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Brand loyalty has changed... Consumer advocacy with PR is setting the new standard

It used to be we had favourite brands and stuck to them like glue. We ate them, wore them, drank them, had them around our homes, in our cars and took them on holiday with us.

But times change. And today there are a myriad of marketing forces, all competing and desperately seeking our attention to try and win our trust across so many channels; from traditional advertising to PR stunts to social storytelling.

What's clear though is that everyone, from students to Millennials to families to senior citizens, are having to make tough decisions on how they spend their money, and that makes it all the more difficult for brands to retain their loyalty.


According to Market Track in the US, 80% of shoppers would switch their allegiance from a store or brand when offered a compelling alternative promotion. That chimes with me. I'd love to go to Waitrose but Sainsbury's is cheaper.


I thought I was a loyal consumer too. My background working at magazine brand Hearst made me think everyone was the same. Readers had their favourite brands and they clung on to them, while also aspiring towards other more upmarket, expensive brands.


In writing this post I thought about this and spoke to a few friends and colleagues for their views, realising they aren't particularly loyal either. It turns out we all experiment with our buying choices. We all still aspire to own certain products we’d love to have, but in our everyday lives we gravitate fast and hard to buy things based on price, convenience and, increasingly, due to advocacy.

We all trust and value recommendations from our families, friends, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter followers, far more than an advert or a celebrity comment or endorsement.

PR has always been about building advocacy, and new advances in technology now mean platforms like Buzzoole exist to push that as far and wide as possible. And in the process, we ensure it reaches the right people who will listen and act and buy.


And while much of our work still comes via media buying agencies, it also has a rapidly emerging place within the PR industry.

People are tired and disengaged with being fed promises, hype, specs, stats and figures. They crave recommendations. And even if that comes via a celebrity-led campaign, it's crucial that the word is spread by real people.

On Facebook for example, you are more likely to trust those in groups you join because they have similar tastes, views and expectations as yourself.

That alone can tie into, and help develop, advocacy to attract new customers and renew the loyalty and purchase conversion that brands crave.


According to research by Needle, 93% of brand advocates believe they are a better marketing asset for brands than sales associates and 84% say they receive questions that shoppers would never consider asking a live sales associate.

We believe success comes through the thousands of long-tail influencers we work with on the platform. They are normal people, doing everyday normal things. And they are also very much everyday fans of fashion, food, travel, cars and all the things a typical 'consumer' loves and buys.

Loyalty hinges on long-term connections and mutual trust, and while our influencers may not compare well with the sheer volume of a celebrity's followers - our influencers might typically have anything from 1,000 to 50,000 fans or followers - what they do have is massive engagement with meaningful connections.


When they talk about a brand or product their followers listen, act and share it; and it's this positive word-of-mouth that goes viral and passes on and on.

A recent study we produced showed using niche influencers can produce 25% higher engagement rates than celebrities, at an incredible 3% of the cost.


PR now needs to think as much about creating brand advocates as it does about media relations. It needs to move away from reach and start identifying influence in more effective ways. Our founder Fabrizio Perrone's background is actually in PR, which clearly shows why we think a tool like Buzzoole will work for the industry.


The platform drills down into all the conversations on social networks where we've invested heavily in identifying the people who lead these, and who engage with topics that resonate with their followers every day - or encourage them to aspire to brands they'd love to own. People still want, and need, to dream.

Maybe before reading this you thought that you too were a loyal customer to many brands. But stop, and think back to the last time you bought something a friend recommended, or something that was simply cheaper.

Like me you're probably as confused as the rest of us, waiting on someone we trust to influence our purchase decision, tell us what to do, and thereby redefine our loyalty.


It's crucial for growth and profit because according to Gartner Group, 80% of a company's future revenue will come from 20% of its current customers.


That just shows the power that influence and advocacy has and for the PR industry, that cannot, and should not, be ignored.