The research is in and the message from Canadian shoppers is clear – Hell hath no fury like a consumer scorned. According to the Colloquy Word of Mouth (WOM) study of 2,960 Canadian shoppers, bad news about bad brand experiences travels fast — even faster among Canadians than Americans, in fact. More than eight in ten (84 per cent) Canadian consumers say they advise family or friends about a bad experience with a product or service, compared with three quarters of American consumers who do the same. Comparatively, just six in ten Canadian consumers say they recommend products or services to others.
“The best managed brands know exactly who their advocates are, and they’re usually found in the membership rolls of a loyalty program,” said Colloquy Managing Partner Kelly Hlavinka. “But this study shows that advocates can just as easily become “madvocates” if their experience with a brand turns sour. Like a guard dog, these advocates are loyal until the owner gets careless, and then they bite.”
Advocates and Madvocates
According to Colloquy’s study, consumers can be broken into three categories or mind-sets:
- Three in ten (31 per cent) are word of mouth super-Advocates, or “WOM Champions,” who intend to recommend their favourite brands.
- Almost one quarter (24 per cent) are described by Colloquy as “Madvocates,” who are predisposed to engage in negative word of mouth practices after suffering a bad experience.
- Fortunately, “Pure Madvocates” — consumers who say they will never be advocates and are oriented to negative word of mouth only – are a rare breed, making up just seven per cent of the general population.
The Loudest Voices
- Canadian women are the most likely to be word of mouth champions (47 per cent); and twice as likely to advocate as “madvocate” (22 per cent).
- Almost half (44 per cent) of all affluent consumers earning $125,000 are word of mouth Champions, but an almost equal portion (38 per cent) are Madvocates.
In 2011, word of mouth Champions made up 31 per cent of the Canadian general population. This group is especially important to the marketers looking to arm themselves against the large proportion of the Canadian population prone to sharing their negative experiences. Marketers trying to locate these brand Champions should look no further than their own loyalty database. WOM Champions make up a third of total reward members, and only account for 18 per cent of those not participating in any program. In essence, there are almost double the Champions within reward programs members then there are among non-member population.
“Loyalty marketers must accept the responsibility for the impact their programs can have on generating both positive and negative word of mouth,” said Hlavinka. “The best defence against negative conversations about your brand is a good offence – engage and empower the Champions within your own rewards programs”
Colloquy’s study also focused on how Champions differed in their communications methods from less engaged consumers, as well as Madvocates, by examining loyalty programs members. The following trends emerged:
- For both general members and Champions, there is a lot of staying power in “old school” methods — with face-to-face communications, phone calls and email topping the list of communication methods used by reward program members.
- However, the study also showed that Champions are much more engaged than regular consumers when it comes to “new school” methods, which include social networking communities, mobile messaging, and product review sites. Overall, Champions are 50-100 per cent more engaged across these platforms than other non-Champion members, making their involvement in a word-of-mouth campaign essential to its success.
“Marketers need to know that Madvocates are just as connected across multiple communication platforms as Champions,” said Hlavinka. “Madvocacy is an attitude possessed even by a proportion of a brand’s best customers. So, while you have a highly connected group of Champions engaged in word-of-mouth, you also have those ready, willing and able to discuss negative experiences within your program.”
Advice for Marketers
- Find the word of mouth Champions and treat them well. Your Champions are also your potential Madvocates.
- Don’t abandon traditional communications. While social media platforms are popular, email and good old phone calls and conversations top the list for brand discussions.
- Concentrate on delivering on your brand promise. Please customers with excellent products and a rewarding experience and they’ll talk about you – in their channel of choice.
- Don’t discard the Madvocates. They have the energy and inclination to tell positive stories if treated right.
- Build community forums. Build a single, authoritative go-to place where customers can talk about your brand.
Colloquy is a provider of loyalty marketing publishing, education and research and is owned by Toronto-based LoyaltyOne. Colloquy’s WOM survey, featuring completed responses from 2,960 Canadian consumers nationwide, was conducted in December 2010. A white paper presenting the complete results of the study, as well as additional tips, is available online free of charge. Colloquy previously published a 2009 study titled The New Champion Customers: Measuring Word-of-Mouth Activity Among Reward Program Members.