Category Connoisseurs vs. Brand Advocates

Feb 14 2012

In Youngme Moon’s captivating book Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, she posits that product categories have augmented benefits beyond the average consumer’s ability to tell the difference between any two brands.

For example, take toothpaste. When in the toothpaste isle at the grocery store a consumer sees whitening, tartar control, natural, anti-cavity, fluoride, and bad-breath-fighting as advertised product benefits.

The myriad of choices and attributes leaves one of two options for the inundated consumer – either consider and weigh all the products and morph into a “category connoisseur,” or be apathetic.  Demanding that the consumer become a connoisseur of a category is untenable, especially given that every category demands the same attention and deliberation – pens, toilet paper, sneakers, ad nauseam.

Is forcing the average consumer to be a specialist interfering with a marketer’s ability to turn them into a brand advocate? Are marketers depleting the pool of possible brand advocates by 1) making it difficult to appreciate a brand or 2) demanding that they hone-in on minor differences between competitors?

If answers to the above are “yes,” I wonder if marketers are culprit or if brands aren’t producing truly differentiated offerings?

Are We Killing or Cultivating the Brand Advocate?
The ultimate goal of any marketing program is to create, nourish and retain brand advocates, who will market on the firm’s behalf as well as repeat or upgrade purchases.

The book, however, made me re-examine brand advocacy and question if the usual methods of engaging them need to be reassessed.  As a consumer, I identify with the phenomenon Moon outlines. As a marketer, however, I believe we should find new methods to test, or better yet, measure our overtures to apathetic consumers vs. category connoisseurs vs. brand advocates.  Are marketers expending resources on select advocates who appreciate minor differences, rather than the entire market who does not? All heady questions.

Have you considered a new approach to engaging brand advocates? If so, how? How’d it work? I look forward to seeing your responses in the comments section.

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