How to Convert Customers into Brand Ambassadors
In my book, Desire by Design, I cover in great length the power of fans in driving desire for brands. What I have learned over the many years of helping brands remain relevant is the fact that for any brand, whether it’s toothpaste or a new high-end car, having brand ambassadors promoting your product is critical in driving growth and profitability. Our studies have shown that millennials rely heavily on peer reviews and recommendations by family and friends. In most cases, the research is conducted prior to the purchase through online and social media tools, and influencers— some of whom have achieved rock star status and have a huge impact on consumer brand perception.
The importance of having customers brag about your brand has been heightened as conventional advertising becomes less effective. Gaining a loyal following of customers willing to share their stories is critical in ensuring the brand and its message is being heard, believed and acted upon. The challenge for marketers lies in converting customers to brand ambassadors who will share their personal experiences about the given brand with their network of friends and online community. We have identified three strategies marketers need to consider as they build their brand awareness programs through peer-driven reviews and mentions:
Strategy One: Go Beyond the Expected
If customers are going to brag about a brand, they need to be wowed. Today’s customers have high expectations of what a brand should be, and how it needs to behave. As such, conformity or simply meeting expectations are not enough to inspire customers to rave about any given brand. Marketers need to exceed the customer’s expectations by ultimately delivering on an unmet emotional need. Dove Soap is a commodity product in a very price-sensitive market with consumers struggling to differentiate one bar of soap over another, making the product an unlikely suspect for viral brand awareness. But somehow this became a reality when Dove tapped into the deep emotional needs of women to build their self confidence and self-acceptance in a world that idealizes a very specific and unattainable standard of beauty. Their campaign for “Real Beauty” moved their brand from a commodity to a symbol for overcoming this shallow view of the definition of beauty.
Strategy Two: Move From a Product to an Experience
Is your brand Snapchat and selfie worthy? Millennials cherish experiences over buying a product, and studies have shown sharing these experiences is critical in how they values brands. Tesla has redefined the auto dealership by making the purchase experience unique, immersive and personalized. Apple is another brand understanding the value of an experience by designing inspiring stores that are much more than a place to purchase technology. Each store is an architectural landmark in the community where many people visit the store just to have a unique experience. Most recently, Starbucks has reinvented their store offering by launching Starbucks Roasters serving as both a museum, experiential centre and coffee come department store, all celebrating the making of coffee. The question for any brand that wants to migrate from routine to bragging rights is, how are you wowing your customers beyond selling them a product?
Strategy Three: Create Compelling Brand Stories
Part of the appeal of bragging is the chance to share unique stories not yet discovered within a customer’s social network. For many years Kraft Dinner stood for cheap commodity food, until marketers realized the product was part of a ritual experience for teenagers leaving home to pursue their college and university education. This ritual experience with the many social stories built into the journey became fodder for students telling their unique life stories. Kraft Dinner was no longer viewed as a simple commodity product but as a right of passage for young adults leaving home.
Many brands are taking a cue from museums, turning their retail environments into storytelling platforms. Outdoor brands such as Canada Goose, Nike, North Face have all linked the sale of their products with emotionally charged stories about the emotional value the products deliver.
If you want customers to brag about your brand, you need to give them a reason to do so. Same old, same old won’t cut it in today’s socially empowered and cluttered consumer marketplace. To earn the right to be a brand with a following of influencers, marketers will need to identify an unmet need and deliver it through a compelling experience and brand story. Only then will the bragging begin.