“A loyal constituency is won when the people, consciously or unconsciously, judge the leader to be capable of solving their problems and meeting their needs, when the leader is seen as symbolizing their norms, and when their image of the leader (whether or not it corresponds to reality) is congruent with their inner environment of myth and legend.” (Kouzes, Posner, pg. 3, 2011)
In a time when Social Media 2.0 is growing and the need for brand advocates is becoming more of a necessity in order to achieve “brand success,” it should be understood that being a leader in your field is not a right, but an earned privilege.
These days, consumers and potential clients are not limiting themselves to a company that can offer them products or services. Rather, they are looking to deal with businesses that come across as genuine and relatable. In Credibility: How Leaders Gain it and Lose it, Why People Demand It, authors James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner note that people are energized by values and visions that give their lives meaning and purpose. These can be experienced in a single contact or conversation.
I think of my grandmother, Mable Landis, and her loyalty to Sears, which dates back some 30 years now. She always relates it to the fact that they show they care because “they always have the best sales going on and their employees are always so friendly no matter how you act towards them!” She spreads the word as if it is the gospel because she lives by one simple rule: “Be nice no matter what and God will handle the rest.”
This is an example of a brand advocate. She shops at Sears before looking anywhere else. She has no bad words to say about the company, and will defend the brand as if it were part of her bloodline. It is this kind of earned credibility that drives one of the most powerful forms of marketing there is: word of mouth.
There are three qualities Kouzes and Posner say that you can find in every leader: Integrity, Competence and Leadership.
For a brand leader, integrity does not stop at just being trustworthy; you must also display strength of character and conviction. This may mean owning mistakes made due to a fault in your system during the return process and fixing them, or acknowledging that you did not offer the best products or services to a disgruntled customer and offering solutions to make it right.
Those brand leaders that have been labeled “wise” – like Apple, for example - not only know themselves but have great competence in understanding their competition and surrounding environment. Typically, these “wise” companies are well aligned – both internally and externally. The employees know the company well, trust its decision-making and direction, and, therefore, have the credibility of believing what they say when speaking about the company’s product or services to others. Brand leaders tend to inspire their followers, promote action, develop advocates, and provide direction to an improved lifestyle.
Achieving this status is simple.
Be consistent in all you do, believe in what you say, and know what you are saying is right for the one listening. Get people to believe in you, and watch how effortlessly they will work with you to help grow your brand.