I was enjoying Michael Nutley’s column (MWlinks.co.uk/MappingTool) until the last couple of paragraphs and his throwaway comment that brand enthusiasts who have quit the community can typically be bought back with “a few kind words and some branded items”. This is exactly the kind of attitude that holds marketing back from any semblance of the ‘noble profession’ Ruth Mortimer hankers after in the same issue (MWlinks.co.uk/ Honourable). It’s also an example of classic 20th century marketing wisdom which has no place in the social future.
A social business would ask itself why a brand ambassador has quit, and what that tells them about the brand. These are your canaries in the coalmine – if you treat them like a commodity to be bought back as cheaply as possible you are missing a huge opportunity. You are also more likely to lose them utterly.
Michael Nutley replies: Perhaps Mr Houghton is right, and my conclusion was a little glib. However, I would hope that no one reading the column would feel that I was suggesting that brand ambassadors should be treated lightly. My whole aim was to draw attention to a technique that should help marketers recognise the type of community they have around their brand, and identify brand ambassadors, something that many brands still don’t do. Beyond that, I completely agree with Mr Houghton that it’s vital to communicate with these advocates, recognise their motivations and reward them properly.