ad again and they would stay enormously profitable. The iPhone could drop all of its commercials and still continue to sell millions of units. Emergen-C need not advertise in parenting magazines to retain its core group of users who also double as its best marketing force. And that’s the point really – Companies with Advocate Influence need not employ a marketing staff because their customers do all of work for them. What’s more, their customers market the product better than a marketer ever could, because they do it authentically.