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Kenyan Companies need Brand Advocates

Kenyan Companies need Brand Advocates

Every time I have a bone to pick with a company, I sometimes get one person who will disagree with me and tell me that this company is not that bad; that I must have caught them at a bad time or talked to the wrong person. Sometimes, in an attempt to show me that this particular company is not that bad, they link me up to a person that I can talk to within these companies or when they can, help me out with the problem themselves. And you will be surprised at the number of potential brand advocates that Kenyan companies have especially online.

Who is a Brand Advocate?

Brand Advocates are those people who will always come out to defend a brand whenever it comes under attack even though they have no affiliation whatsoever with the brand except as clients or former clients. Brand advocates are those people outside your company who answer questions posted about your company’s products or services. They are people who as clients or users have an intimate understanding of your products or services and who others online and offline have identified as the go-to resource persons. They are the people who in your absence in forums, chat rooms, on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other social network answer questions posted about your products. They are those people who have established themselves as authorities in your industry through their blogs and hence people seek their advice with regard to products and services in your industry.

You Can’t Be Everywhere

As a business, you cannot be everywhere. Even with monitoring tools and a heavy online presence, you can only put a dent in response to mentions with regard to your industry or company both online and offline. Given many Kenyan businesses lack greatly when it comes to online monitoring of brand mentions, brand advocates become indispensable because they are the ones who without pay ensure that shit does not hit the fan when it comes to your brand. Brand advocates are therefore those people who are there for your brand in areas you would otherwise have not reached. And by understanding that you cannot be everywhere, have you as a business identified those who can be there on your behalf. Do you know who the influencers in your industry are?

Empowering Advocates

You not only need to find who these influencers are in your Industry but you also need to reach out and empower them. I was watching Jeremiah Owyang’s keynote speech at #LeWeb in France when he pointed out the same. In his 2011 Social Business Forecast, he urged listeners to develop an unpaid army of advocates and pointed out what Microsoft has done with its MVP Program. He went on to say that Microsoft have 4000 MVP’s (Most Valuable Professionals) who are not given any type of money but are given access to trips, access to executives, access to products, and they go out there and answer questions from customers and they promote the Microsoft Brand. He finished by saying that this is the best option for corporations because it is scalable. Social Media is not scalable because you can never hire enough community managers to respond to your customers.

Business Clubs

An army of Brand Advocates is not an alien concept. In fact, it is reminiscent of Business Clubs which are now present among many banks in Kenya where the members have business trips organized for them by the bank to various parts of the world where they get to learn from their counterparts across the globe. The same should also be done for brand advocates who have the following online to really scale your brand and products.

Is Kenya Ready?

I think Kenyan companies are ready for this. I think there is enough traction online for Kenyan businesses to identify “MVP’s”, reach out to them, get them on board as brand advocates, and keep them informed…

Which Kenyan company do you know of that already does this? If none, who do you think will be the first? I am betting on Nokia, Safaricom, and maybe Samsung…

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  • In foreign countries, companies have nurtured their own brand-advocates. I think these are the people who have blogs in such websites like PC-World, Mashable, TecCrunch et al. They have specific people who have info on certain products only.

    As you have stated, only companies like Safaricom, Nokia, Samsung, LG etc have the need for such brand advocates. And with a very good reason, they value their customers immensely!

  • i think we are heading there, i have had the opportunity to work with a few companies that are engaging a team of local bloggers, Pr, Professionals , Media personalities etc…. while they may not necessarily view this persons as brand advocates but the reality is that by engaging them frequently in events and product trials these companies are building brand evangelists!

  • Dorothy Ooko

    I agree with @nairobianperspective that we are heading in that direction. I know that Nokia engages and is always on the look out for these unpaid advocates. We also engage with brand ambassadors in the various campuses who engage with the youth and like-minded consumer. The writing is on the wall that with social media companies do need brand advocates as you have elaborated in this blog.

  • Great post and something I have been thinking about as I get ready to release a SMS social network in Kenya later this month. I believe brand evangelists are important; but, I also think effective 21st century business will take it even a step further and empower customers (evangelist) as part of the business decision making process. Sort of like a business club on steroids. By bringing real meaningful value to customer’s lives (instead of being viewed as just “consumers” to be exploited and manipulated) new business models will take the concept of brand evangelist based primarily on, as your rightly point out, reputation and embrace customers as a valuable partner that has rights and responsibilities beyond just being a consumer of products or services.

    I talk about some of these issues when looking for marketing partner in Kenya in a recent blog post; http://hungrygarden.typepad.com/hungrygarden/2010/12/betterment-corporate-structure-.html The issues in looking for marketing partner are a stepping stone to how to empower Kenyan customers of Next2.us new SMS social network.

    Why stop at brand evangelists when Kenya companies can learn from the mistakes made in the west and leap frog to new business/customer arrangements that guides business into more sustainable products and services that better serve all — corporate, citizens and society.

    I believe the Kenya social clubs could provide an example for new social enterprises that are for-profit but sustainable and incorporate all cost (health, environmental and social) on the front-end rather then shifting them to others as is now done in the west by some corporate entities and products (for example cheap fast food effect on health and big oils effect on the environment).

  • In this day of social media, you do not have to go out of your way to scout for brand advocates. Simply offer your clients extra ordinary service and put a smile on their faces. Your brand’s reputation will go viral. A good example is how KLM surprised its passengers. http://tiny.cc/10csf

  • Absolutely right Tadeo. You do not have to go out of your way to scout for brand advocates – march if not surpass your clients’ expectations and you will find them talking about your service or product to all those who would care to listen. Two days ago when Safaricom Launched the Ideos, the comments on their Facebook had an interesting twist – the mention of Nokia came up a a number of times on a Huawei Product page ( one fan actually called for a Nokia equivalent since apparently it could be more reliable – sorry couldn’t locate the comment today).

    And that exactly makes my point: in todays digital landscape, every one has a voice, a voice that can be heard and one with influence .Your Brand (your promise of value) only need live to its promise and an army of advocates is in formation and already marching- one that will infiltrate every known social unit.

    As Seth Godin recently noted, “All you’ve got, all your brand has got, all any of us have are the memories and expectations and changes we’ve left with others.”

    Marvin : Interesting to note that you are betting on Nokia Kenya, Safaricom, and maybe Samsung.Please let me know how it turns out.The first two might get it right. Methinks.

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  • Stephankelm

    the fact that the only 2 comments on this story refer to advocates as in lawyers….well, show how far along Kenyans still have to go in the world of social media and just marketing in general…maybe the term ‘brand fan or ambassadors” would have helped people understand this is nothing to do with the world of lawyers and court rooms…oh dear….

  • Cmasharia

    going along with the remarks of  stephankelm..it sis actually true that kenyans do not understand the process and conceptualization of a product or service and the general regard to brand it is representing… i think a better term should have been brand architect..this should have given a wider and broader logical reference.. all in all i think branding has been widely been neglected as a marketing function…