Empowering your Advocates

Every product succeeds and fails on the back of recommendations. Advertising is a great force but in order to get those risk-averse consumers on board they have to get a personal recommendation. So how do you ensure that these recommendations occur?

Avenue Q Taxi

In reality, it is not that hard. You just need to have a good product and then follow these two steps.

Let me use an example that I recently heard Drew Hodges – CEO at SpotCo, one of New York’s biggest entertainment marketing firms – talk about.

Avenue Q is one of Broadway’s rags to riches stories. The story is essentially a satirical Sesame Street featuring puppets and songs you definitely wouldn’t want your three-year-old to hear. It started off-Broadway and then received such impressive audience feedback and demand that it moved to a Broadway main stem theatre where it went on to beat blockbuster musical Wicked for that year’s Best Musical Tony Award.

Since this award, it has launched numerous productions around the world, appeared all over the US and continues to run on the off-Broadway circuit over ten years after its debut. Not too bad for a little show that doesn’t have the same spectacle which many of its competitors harness.

While this lack of spectacle was fine within the theatre community, it presented some problems when it visited the MOST SPECTACULAR PLACE ON EARTH . . . Las Vegas.

In order to be heard amongst all the elaborate wealth and entertainment in Las Vegas your product needs to have one characteristic. It needs to be spectacularly loud. Somehow you need to drown out Cirque du Soleil and international headlining acts such as Cher, Barry Manilow and Celine Dion. And that is no easy feat.

As you would expect, Avenue Q struggled to be heard above all this noise. But it followed the two steps required to generate strong recommendations:

1. Find your Advocates
Looking at the Las Vegas entertainment scene, the agency responsible for this show discovered that most tourists will gather their entertainment recommendations from taxi drivers. So taxi drivers became the centre of their marketing efforts. But in order to actually get these recommendations flowing, the taxi drivers had to be empowered and the consumers had to ask. Which brings me to step two.

2. Empower your Advocates
To empower this target market, Las Vegas taxi drivers were invited to see the show with the agency confident that whoever saw the show would become an advocate. But what about the prompt for the customer to ask? To get the customer to ask about the show, a gimmick needed to be created that stood out above the noise of Las Vegas. That gimmick was a number of taxis covered in Orange Fur and the letter Q. Nothing gets you asking more questions than something which is incredibly out-of-place and this is completely unexpected in the streets of Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, competing noise is never going to go away. In the future this competition is only going to get more intense and require even louder communications to reach the masses. It is just something that we are stuck with.

But personal recommendations are the way forward in these increasingly competitive marketplaces. If you can get your product on the tip of many advocates’ tongues, then it doesn’t matter how loud the noise is, word about your product will spread like the grapevine.