Great brands don’t chase customers, they invite a loyal following. Creating brand ambassadors isn’t just a niche marketing function–it’s an effective way to drive business growth. And it starts with creating your brand voice and the message it communicates.
There are many factors at play in creating raving fans and brand ambassadorswho will market your product or service without you asking them. Here are four of these critical factors:
1. An extraordinary product
There are at least 45 brands of athletic shoes sold in the United States, but only a few are well-known to the mass market. What is it that Nike does to differentiate itself from the 44 other athletic shoe brands?
Adidas was the dominant player when Nike entered the US market. Adidas, however, was neither as nimble nor as connected to its customers. The founding team of Nike was on the ground, listening to its core audience―runners. Nike asked for feedback on the running experience and discovered something that the existing shoes on the market did not provide.
Most running shoes at the time had flat soles, making it a challenge for athletes to maintain grip and traction. Inspired by a waffle maker, the Nike team transformed the bottom of its sole, giving athletes an edge in running performance. Waffle-soles are something we take for granted today, but it was tremendously innovative and put the brand on the map when Nike first came out with the idea in 1974.
2. Human-centric customer service
Product innovations are not the only factor in brand differentiation. Many successful brands have functional, but relatively average products or services. What is above average, however, is the culture that these brands inspire. Southwest Airlines is a prime example.
The company puts “employees first, customers second and shareholders third.” Southwest’s counterintuitive model for applying its focus works.
They’ve created a culture that is inclusive and fun, where employees have freedom and take pride in their work. Their core values motivate employees to do their best, which trickles down to happy customers and translates into business success. In the words of Southwest Airlines spokesperson Brad Hawkins, “We hire rock stars, ask them to be themselves, and then support them in everything they do to take care of our customers.”
Some companies tackle customer service head-on and focus on that as a marketing strategy. Take Zappos, for example: They invest their money in understanding what clients are struggling with instead of spending it on ad campaigns to force the brand on customers.
Zappos tracks customer behavior in an effort to create an emotional connection and then delivers a service that exceeds expectations. This creates brand ambassadors through the ultimate customer experience of convenience and personalized service. The result? People rave about Zappos to everyone they know.
3. Memorable experiences
Every experience that a brand provides affects how it is perceived and received. I discovered this personally with Club Med. During a video shoot about their unique company culture, they converted me into a customer myself!
I got to know the employees personally and formed an emotional connection with the brand. I shared the experience afterward with people I know. That is the power of word of mouth. It turns happy customers into brand ambassadors.
Storytelling helps people understand how brands fit into their worldview. I recently listened to a 13-hour audiobook called Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. David’s story begins as an abused child. His audiobook tells a tale of transformation from an overweight man with a dead-end job into a distinguished Navy SEAL. I was struck by the strength of his character, his diligence and his inspiring mission of being great.
The storytelling approach moved me so much that I have told at least 30 people about the audiobook. They’ve listened to it and shared it with others. We’ve become David’s brand ambassadors. Powerful storytelling creates an emotional state that is contagious and viral. It is the essence of good marketing.
These examples share a common element that goes beyond the concept of brand ambassadors. Aspiring to greatness inspires others. The impact is far-reaching. Mediocrity is a comfort zone and default-mode for many companies. They measure success only by sales, then wonder why everyone is talking about the competition.
It’s simple: Innovative companies don’t just sell to us. They foster inspiration within us. Once that happens, we can’t wait to share their story.