What SMBs Can Learn from 5 Top Advocacy Programs

If there’s one thing all marketers can agree on, it’s that brand advocacy is the most effective and cost-efficient way to drive organic growth. Brand advocates aren’t just your biggest fans, but your greatest marketing assets too. They’re your most loyal and engaged users, and on average drive 5X more revenue and growth over a lifetime.

While brand advocacy is a powerful tool to leveraging top users, some brands do this better than others. But what makes an advocacy program work? Check out this article on the essential elements needed to build a great advocacy program. To get a better understanding of how your brand can leverage brand advocacy in its marketing efforts, let’s take a look at what we can learn from top brands that have nailed the practice.

1. Apple

Apple leveraged user-generated content like never before with its powerful advocacy approach. Apple’s Shot on iPhone campaign used photos captured on its iPhone 10 from 77 people in 24 countries to promote their product and drive sales.

All Apple had to do was ask their users to share photos shot on their iPhone 10’s on social media using a designated hashtag. Out of hundreds of photos shared, Apple chose a few dozen which they leveraged in an ad campaign. By simply asking their customers to contribute in a highly-personalized way, Apple was able to drive engagement and promote their product’s features with a reach uncomparable to a simple ad space on billboards. This also helped their ads to be more relatable and authentic, breaking the corporate approach to advertising and marketing that so many customers increasingly despise.

Key Takeaway: Get customers involved in your marketing efforts by driving engagement with organic, user-generated content. Ask users to share photos or videos using a custom hashtag defined by your campaign. Keep the hashtag fun and quirky to get people talking about it with their friends.

2. Starbucks

Starbuck’s Tweet-A-Coffee Campaign was a simple idea with a powerful outcome. It gave engaged users the power to buy a $5 gift card for their friends using Twitter. When a customer tweeted @tweetacoffee handle along with a friend’s Twitter handle, they made an automatic purchase – and the first 100,000 people to do this also received a $5 gift card for themselves. This generated over $180,000 in sales and allowed the brand to identify with both existing and potential customers with over 27,000 brand advocates alone participating.

Key Takeaway: Focus your advocacy marketing strategy on its long-term ROI by identifying new advocates as you go. Even creating a simple campaign which requires little to no effort to engage can help you identify customers that are potential advocates.

3. Tesla

Tesla’s advocacy program is a great example of the power of WOM (word of mouth) advocacy with their Tesla Referral Program. Essentially, Elon Musk told customers that Tesla would pay anyone $1,000 to get someone else to buy a Tesla. Besides driving organic growth and more sales, this strategy was brilliant for several important reasons.

For one, Tesla mobilized its most loyal customers to attract even more customers. Someone who is already an advocate for the brand is a trusted source for referrals to those around them. It drove customers who already viewed Tesla in a positive light to refer a Tesla to someone near and dear – saving them both $1,000 on their upcoming Tesla purchase.

If the cost-saving discount wasn’t enough, Tesla offered existing customers even more. For every 10 people they referred, they got the chance to buy a limited Founder Series of the brand’s Model X SUV that wasn’t sold to the public.

Key Takeaway: Referral strategies and advocacy programs are like peanut butter and jelly– simply motivate existing customers to promote your product, and they’ll reward you right back. Start a referral program, no matter how small, to drive a big impact.

4. Coca-Cola

In 2010, The Happiness Machine was Coca Cola’s stunningly successful approach to creating viral organic reach and raising brand awareness. With just a single campaign, Coca Cola successfully reached 15 million people within the first week of its release and drove a boost in sales. The concept was straightforward: place a magic vending machine in the center of a college campus and see what happened. See the video here.

While the ad itself cost the company $60,000, the results paid off. The campaign brought customers together over a shared love for a popular product – driving viral content and an even higher ROI on brand awareness from the video alone. Worldwide, people laughed with delight at the thought of what the machine would do next. This sense of joy paired well with Coca Cola’s tagline: sharing happiness. The campaign was a simple yet effective way for them to drive their message home and spread awareness for their brand.

Key Takeaway: You don’t need to spend a lot to get results for your advocacy program, and sometimes a single viral idea can be enough to drive results. Think of an interesting way to connect with customers – it can be over a shared belief or value, or anything that speaks directly to your core audience and drives your message home.

5. Urban Outfitters

Urban outfitters leveraged their user-generated content in the real-world in 2013 with their approach to advocacy marketing. By asking users to use a specific hashtag when wearing their clothing, they were able to source real-world content from their audience. Urban Outfitters then took the content and shared it on their site next to relevant products, showing potential and existing customers how the fashionable ware was being worn by other customers worldwide.

This approach lent to a vital marketing tactic: social proof. Instead of having customers imagine what the clothing would look like on them, Urban Outfitters allowed them to see it on others first. This highly influential and potent tactic also allowed their community to contribute original content to promote products they loved. It was a win-win for brand and customers alike.

Key Takeaway: Leverage user-generated content in your marketing efforts to promote products and engage with existing customers post-purchase. Ask customers to share photos with your product and share them on your site or platform in return. Customers will feel recognized for their contribution – and your brand gets free content, win-win.

Advocacy that meets SMBs needs


While big brands get all the credit, you don’t have to have millions in your budget to drive home real results. Leverage tools like Innercircle that are built for SMBs to help them launch and manage their campaigns – all from a single dashboard. Choose from 25 pre-built campaign templates, or make one of your own from scratch. It’s perfect for any-sized business and gives you the power to connect with users in a way that won’t break the bank.

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