Consumer behavior has become increasingly unpredictable. As a result, the concept of irrational advocacy can be essential to solidify a brand's market position. Irrational advocacy, a term that might seem contradictory, refers to the unparalleled devotion customers exhibit towards a brand, often surpassing logical reasoning.

This phenomenon isn't just the satisfaction derived from a product or service. It's the deep emotional connection and sense of identity consumers find in a brand.

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Understanding consumer emotion and decision-making

The emotional consumer

Consumers rarely make decisions on a purely rational basis. Many irrational things, like emotions, can significantly influence purchasing decisions. Humans are emotional beings who often rationalize their choices after the fact. Recognizing this can transform how brands approach marketing and customer engagement.

For instance, the decision to queue overnight for a new iPhone release, despite owning a perfectly functional previous model. This is driven more by the emotional excitement and belonging to the Apple community than by product features alone.

Brands as emotional catalysts

Successful brands like Apple have mastered the art of becoming more than just providers of goods or services. They serve as catalysts for emotional experiences and identity formation. This connection goes beyond the tangible benefits of the product. They work hard to access deeper human needs for belonging, identity, and purpose.

Appealing to early adopters through experiential marketing
Brands love to market to early adopters because they purchase quickly, then promote the new products through word of mouth.

Strategies for encouraging irrational advocacy

Aligning with consumer values

Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) looking to cultivate irrational advocacy must start by aligning their brand's mission and values with those of their target audience. This alignment is not about pandering or superficial branding exercises but about genuine engagement with the issues and values that matter to consumers.

For example, brands that have taken clear stances on social issues, even at the risk of polarizing their audience, often find a passionate base of supporters who identify strongly with the brand's values.

A powerful strategy for building emotional connections is through cause-related marketing. This approach involves partnering with or supporting causes that resonate with the brand's audience, thereby demonstrating the brand's commitment to more than just profit.

An illustrative example is the campaign by Hungry Howie's Pizza, which changed its boxes to pink and donated a portion of every sale to breast cancer awareness. This campaign not only boosted sales but also significantly enhanced customer engagement, proving that consumers are eager to support brands that contribute positively to society.

Fostering community and rituals

Creating a sense of community around a brand can also foster irrational advocacy. Brands that succeed in this area often develop rituals or events that allow consumers to actively participate in the brand's culture. Chick-fil-A's "Daddy-Daughter Date Night" is a prime example, creating a unique experience that goes beyond the product to celebrate family connections, thereby deepening emotional ties to the brand.

Appealing to early adopters through experiential marketing
Brands love to market to early adopters because they purchase quickly, then promote the new products through word of mouth.

Authenticity and trust

The quest for irrational advocacy is not without its challenges. Authenticity and trust are paramount; consumers can easily detect insincerity, which can backfire and damage the brand's reputation. Thus, CMOs must ensure that their brand's actions and messaging genuinely reflect their stated values and mission.

The risks of polarization

Moreover, while taking a stand on social issues can engender deep loyalty, it can also lead to polarization. Brands must carefully consider the implications of aligning with potentially divisive causes, weighing the benefits of passionate advocacy against the risk of alienating other segments of their audience.

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Conclusion: The future of brand loyalty

Looking forward, irrational advocacy is poised to play an increasingly pivotal role in shaping brand loyalty. In a world where consumers are bombarded with choices and information, those brands that can forge emotional connections and offer a sense of purpose and community will stand out.

For CMOs, the challenge lies in navigating the complex landscape of consumer emotions, aligning brand values with those of their customers, and engaging in authentic, value-driven marketing. By doing so, brands can transform their customers into not just consumers but passionate advocates and champions of their brand's mission.


FAQs

Q: Is brand loyalty irrational?

A: Brand loyalty may seem irrational at first glance, but understanding the emotional factors that drive consumer behavior reveals there is a deeper logic at play. The traditional view of consumers as purely rational decision-makers has given way to insights that emotions significantly influence purchasing decisions.

Irrational advocacy refers to the unparalleled devotion customers exhibit towards a brand, often surpassing logical reasoning. This is not about mere satisfaction from a product but the deep emotional connection and sense of identity consumers find in a brand. Successful brands like Apple have mastered becoming more than just providers of goods - they serve as catalysts for emotional experiences and identity formation that tap into human needs for belonging, identity, and purpose.

While it may look irrational to queue overnight for a new iPhone when one's current model works perfectly fine, the underlying emotional excitement and feeling of belonging to the Apple community provide the true motivation. Brand loyalty driven by these powerful emotional factors is not actually irrational when you understand the psychology behind it.

The key for brands is aligning their mission and values authentically with those of their target consumers. This genuine engagement, coupled with strategies like cause-related marketing and fostering communities with brand rituals, allows brands to forge profound emotional connections. These connections transform customers into passionate advocates who identify with the brand's purpose beyond just the product itself.

So in summary, what may seem like irrational loyalty on the surface actually emerges from brands skillfully appealing to and aligning with the core emotional needs of their customers. It's not irrational from the consumer's perspective but rather reflects a deeper psychological logic that savvy brands can harness to build powerful advocacy.

Q: What is brand advocacy?

A: Brand advocacy refers to the unparalleled devotion and loyalty exhibited by customers towards a brand, often transcending logical reasoning. It is rooted in the deep emotional connection and sense of identity that consumers forge with a brand - going far beyond mere satisfaction with a product or service.

In essence, brand advocates are passionate supporters who strongly identify with a brand's mission, values, and purpose. They do not view the brand solely as a provider of goods but as a catalyst for emotional experiences that tap into core human needs for belonging, identity, and meaning.

Brand advocacy manifests in behaviors like customers queuing overnight for a new product launch, actively participating in brand communities and rituals, and evangelizing the brand to friends and family. The impetus is not just the functional benefits but the excitement, sense of community, and alignment of personal values with the brand.

For example, Apple has cultivated legions of ardent brand advocates who identify deeply with the brand's spirit of innovation, design, and counterculture ethos. Their loyalty stems as much from the emotional resonance as the quality of Apple's products themselves.

This phenomenon of irrational advocacy is driven by brands that genuinely connect with the core values, passions, and identity needs of their target consumers. Through strategies like authentic brand purpose alignment, cause marketing, and fostering brand communities, companies can transform customers into impassioned champions of their mission who transcend the role of mere consumers.

So in summary, brand advocacy is the powerful devotion and zeal customers feel towards a brand when it becomes an emblem of their identity, values, and aspirations - resulting in fierce loyalty that may appear irrational on the surface but emerges from a brand's ability to forge profound emotional connections.

Q: Why is advocacy important for brands?

A: In today's crowded marketplace where consumers are inundated with choices, brand advocacy has become critical for solidifying a brand's market position and driving sustainable loyalty. Irrational advocacy - the deep emotional devotion customers feel towards a brand that transcends logical reasoning - is a powerful force that successful companies can leverage.

The importance lies in advocacy's ability to forge profound, lasting connections with customers that go far beyond satisfaction with the product or service alone. Brand advocates don't just use and appreciate a brand, they strongly identify with its values, purpose, and the emotional experiences it catalyzes. This sense of shared identity breeds fierce loyalty and advocacy that money can't buy through traditional marketing tactics.

Brand advocates serve as passionate evangelists, amplifying the brand's message and bringing in new customers through authentic word-of-mouth based on their own zeal. The unpaid endorsement from trusted voices carries immense influence in today's landscape of eroded trust in advertising. Moreover, devoted brand advocates exhibit remarkable behaviors like lining up for product launches or actively participating in brand communities and rituals - solidifying their identity as part of the brand tribe.

Looking forward, brands that can cultivate this level of advocacy by genuinely connecting with the emotional needs and values of their target consumers will gain a formidable competitive edge. In an age where humans crave belonging and meaning, the companies that deliver on those deeper needs through authentic brand purpose and community will be rewarded with customers transformed into impassioned champions of their mission.

For Chief Marketing Officers, the importance of brand advocacy lies in its unique capacity to engender resilient, long-term loyalty that creates marketing multiplicative effects. By focusing on fostering profound emotional connections, brands can elevate customers from transactional consumers to vested partners invested in the brand's success on a personal level. This is the foundation of future-proofing a devoted customer base that will serve as an invaluable asset.


What does irrational advocacy mean for you industry? And are you taking steps to cultivate and harness it? Let us know, join the conversation with marketing leaders around the world on the CMO Alliance Community Slack channel.