Published: 25th Nov 2019

Pass it on: brands worth recommending

What can we learn from YouGov's advocacy rankings?

Dave Jones - Senior Strategist

Last week YouGov announced their Advocacy Rankings for 2019.

Topped by digital bank Monzo, this is the list of companies whose customers are most likely to recommend them to a friend or colleague.

Yougov Rankings (1)
Advocacy Rankings for 2019

The rankings are worth paying attention to. Word-of-mouth recommendations can be some of the most effective and affordable ways of acquiring new customers.

So much so, that ‘turning customers into advocates’ is something of a holy grail for marketers.

Unfortunately, the phrase has subsequently become a bit of a cliche amongst agencies and the marketing press.

But YouGov’s rankings provides an opportunity to cut-through that noise and look at the evidence to learn from the brands who are really making it happen.

So, here are four lessons marketers can learn from those getting brand advocacy right.

Go digital first

The most striking thing about the list is that it’s dominated by brands that primarily live online.

MoneySavingExpert, TransferWise, Monzo, Bulb and OnePlus are all digital-first brands, with no bricks-and-mortar presence and - OnePlus aside - no physical products.

You might have assumed that a personal connection is key to driving word-of-mouth recommendations, that engaging with customers face-to-face is the surest way to build the kind of trust that drives referrals.

YouGov’s rankings suggest otherwise.

Digital, when done well, provides the platform for a direct, frictionless experience that customers want to tell their friends about. 

Make it worth their while

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the most-recommended brands offer their customers incentives for referring their services.

Monzo offer new customers and referrers a £5 cash bonus, Bulb offer £50 of free energy and over 400,000 of OnePlus’ customers have used its referral scheme to receive discounts off their mobile products.

As well as the cash incentive, being introduced to a brand via a personal referral can give customers a feeling of exclusivity, of feeling part of a club.

On launch, Monzo was ‘invitation only’ which, along with the conspicuous coral card, gave its users a kind of social status that made the brand appealing.

Similarly, Secret Escapes - with it’s whispered TV ads - is a brand built around exclusivity, of being ‘in the know’ in order to get great deals on holidays.

Being famous for being exclusive is a tough balancing act, but the rankings suggest that it pays off when you get it right. 

Focus on customer experience

Sure, a small reward might give a customer a nudge to refer a friend, but only if they’re happy with the service they receive.

The successful brands on YouGov’s list combine referral incentives with an outstanding user experience brought to life through digital platforms.

Monzo and Bulb both understand their audience inside-out and it shows in the way they’ve developed their best-in-class apps.

Intuitive customer-centric features that make it easy to complete everyday tasks - say, submitting a meter reading, putting money into a savings pot or tracking bills and payments -  make managing money and energy incredibly simple.

This simplicity and ease conveys more about their respective brands than above-the-line advertising campaigns ever could and indeed, both have spent less on traditional advertising than many of their less-recommended competitors.

According to YouGov’s report, it seems that well-considered, user-centric digital design is a big driver of recommendation and brand advocacy.

Challenge the norm

None of the brands at the very top of the list are market leaders and most are doing things a bit differently.

TransferWise are taking on Western Union by not charging a margin on money transfers, Monzo are shaking up the personal banking industry with a mobile-first approach, Shark are taking on Dyson with cheaper vacuum cleaners and OnePlus are going up against behemoths like Samsung and Apple.

If brand recommendations are like horse racing tips, then these are all outsiders. 

And this tells us something interesting about the psychology of recommendations - no-one backs the favourite.
And why would you? Because it’s not about the brand, it’s about the person doing the recommending. It’s a signal that you have special knowledge that you can use to your advantage and are willing to share. 
So marketers who want to drive word-of-mouth should consider how to position themselves as outsiders. How are you shaking up the category and how does that benefit customers? 
What’s the piece of special knowledge that will trigger someone to recommend a friend? 
Identify that and communicate it loud and clear and those valuable word-of-mouth recommendations can follow.


If you would like more of your customers to recommend you, get in touch with Tim and see how we can help with design an approach that works for you.