This article is the last in a four-part series. Here we’ll illustrate how Patagonia, a well-known outdoor clothing company, tackles the Advocate portion of the buying cycle by appealing to customers’ values. To learn more about the four stages of the customer acquisition journey, review our overview first.
Empowered by a keyboard, the internet, and desire to share experiences, today’s customer is an extraordinarily persuasive and effective brand advocate. Furthermore, their opinions matter to other customers—85% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends. It’s crucial that brands marry marketing campaigns and services with customer experiences to foster brand advocacy and build their customer base.
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To transform consumers into advocates, companies must cultivate a trustworthy, supportive relationship with both potential and existing customers. Here’s how.
Value Elements and Brand Advocacy
Companies establish trust by getting to know customers’ habits, wants, and needs. While those vary from person to person, some commonalities unite customers in their pursuit of trust and value. According to Eric Almquist in an article for Harvard Business Review, the basic values held by most individuals “address four kinds of needs: function, emotion, life changes, and social impact.”
One of the best ways companies can apply this concept and merge brand trust with consumer needs is by employing a quality-first approach to products, services, and experiences.
One of the best ways companies can merge brand trust with consumer needs is by employing a quality-first approach to products, services, and experiences.
A quality-first approach means the object or service offered has a core value that’s important or relatable and speaks to at least one of a customer’s four basic needs: function, emotion, life change, or social impact. Ultimately, these value elements make brands more attractive to customers and offer emotional appeal, which further solidifies a customer’s reasoning to support and advocate for a brand.
Gaining a Deeper Understanding Through Data
Trust is essential to creating brand advocacy. Trust implies that a brand is honest, authentic, and cares about meeting customers’ four needs. In order to identify what exactly these needs are—and thus build trust—companies must compile and aggregate data.
Data offers insights into the lives and habits of customers. It also sheds light on common life changes or indicators that customers are looking to make a purchase. When available, brands should use these sources to provide unique insight into the various subsets of their customers’ needs:
- Platform-provided analytic reports (e.g., Facebook or Google Analytics)
- Corporate social responsibility reports
- A/B testing
- Customer engagement metrics
From there, brands can use the collected data to uncover needs and crucial reasons why a customer can (or wants to) trust them. This real-life data can then be applied to marketing campaigns, products, and services. This, in turn, allows brands to create even better outcomes for consumers:
- Accurately reflect what customers want in and from a product or service
- Encourage repeat customers
- Nurture an environment of brand advocacy
- Empathetically mirror what customers care about
By gathering and then acting on the data collected, brands further cement themselves as trustworthy sources capable of meeting specific needs and values. Addressing these customer needs allows customers to identify with a product—and customers want to emotionally connect with services and products. Data is simply a quantifiable testament to what these needs are and enables brands to accurately shape strategy and represent customers.
Patagonia: The Pinnacle of Customer Brand Advocacy
Patagonia’s customers are the apex of brand advocates. To transform average shoppers into advocates, Patagonia addresses customers’ four basic needs individually and specifically. This strategy is modeled in its company motto: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Data is a quantifiable testament to what customer needs are and enables brands to accurately shape strategy and represent their customers.
Functional—”Build the Best Product”
When Patagonia says they want to “build the best product,” they’re not not just creating products that are built to last. Their products appeal to consumers’ functional needs by being specifically designed for functionality and versatility, allowing customers to reduce potential risk and effort during their outdoor activities. Meanwhile, the varied product lines offer sensory appeal to a wide range of consumers and encourage customers to wear Patagonia for casual and technical pursuits alike.
To top it off, Patagonia backs each product with its Ironclad Guarantee. The Ironclad Guarantee is a lifetime promise. Should a customer be unhappy with the performance of a product, or should a product become damaged, Patagonia will repair, replace, or refund the customer.
Emotion—”Use Business to Inspire”
From gripping environmental stories to jaw-dropping videos, Patagonia produces myriad content that inspires and invigorates customers by appealing to their emotions. And to ensure its content remains authentic, Patagonia reinforces its inspirational messaging with its ambassador program, company blog (The Cleanest Line), and social media efforts. In other words: Patagonia uses itself as a platform to rally customers into action both as outdoor enthusiasts and activists.
More importantly, Patagonia’s products and content are built to be and feel approachable. This empowers newcomers to enter the field of outdoor activity and environmental activism as a means of enjoyment, personal expression, and general wellness—for both the consumer and Mother Earth. Ultimately this reduces anxiety for the customer, promotes the brand as accessible for all, and offers an educational approach to (as Patagonia calls it) “funhogging.”
Life Changing—”Cause No Unnecessary Harm”
Life and the decisions people make along the way can occasionally have harmful effects. Patagonia seeks to minimize those impacts by creating products that are both environmentally sustainable and designed to exceed a product’s expected lifeline. Consequently, Patagonia transformed itself into a heritage company and cultivated a sense of community and hope for its customers. Efforts such as the Worn Wear program further solidify the importance of community and impact for Patagonia.
Additionally, Patagonia stores aren’t simply a brick-and-mortar location: they’re a hub for educational events and even unexpected friendships. Patagonia connects people’s lives to the gear it makes and brings reality to the forefront of product design. Those who support the company are choosing to do two things: partake in like-minded activities that nurture the soul and state that they too have the environment’s best interest in mind.
Social Impact—”Implement Solutions to the Environmental Crisis”
Depending on goals or customer base, brands will necessarily prioritize one need more than others. Patagonia places a major emphasis on customers’ need for social impact, thus transcending itself and appealing to the soul of the consumer. Patagonia wants its customers to be aware of what they’re purchasing. The company knows that information is power and a more informed customer is a happier one.
Rather than leave its customers in the dark about product sourcing, environmental impact, and other social issues, Patagonia makes a concerted effort to educate its customers. The “Footprint Chronicles” section of the site, for example, shows all of the farms, factories, and mills in the life cycle of a Patagonia product and provides in-depth information about the company’s commitment to sustainability and corporate responsibility. In turn, this cultivates brand advocates who share experiences and sing the company’s praises.
Transparency and Trust for a Better Future
Ultimately, this multifaceted approach empowers customers to trust the company, its products, and the information it shares. Joy Howard, the former VP of Marketing at Patagonia, sums it up well: “The best way to get people’s attention is to be useful and show useful information that enhances people’s lives but also shows real news.”
The time is now: treat your customers with respect, identify potential points of friction ahead of time, arm them with information, and empower them to use their voice on your behalf.
Patagonia excels at brand advocacy. The company helped usher in a new era of informed customers that want dependability and reasons to trust a company, further cementing the fact that customer retention and acquisition can no longer be a siloed experience. Companies that do as Patagonia has done accurately address customers’ hierarchy of needs and thus angle themselves as long-term services who transcend conventional, short-term campaigns. The time is now: treat your customers with respect, identify potential points of friction ahead of time, arm them with information, and empower them to use their voice on your behalf.