What is a Brand Champion? How to Leverage Them for Your Business

What Is a Brand Champion and Why Does Your Business Need Them in 2024?

In today‘s crowded and competitive marketplace, building a strong brand is more important than ever. But you can‘t do it alone. To truly thrive, you need an army of supporters who will proudly wave your brand‘s flag and sing your praises from the rooftops. In other words, you need brand champions.

Put simply, a brand champion is someone who loves your brand and is willing to tell others about it. They could be a loyal customer who can‘t stop raving about your products, a passionate employee who lives and breathes your company culture, or a social media superfan who engages with all your posts. The one thing they all have in common is that they will go out of their way to promote your brand—not because they‘re paid to, but because they genuinely want to.

Why Brand Champions Matter More Than Ever

In 2024, brand champions are an essential piece of the marketing puzzle. Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  • 92% of consumers trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising (Nielsen)
  • 79% of consumers say user-generated content highly impacts their purchasing decisions (Stackla)
  • Employee-created content gets 8x more engagement than content shared through the brand‘s social channels (Social Media Today)

The bottom line is that people trust other people more than they trust brands. A glowing review from a satisfied customer is infinitely more powerful than even the slickest ad campaign. In an era of influencer fatigue and eroding consumer trust, the authenticity of brand champions shines through.

Aside from lending much-needed credibility to your brand, champions also lighten your marketing workload. Their grassroots promotion creates priceless buzz without eating into your advertising budget. Plus, they often bring in new customers through referrals and word-of-mouth—the most desirable kind of leads.

Cultivating Brand Champions: Where to Start

Transforming an everyday customer or employee into a full-fledged champion doesn‘t happen by accident. It takes deliberate effort and a strategic approach. Before you start amassing your champion army, you need three things in place:

  1. A crystal-clear brand identity

To attract champions, you must first have a brand worth championing. Take time to define your unique vision, mission, and values—the guiding lights of your brand. Be able to articulate what you stand for and what makes you different. The more well-defined your brand is, the easier it will be for champions to rally behind it.

  1. A finger on the pulse

You can‘t cultivate champions if you don‘t know how people currently feel about your brand. Regularly collect feedback from customers and employees through surveys, interviews, and social listening. How likely are they to recommend you? What do they love about your brand? What could be better? Use these insights to guide your champion strategy.

  1. The right infrastructure

To set your champions up for success, you need to give them the tools and incentives to spread the word. That could mean creating a formal brand advocacy program with rewards for referrals, developing an employee social media policy, or offering shareable content and assets. The goal is to make singing your praises easy and worthwhile.

The 3 Types of Brand Champions (and How to Activate Them)

Now that you have a solid foundation in place, it‘s time to identify and energize your champions. Here are three key groups to focus on:

  1. Employees

Your employees have the potential to be your most powerful champions. They know your brand inside and out and have unmatched credibility. In fact, content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Social Media Today).

To turn employees into advocates, prioritize internal branding. Educate them on your vision and values, and make sure they have a positive employee experience. Engage them through company events, employee resource groups, and professional development opportunities.

You can also create a formal employee advocacy program, where you regularly share approved content and messaging for them to post on their own social networks. Gamify the program with points and prizes to boost participation. Employee advocacy platform PostBeyond found that their top users generated an average of $90,000 in earned media value per year!

  1. Customers

Customers are the lifeblood of your brand champions strategy. There‘s nothing more compelling to a potential buyer than a heartfelt endorsement from a fellow customer.

To cultivate customer champions, focus on delivering exceptional experiences that get people talking. Respond to all feedback—positive and negative—to show you‘re listening. Engage with customers on social media and build community through Facebook groups, Twitter chats, and other owned channels.

Identify your most passionate customers and invite them to join a VIP program with exclusive perks and insider access. Feature their stories and testimonials in your marketing. Sephora‘s Beauty Insider Community is a great example. It has over 6 million members who trade tips, give product feedback, and drive sales through authentic recommendations.

  1. Social Media Followers

Social media is a hotbed for brand champions. These are the followers who go beyond just hitting the "like" button—they comment on all your posts, share your content far and wide, and send new followers your way.

The key to social media champions is making them feel like insiders. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your brand and make them feel part of your inner circle. Host Q&As and AMAs, respond to their comments, repost their content, and amplify their voices. 75% of consumers say that user-generated content makes a brand‘s messaging more authentic (Stackla).

You can also activate social champions through branded hashtag campaigns, contests, and giveaways. Encourage followers to post about your brand for a chance to win prizes or get featured on your channels. Starbucks‘ #RedCupContest is a prime example. Every December, customers share photos of their holiday drinks for a chance to win a Starbucks gift card. In 2022, the campaign generated over 30,000 posts in just 2 days (Socialinsider).

Measuring the Impact of Brand Champions

As with any marketing initiative, it‘s crucial to track the ROI of your brand champion efforts. Some key metrics to watch include:

  • Referral traffic and sales: How many new customers are your champions bringing in? Use unique referral links or codes to track their impact on your bottom line.
  • Earned media value: How much buzz are your champions generating? Use tools like Hootsuite Insights or Sprout Social to measure the reach and value of champion-created content.
  • Employee advocacy: How engaged are your employees on social media? Track shares, likes, and comments on employee-generated content.
  • Brand sentiment: How has overall sentiment toward your brand changed since focusing on champions? Monitor reviews, comments, and social mentions to gauge the impact on your reputation.

Conclusion

In a world where consumers are bombarded with marketing messages from all angles, the authentic voice of a brand champion rises above the noise. By cultivating champions among your employees, customers, and social media followers, you can transform fans into a powerful marketing force—driving referrals, engagement, and priceless word-of-mouth.

Building a champion network takes effort and intentionality—it‘s not a "set it and forget it" initiative. But when done right, the payoff in earned media value, brand equity, and customer loyalty is hard to overstate.

As you head into 2024 and beyond, put brand champions at the center of your marketing strategy. Empower employees to be advocates, delight customers at every turn, and engage social followers like true insiders. The brands that win will be the ones with the most passionate armies standing behind them.

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