How Breakfast Taught Me About Brand Advocates

Erin Funk Erin Funk
October 17, 2013
Digital Marketing

It was a normal day and my desire to turn on the stove, pour milk or even work the microwave that morning was nonexistent. I left the house early, which brought me to a short line in the drive-through. I ordered, pulled up to the first window and held out my used all too often debit card. To which I received a little pleasant surprise.

I did what any 20 something does when a mildly interesting event occurs. I shared it with everyone. I can honestly say that the only reason I included the Good Morning STL hashtag was because I saw it on a commercial and I might have heard it on the radio. It made my morning better but I quickly forgot about the kind gentleman. Until the next Tuesday.

McDonald’s latest campaign responded to my tweet and rewarded me for talking about their brand without being paid to do so. I honestly would have been impressed with a just a retweet or response, so the act of repaying me with free breakfast again...that's practically why I am writing a blog post. (The other part is to teach you kids about some marketing!)

Later that week I got a giant yellow envelope in my tiny mailbox. Upon opening it I was bombarded in red and gold, two colors psychologically known to make your tummy grumble. It was like a tiny McDonald's sponsored Christmas!

McDonald's Marketing Lesson

Now what was the point of me telling you this magnificent story about a semi rare event from a drive-through? The first reason is because I do this for a living and the second is because through this experience McDonald's and Michael Brito taught me a very valuable marketing lesson.

Last week, the digital marketing team here at Roundedcube attended a workshop consisting of two presentations lead by Michael Brito, a social media leader and author of the new book Your Brand: The Next Media Company. At the beginning of his second presentation, Michael posed a question: "What brands do you guys love?"

Someone answered Starbucks and another Amazon. I turned to Olivia and said Disney but from my experience above my answer should have also included McDonald's.

Hello, my name is Erin and I am a McDonald's advocate.

I quickly learned from the first slides of Michael's Brand Advocacy: How Customers and Employees Can Shape Your Brand Story presentation the difference between an advocate and an influencer. The most important note is this:

- Influencers or Incentive Driven Advocates are not necessary good for your brand. While they might have a lot of followers they control the conversation which could go in any direction. Also, nine out of then times the incentive based relationships end after the incentive ends.

- True Advocates are your brand's new BFF. These are fans with an emotional attachment to your product, services and story. They might not have 1,000 Twitter followers, they might even have an egg for a photo, but they are in LOVE with your brand and don't need incentives to prove it, share it and continue it.

At the time of posting this story I have 487 Twitter followers. Not the biggest influencer out there, but I still used the prompted hashtag, shared my reward and will continue to eat the yummy yet not so healthy food. But guess what? I would have anyway and that is when the light bulb above my head turned on.

McDonald's is doing everything right to find, reward and attract advocates and then create relationships with them. Not athletes, food bloggers or other influencers, but real, in love with Big Macs, advocates. McD's knows that peer to peer conversations are more influential than ever and with the power of social media it can help their business if done correctly. We all know their famous flop of a hashtag but with new campaigns like these they are turning their twitter topics around for the better by listening. If you noticed, I didn't tag them in my tweet. McDonald's is stepping up by looking for and rewarding customers who have good things to say but don't necessarily care if they are being listened to or not.

So what can you learn from McDonald's, Michael's presentation and my "aha" marketing moment? Advocates could be the marketing dream you have been looking for. Michael states that advocates can do everything from the obvious such as drive brand awareness, change perceptions and influence their peers to spend money with your brand. Advocates can also educate other customers who might be having a negative experience and help with support issues when the brand can't reach every person. They can also create content for your social strategies if you play your cards right. Handing out free coupons for tweeting is a good place to start.

Tell me about your advocate experience! What brands do you love/hate? Have you communicated with them? Did they respond and did you get free breakfast? How could advocates work into your marketing strategy?

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