Brand advocacy is still important to consumer PR

Brand advocacy has long had an important role in food and drink marketing, and it's still a valuable tool today.

There used to be such a thing as 'the Delia effect' - the day after the airing of Delia Smith's BBC cookery show the supermarket shelves emptied of the ingredients she had used in the recipes. The stampede resulted in ringing tills and happy retailers. She was single handedly responsible for the significant upturn in sales of everything from cranberries to frying pans. Such was the effect, that major supermarkets panicked when they heard the new series was about to air and the BBC was forced to release pre-advanced ingredients lists to the multiples so they could be prepared for the rush. 

 These days retailers call it the 'Bake off factor.' The first week of the most recent series which featured the amateur bakers making the iconic Jaffa Cake, resulted in a 76% increase in searches for Jaffa Cakes on the Sainsbury online grocery site in the 24 hours after the show, and it didn't end there. McVitae's banked sales of over £250,000 across just two retailers in two days.  The interesting factor for anyone working in consumer PR is that Jaffa Cakes have been around for decades - nothing new there and yet five minutes of tv exposure evoked reactions across the country which resulted in a spike in sales which probably lasted quite a few weeks.

The consumer PR term is celebrity seeding and more and more consumer businesses are latching on to its efficacy as a fairly economical vehicle to shift stock, create demand and increase brand awareness. The power of good exposure, mixed with the potency of a strong ambassador is PR alchemy - all designed to lure consumers into emulating lifestyle. Celebrities photographed with whichever props they are gifted, and spotted on twitter, Instagram and in the pages of magazines - gets the high street tills ringing.  Mirroring the aspirational lifestyles of the rich and famous, or even the amateur bake off stars of Britain's favourite food programme, is a marketing strategy which works for a range of consumables from the latest handbag to baby buggies.

But brand advocacy is a phenomenon which doesn't only work when using celebrities. All brands should consider how to grow their advocacy and it applies to any product or service. In fact personal recommendation is one of the most powerful forms of PR  - and is demonstrated perfectly by the current craze for photographing food in restaurants and cafes across the world.  Some restaurants are so smart to the power of this kind of advocacy that they are providing special social media tables within their restaurants, which have the right lighting and best conditions for posting photographs. The real skill is making an emotional connection with your audience and importantly making an emotional connection with the right audience to ensure longevity of interest and harness real loyalty.

Investing in communications campaigns with strong storytelling, engaging content and convincing advocacy is a winning formula which doesn't only apply to Delia Smith or The Great British Bake Off.  Which company doesn't want to increase their bottom line after all? 

This blog was written by Cartwright's food and drink PR expert Rachel Cullis-Dorsett - visit her LinkedIn page