Creating advocates from a pliable brand

I have had an amazing opportunity to be part of some wildly successful influencer marketing programs over the past five years.   Recently I reflected on current trends and popularity of such programs.  My biggest takeaway became; how few brands understand the philosophies needed to create a sustainable and successful program.  So what are the two most important things that a brand should be aware of?

Influencer marketing is now a buzz term, rather than a leading-edge trend.  Make advocacy marketing your focus.  Brands that truly understand how to excite, empower and unleash their employees, customers, partners and influencers, collectively, are the ones poised for success.  Influencers see through a brand that is merely trying to use them in the absence of a larger and connected advocacy ecosystem.   Taking the holistic view of advocacy will create a large army of happy, loyal sharing fans who drive action.  And influencers will be able to connect with a much larger group all believing-in, discussing, and supporting the cause.

The image here is a planning framework that you can use to start documenting what your advocacy model might look like.  As the program builds, sub communities or cohort groups can begin to form organically around genuine relationships.

Unbeknownst to some, brand management and brand strategy has really evolved in the past ten years.  Far too many brands still have legacy systems and safeguards solidly in place.  Instead of worrying about potential opportunities, they focus on safeguarding against misuse.  I am one of the biggest proponents for having a set of iron-clad, guiding principles for a brand.  But stemming from those guiding principles, a brand can still have pliability.  In the concept of a pliable brand, you tailor a belief system to your storytelling while leaving the extensibility for new ideas to become actionable.  Not doing so misses out on the very point of crowdsourcing, leveraging the greater involvement of advocates.


Executive Creative Director and co-founder of PureMatter, Courtney Smith, suggests brands need to shift from simply pushing or pulling their message out, to becoming a pliable brand instead.  “Pliable brands think in three dimensions, not two,” she said. Imagine a hot air balloon in flight, and the forces at work on the balloon.  Some are controlled forces, like the amount of hot air the pilot is adding to the balloon, the basket size, number of passengers, and launch point. But some are uncontrolled forces, like wind speed, wind direction, and a landing point. The balloon can only remain in the air if it remains pliable, constantly changing its size and shape, in small degrees, anticipating and reacting to these uncontrolled forces. An inexperienced pilot would not know the consequences of a swift down gust of wind, which would cave in the side of the balloon, forcing out its hot air and causing a frightening rapid decent. The experienced pilot knows the conditions where potential danger could happen, and has a plan in place to quickly react to avoid an issue.  Relying on employee and influencer advocates to tell your story can be powerful, but there are unknowns and conditions for danger. If your brand isn’t pliable enough, all your hard work could hit the ground hard.  Courtney operates a fun marketing blog called “Confessions of a Curious Mind” that you can visit here;

So as you begin to look at what influencer marketing could mean to your brand, keep in mind the work ahead in building an army of advocates, and transforming your brand to be more pliable.

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