Daily Archives: April 17, 2013

Who’s Really the Face of Your Brand?

This week’s #cmgrclass readings highlighted the importance of establishing a brand ambassador program. What are brand ambassadors do you ask? They are an extension of your brand, advocating on your behalf to promote products and services. They are the force behind generating word-of-mouth marketing and are skilled at creating buzz around your brand. Brand ambassadors are important because without dedicated members of your audience, your brand’s message would not be heard.

Finding Brand Ambassadors

Start with researching who embodies the qualities that your brand exemplifies. Your ambassadors should identify with the demeanor, ethics, and values as outlined in your company’s constitution. As Mark Collier mentions in is post, 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, you’re essentially transferring ownership of the program from the brand, to its ambassadors. The goal is to have your most passionate members take over the program while executing the vision and strategy set forth by the originator.

Building Fierce Loyalty
Another class reading by Britt Michaelian called How to Build Fierce Loyalty for Your Brand Community states that loyal brand enthusiast comes from a genuine connection. As community managers, we recognize the importance of not just connecting but building communities. A tight knit group of individuals with common goals and interests. Community managers should provide opportunities for its audience to connect digitally and personally. The Internet should not be the sole form of communication. Events hosted in public spaces are strongly encouraged. This allows community managers to bond with members and members to bond with other members. This establishes loyalty. Also, remember you cannot expect folks to take an interest in you if you don’t invest time in getting to know who they are. Let your supporters know you care by reading the article they posted to Twitter (retweet it), visit their blogs and share their content, an document on their Facebook posts so they’re aware that they’re on your radar.

The stronger your bonds are with your advocates, the more effective establishing a brand ambassador program will be. No business survives without the unselfish and undying support of outsiders who willingly commit their time to what they feel is worthwhile. Think about the brands you love. Do you consider yourself an advocate for these brands? Even if you cannot personally identify as being a brand ambassador, are you familiar with other brand ambassador programs implemented by corporate brands? We’d love to read your commentary!

Brand Ambassadors as Champions

This week, #CMGRclass learned about brand ambassador programs.  In 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, Mack Collier outlines key considerations when establishing a brand ambassador program.  I’ve paraphrased them here, grouping them into the themes of program planning, administration, and sustainability.

  • Planning: up-front planning is key to a successful brand ambassador program.  Identify brand ambassadors using both online and offline communications (#2).  More does not equal better: a small number of passionate advocates is more powerful than a small number of fans (#3).  Internal communication within the brand is as important as external communication to brand advocates (#1).
  • Administration: brand ambassadors are motivated by access.  “Make membership exclusive” (#4).  Reward your advocates with exclusive perks (#6).  Provide your ambassadors with access to high-level executives (#7).
  • Sustainability: Facilitate connections with and between brand advocates (#5).  “Create a feedback loop between the brand abmassadors and the brand” (#8).  Empower ambassadors to identify other potential brand advocates (#9).  Transfer ownership of the program from the brand to its ambassadors (#10).

Brand Ambassador Wordle

Royal Champions

One of the central themes of #CMGRclass has been “the who.”  Just as considerable time should be devoted to identifying the audience of an online community, time must be invested in determining who a brand’s ambassadors should be.

Previously, I wrote about how Royal Caribbean cruise line could more effectively engage its customers online.  Despite recent headlines (Carnival Triumph, anyone?), the cruise industry is growing and extremely competitive.  While many repeat cruisers hop between different lines, others are extremely loyal, sticking to one cruise line or even a particular ship.  Surely Royal Caribbean would benefit from developing and nurturing a brand ambassador program, right?

It turns out that Royal Caribbean has already done exactly that.  In 2007, Royal Caribbean partnered with Nielsen Buzz Metrics to identify 50 frequent supporters in online communities.  These individuals, dubbed Royal Champions, received exclusive benefits, including access to company executives and free cruises on pre-inaugural sailings.  Here’s where subsequent reports and analysis seem to vary, though.  Some sites applauded the move, applauding Royal Caribbean’s move to understand online sentiment and potentially influence online conversation.  Others called foul, saying Royal Caribbean crossed the line by granting incentives in exchange for positive reviews.

This is sticky.  As Tamar Weinberg writes in her positive post, When is Brand Evangelism a Crime? Exploring the Royal Caribbean Promotional Marketing Strategy, Royal Caribbean (most accurately, its consultant) did the work to monitor online channels, listening to supporters and detractors alike, identifying its most “ardent supporters.”  However, as Anita Dunham-Potter explains in Paid cheerleaders: Does Royal Caribbean’s viral campaign cross the line?, there was significant backlash among online community members not tapped for the elite Royal Champions group, claiming the posts were planted by the cruise line.

Improving Royal Champions

Not knowing whether or not Royal Champions still exists (the most recent search results are dated 2009), Royal Caribbean could evolve the program based on the principles of loyalty and transparency.

  • loyalty roomLoyalty.  As Collier writes in 10 Things to Remember, one key to a brand ambassador program is exclusivity.  Potential brand ambassadors should be identified not solely based on frequency of online posts, but completion of Royal Caribbean cruises.  RCI’s Crown & Anchor program, comprised of repeat cruisers, would be an ideal starting point for identifying potential brand advocates.  These cruisers have demonstrated loyalty to the brand with an important factor: their wallets.
  • TransparencyTransparency.  The extension of benefits to ambassadors should not be predicated on positive endorsement.  Royal Caribbean should want to hear positive and negative feedback from the perspective of their most loyal customers.  As Collier writes, “make special note of the customers that go the extra mile … even if they sound negative.”  To combat potential backlash from consumer sites, brand advocates should openly identify themselves as such in online posts to anticipate accusations of “pay-for-play.”

What do you think about Royal Caribbean’s Royal Champions program?  Was it ahead of its time, as Weinberg suggests?  Or, was the program too opaque, as Dunham-Potter argues?

(“Loyalty” image by Flickr user untitledprojects; “Transparency” image by Flickr user jaygoldman.  Featured image and Wordle by author.)