Advocacy or Badvocacy?

Customer advocacy is all about the customer experience, it’s the voice of the customer, it’s their enthusiasm and passion for your brand — bottled and concentrated, served up often in generous portions.

A brand advocate is a customer that goes from being a regular customer to a fan, a supporter, a spokesperson for your brand.

The polar opposite therefore of advocates are brand saboteurs (or ‘Badvocates’, as coined by colleagues at leading PR firm, Weber Shandwick). These are the people who could either be ex-customers, thus dissatisfied, having had a bad experience, or people who have not necessarily engaged, and just dislike your brand, for their own reasons.

Nevertheless, these individuals harbour poor opinions of specific organisations, brands, services and products, serving as critics and detractors ‘on behalf’ of these companies and their offerings.

92% of buyers state they are more likely to purchase a product or service after reading a trusted review (

The thing about badvocates is that they generally don’t engage up-close-and-personal, speaking to the brand directly, seeking solutions to their concern. Instead, they rather share their distaste for your brand with their friends, colleagues, the neighbourhood, communities and family members both in private and in public forums, including in chat rooms, on rating sites, and on blogs.

Dependent on their depth of distaste for the brand, this insidious negativity can be among a close group of friends or, if the badvocate is really motivated to be your brand’s undoing, they may even go to far greater lengths such as setting up intricate contra web sites that encourage and air every type of disgruntled commentary about poor experiences — perceived or real.

This intended brand alienation accounts for about 20% of customer advocacy, dependent on the product, service, supplier, and level of discontent.

While WOM is the best for your brand, it can also work against you if you are not delivering on your promise…

While this could be viewed judgementally and dismissed as somewhat neurotic behaviour, a fair portion of this conduct is birthed by customers feeling ‘unheard’ by the brand, believing that their concerns are considered irrelevant by the brand.

This is where service agents need to be adequately and competently trained in the ability to address a customer’s concerns on the initial engagement, with the first phone call, or email; to be proactive and not reactive, underqualified, or incompetent. Brand reputations are at stake and the importance of this cannot be emphasised strongly enough!

This is the key factor in delivering a superior, distinguished, unique service experience that takes the wind out of the sails of any potential badvocate while reducing customer churn.

Remember, word of mouth (WOM) is the best advertising a brand can get — but it can also be a double-edged sword if what is being shared is negative.



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