Duel, the UK’s leading brand advocacy platform that helps brands nurture relationships with their advocates to fuel retention and growth, has secured a £1.8 million funding round led by Downing Ventures, Publicis Groupe, London Co-Investment Fund and University of Bristol Enterprise Fund.

Duel’s SaaS technology helps brands drive word-of-mouth sales, engage and retain customers, and build loyal brand communities. It serves to break a company’s reliance on digital advertising and other short-term marketing practices to deliver long term growth.

Paul Archer, founder and CEO of Duel, explains: “There has been a major generational shift in consumer behaviour that has stemmed from a trust crisis – trust in institutions, in brands, and in advertising is at an all-time low.

“That’s why we are seeing an emergence of new purpose-led brands not reliant on advertising for growth, but on communities of people – people who believe in their cause, who trust them and who want to join their movement. Brands from Lululemon and Glossier to Tough Mudder and Patagonia have all grown using brand advocacy strategies that use their biggest advocates – be it customers, ambassadors, industry professionals, staff or store associates – to spread their story via word of mouth.”

Pulling on proven growth techniques from viral gaming and consumer psychology, the Duel technology was developed following discussions with hundreds of the world’s best brands to understand brand advocacy and turn word-of-mouth marketing into a science.

Archer continues: “Driving growth through brand advocacy is the dream for brand builders in today’s hyper-connected social world, but the majority don’t know how to execute this new model of brand advocacy marketing. That’s why Duel exists – to provide companies with both the playbook and the technology to do so.”

The Duel platform lets brands build VIP and membership-rewards schemes called Advocacy Programs that use tiers and perks to reward customer communities for supporting and recommending them.  The technology powers an interactive portal on a brand’s website that drives over 100 advocacy behaviours, including content creation, social posting, product feedback, purchases and successful referrals.

The investment will be used to develop Duel’s suite of brand advocacy tools, advance its patented curation AI and rapidly hire more community and brand experts to support the growing number of brand builders pioneering the Brand Advocacy category.

Mike Kennedy, director at Downing Ventures, says: “Brand Advocacy is the future of marketing. Ultimately brands that can build advocate communities and create true brand ambassadors will succeed in the long term, while companies that only invest in the short term will not.

“Duel, through its Advocacy Programs, enables brands to execute and scale word-of-mouth marketing. The number of top tier brands who rely on Paul and his team of advocacy experts to guide them through this tectonic shift in marketing is quite staggering. Watch this space.”

Duel works with companies including Monica Vinader, Frugi and King of Shaves. It has also featured in the Gartner ‘Cool Vendor’ Retail Marketing category.