A few years ago, I was doing an interview for a new book about experiential marketing and I was asked about the importance of brand ambassadors. My response was that while they were certainly very important when you were doing marketing events, the truth is that there shouldn't be a select group of brand ambassadors. Every employee that you hire should be a brand ambassador. I've written about the importance of retail in the past:
Retail Grows in Importance: Retail spaces will become even more important as a connection point between the consumer and the brand. And the people you hire to run your retail is becoming even more important today. Do you hire to save money or to find the best people possible to represent your brand? The consumer will know the difference.
So think about that the next time you're getting ready to hire someone. Would they be a great brand ambassador or are they simply a warm body that you can get on the cheap. Yea, I know money's tight, but give your employees something other then money to motivate them. Give them a passionate place to work. Give them the tools they need and let them make decisions. And don't be pissed off when you're employees don't care about the company when you cut their salaries/benefits while announcing that upper management made tens of millions in bonuses for saving the company money. If you're not going to treat them like they're important, they won't act like the company is important. I'll remind you again of something I wrote back in 2003 for Event Marketer magazine. These rules are even more important today then when I wrote more then 8 years ago. So read them and learn them. Your survival depends on knowing them!
- Make it compelling. Is there a narrative story that the audience understands? Is there a narrative at all? What is the story that you tell to your customers every day? Could you define it? More importantly, can your audience? Make the product experience as good as the marketing experience. Ursula LeGuin describes a story this way -- What makes a story is - you want to 'find out what happens next' - this bit of the story leads you to the next one. When people interact with your brand, are they really interested in finding out more?
- Deliver on your message and don’t use slogans to deliver an empty promise. Do you say that you’re committed to total customer satisfaction and then create rules of engagement that are of benefit to you and not your customers? Do you train your customer service staff to only say yes to a request after the customer has asked a certain number of times? Are you prepared to live your slogan in everything you do, and not just the easy things?
- Make it a movement. Jim Ward, vp-marketing at Lucas Films, said many years ago that the next generation of brand marketing is creating a movement. Would people camp out in front of anything for up to three weeks for your product? Many companies have created movements — just listen to any Mac user talk about PCs. Is your brand a movement or simply a product? Are people passionate about your brand, your products, and your services? Do they sincerely want to share their stories of your brand with other people? Are you telling the same story with all of your employees? Are they telling the same story to your customers?
- Be authentic. If you need more answers, talk to consumers. Be who you are and leverage what your company stands for. I recently had the opportunity to work on a product for a Fortune 100 company, helping to position them to a specific target audience. They wanted to talk about speed, but as anyone who has worked with large companies knows, speed is not one of their authentic story lines. They had many other authentic stories to tell, but it took a while for them to understand that and work with a different language. Note that stories must be organic and can’t be rushed.
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Image by: Laurent Fintoni