Why I’m not worried about formal advocacy programs…

When I talk about my vision for the future in which “WE” become the media, where we are incented to create feedback and reviews so that our connections can hear from a “friend” about a given product or service, I often get back the same response:

(and I quote from @TonyKinard) “To your point regarding advertisers giving incentives to encourage word-of-mouth marketing, I tend to agree… but I find myself wondering about how that might potentially devalue true consumer advocacy. It can become a slippery slope for market perception on word-of-mouth marketing when there are alterior motives at play. There’s a huge difference on the value I place on a product recommendation from a ‘friend’ based on their motive for that recommendation.”

It’s a good point but my answer is this:

I have three sisters.  One hates every movie she sees.  One loves every movie she sees.  And one gives honest, thoughtful feedback on the movies she sees.  Who do you think I listen to when told about a movie that just came out?

Sounds trite, but its that simple.  If people are giving out crappy recommendations, their friends will stop listening to them.  Happens in real life and would happen online.

1 Comment

  1. Tony Kinard on November 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Ahh… touché, Jeff. Good argument on your part and I agree with you when it comes to people you actually know and have other insight on (such as your sisters). However, I don’t think your argument would apply to ‘cloud sourced’ opinions and ratings where you would have no other insight as to the validity of the source. Consumers still rely heavily on the opinions and advocacy of strangers. I’m talking about the ratings/revue model that has become so much a part of the power of the Internet to assist with our decision making (eg. Yelp, eBay, online yellow pages, ePinions and just about every e-commerce site). Theres a certain level of trust that exists today with these models because the reviews aren’t bought by the reviewee. When I buy something on eBay or choose a restaurant on Yelp, my decision making is strongly affected by the opinion of a cloud of strangers – for whom I presently have a certain level of trust because I don’t feel there is a high probability that there are all sorts of incentives in place to sway their testimony. So what happens if a brand blatently campaigns to recruit advocates and reward them with something of value in return for flooding the market with positive buzz? It could totally backfire by removing all market trust of any advocacy of the brand.

    In a nutshell: We all want consumer advocacy for it’s unparalled effectiveness – the holy grail of marketing , if you will. But it only remains effective if your ‘advocates’ aren’t perceived as a paid army of sales people. So I would advise that while any formal advocacy programs should find great ways promote market conversation to get consumers to generate honest buzz, they should walk a fine line with a reward system. I don’t see a problem with incentives, but they should be structured in a way that doesn’t just buy advocacy.

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