Complex Made Simple

Startups: 3 secret ways of building strong brand awareness — PART 2

By Neil Petch, Chairman at Virtugroup (This is the PART 2 of the op-ed piece. For PART 1, click here)

#3 Create brand advocates

As marketing author Bob Fuggetta notes in his book Brand Advocates, ‘brand advocates are your most loyal, passionate and engaged customers, and your best marketers.’


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According to Fuggetta, they are 10 times more effective than any weapon in your marketing arsenal, and smart marketers are harnessing their advocates to turn them into powerful marketing forces.

Brand advocacy is based exclusively on customers’ experiences of engaging and interacting with your brand.

Successful brands will, therefore, go way beyond merely satisfying their customers but will exceed customer expectation to deliver an experience that blows the customer away.

One local example is the Jumeirah brand, which describes itself as ‘pushing the boundaries of what you expect when you visit’.

If you get that right – and the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for the UAE suggests that Jumeirah has, placing it top among luxury hotels in the UAE – your efforts to offer unexpectedly excellent levels of customer experience will create brand advocates for your company.


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So identify your advocates by asking the question: ‘how likely are you to recommend my brand?’ Then sustain your efforts to energise them so that they follow through.

And in Jumeirah’s case, by associating its entire brand with the exclusivity of its original Burj Al Arab hotel, the towering sail is arguably still the emirate’s most recognisable building the world over, giving loyal customers a striking brand to identify with and talk about.

Remember, building a brand is a process, so it pays to keep in mind that this is a strategic and on-going effort.

But the power of advocacy can’t be overestimated, and one of the reasons it’s so powerful is partly down to trust.

Here I should mention the Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising report again, which found that 85% of online UAE respondents trusted the recommendations of friends and family.


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Another reason advocates can be so effective is their sheer force of numbers: the global cyber security software company Symantec found that 60–65% of its customers were highly likely to recommend its products to others, and with over 50 million customers worldwide, that’s more than 30 million brand advocates building your brand and selling your products on your behalf.

Emirates is also remarkably adept at creating brand advocates. For example, back in 2016, airline staff were alerted to the fact that GQ’s ‘media star of the year 2016’, the tech startup founder and international influencer Casey Neistat, was travelling on Emirates from Dubai to New York.

They upgraded him to first class, hoping to create an advocate and perhaps benefit from a bit of free publicity. But Neistat dedicated a whole ten-minute episode on his vlog to documenting the lavish customer experience in the Emirates first-class cabin, and the post went viral, generating more than 20 million views within days, and over 50 million in under two years.

What it means for you

The key takeaway here is that with minimal spend, it’s possible to react to a situation to create enhanced brand awareness if you treat your brand building as an on-going process.


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With one simple upgrade, Emirates energised an influencer into becoming a brand advocate to create a video all about them, seen by over 50 million people. So never sit back and say ‘my branding is done’ – the key is to stay on top of it for as long as you’re in business.

Understand, engage and harness

Potential entrepreneurs should appreciate that brands aren’t built overnight, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. In fact, as the key actions above demonstrate, the process of developing your brand – by understanding your customer, engaging with them and harnessing their loyalty – is well within your grasp.

In fact, it can be done far more effectively, and at a lower cost, than many other forms of marketing or advertising.

This is the PART 2 of the article. For PART 1, Click here