F.I.R.E Sessions Recap Part 2 – Steve Knox on Trusted Advocacy and How It Will Change Marketing

Thanks again to @mackcollier for capturing the day. Enjoy.

Photo via flickr via hyku

Steve Knox, CEO of Proctor and Gamble’s WOM Unit Tremor, was the second presenter of the day, and I thought he made an incredibly profound business point early on in his talk:

“Victory in marketing doesn’t happen when you sell something, but when you cultivate advocates for your brand” –

Think about that for a minute, because that statement really ties into the themes of the FIRE Sessions.

Change.  Reframing the conversation.

What if we stopped talking about selling more stuff, and started focusing on delighting customers to the point that they became passionate advocates for our brand?  As Steve clarified in his talk, “Advocates Begets Advocates”.  And won’t more advocates for your brand mean more sales?  Logic dictates yes, so by shifting from focusing on sales as a barometer for marketing success, to instead trying to cultivate/embrace/empower your brand’s advocates, you’ll not only get more advocates for your brand, but you’ll also get those sales you wanted to begin with.

Oh wait…since those advocates are reaching other customers and also converting them into advocates, that ALSO means your marketing costs are falling, right?

But as Steve explained, we need to focus not just on advocacy, but on TRUSTED advocates.  That’s the brass ring that we should be shooting for.

Think about impressions.  That classic marketing metric that advertisers want.  They want more people exposed to their message.  Maybe it’s a commercial, maybe it’s a radio ad, maybe it’s a website.

Those impressions can sometimes lead to conversations about the brand.  Ok that’s a bit better, but what’s the context of the conversations?

Sometimes, those conversations can lead to brand advocacy.  That’s even better.  But it’s still not perfect.  Sure, if I see that a particular restaurant got favorable reviews, but those reviews are from people that I don’t know.

But what if we had trusted advocacy.
Let’s say I am an extremely picky eater (cause I am).  Let’s also say I am going to Nashville next week and want to find a good restaurant that I can actually eat at.  If I find a restaurant that’s reviewed on Yelp! as having a wide selection of items and they cater to special requests, then that MIGHT be a good choice for me.  But even better would be if I called up my friend Jake, who lives in Nashville, and knows what type of food I like.  Since I know and trust Jake, I’ll always go with his choice over anyone else’s recommendation.

So how do we create trusted advocates? One way, according to Steve, is to create disruptive experiences.  This is where Steve got into a fascinating discussion about schemas, and how the brain uses them to avoid thinking.  Think of schemas as shortcuts that we (often unwittingly) use to help us quickly analyze and assess our environment.  Steve offered that when you create a disruptive experience that doesn’t fit into our preconceived schemas, it does two things:

1 – It makes us stop and think

2 – It makes us talk

The example Steve offered was the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ last year, where a US Airways flight crashed into the Hudson River.  Steve showed us a picture of the front page of a Seattle paper that had a picture of the US Airways flight in the Hudson, with passengers walking on the wings into rafts that would take them to safety.

Think of all the schemas that were shattered in that one photo:

When planes crash, they are destroyed (The US Airways plane landed on water, and really wasn’t damaged)

When planes crash, people die (No one died from the Hudson crash)

People don’t walk on water (Yet the photo shows them walking on the plane, it appears as if they are walking on water)

We talked about the Hudson crash because the outcome was unexpected.  It challenged the above schemas, and forced us to think about what was happening, and talk about it.

Now this doesn’t ALWAYS work, and the disruption still has to appeal to ideals about the brand/person/idea that we believe to be true, or that could be true.  For example, Las Vegas a few years ago tried to rebrand itself as being family-friendly.  That’s disruptive, but since the message wasn’t consistent with what people believe to be true about Las Vegas, it didn’t register.  Another example was Diet Coke offering a version with vitamins.  This was also disruptive, but didn’t work because people don’t consider Diet Coke to be a healthy drink, and don’t buy it for health reasons.

As Steve explained, the disruption has to be “faithful to the foundational truths” of the brand in order to be effective.

So how can your business create something disruptive?  Steve gives us the blueprint:

1 – Figure out what the foundational truth of your business/brand is.
Don’t know?  Ask your customers.

2 – Ask yourself what schemas are already at play? What do customers already think about you and your brand?  What are their preconceived notions about you?

3 – What would disrupt those schemas? What would make people stop, think, and talk about you?

4 – Are their ‘blends’ that would make sense? Can you play existing schemas about your brand off each other?

So how do you get started?
Steve says you listen to your customers, be open to schemas other than your own, and test and verify your results.

At this point Steve took some questions, and one point he made that I wanted to highlight was this:  Companies have to learn to let negative comments happen.  This is one of the biggest worry points that companies have about social media.  It’s a completely pointless worry for a couple of reasons:

1 – Negative comments are going to happen and you can’t stop them.  In fact, if you TRY to stop them, that’s usually the quickest way to get MORE of them.  Steve gave the example of Greenpeace making a clever video that parodied a Kit Kat ad by trying to make the point that Nestle is killing orangutans by clearing out forests to make the palm oil that goes into their candy bars.  The video didn’t go viral until Nestle stepped in and threatened to sue Greenpeace for violating their trademark.  THAT got everyone’s attention.

2 – Negative comments can often be a GOOD thing. One of the most passionate advocates for your brand can be a detractor that you’ve converted into an evangelist.  If your customers go to a blog or your Facebook page to complain about you, it’s normally because they want you to pay attention to them.  They’ve likely got a problem that they need solved, and they’ve also likely tried calling you, emailing you, and there problem is still there.  They just want you to pay attention to them and HELP them.  If you’ll do this, respect them, LISTEN, and help them solve their problem, then MOST times you’ll flip that negative comment into a positive endorsement.  Food for thought.

And speaking of food, by now we were heading to lunch, and after an incredible morning of learning from Steve and Geno, we still had a great session from Max Lenderman on tap.  Let’s meet back here next time and talk about it then.  Deal?”

Thanks again to Mack for recapping Steve’s amazing talk. IF you get a chance to see Steve in person. DO it. Here are a few more pictures from the day and the opening which I thought you might enjoy. Stay tuned for even more as Mack finishes up on Monday with the last post from the event. Happy Friday! Do something remarkable with this day.