Daily Archives: April 7, 2014

The First Rule of Ambassador Programs

Tyler Pointing Loop Film

Image via hgbleackley.com

Ever since I deconstructed Fight Club scene-by-scene in an undergraduate film class, it has pulled me back to illustrate various messages over time.

My unyielding love of Fight Club aside, there is a meaningful connection to brand ambassador programs in its storyline.

For those who have seen the film, you might be cringing a bit. How can I use one of the most iconic anti-consumerist artifacts from American pop culture as a blueprint to promote brands? The reason is not to be ironic. I just love Fight Club.

For those who have not seen it, IMDb sums up the plot of Fight Club nicely by stating, “An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more.”

Anyone who is considering creating a brand ambassador program might like these three take-aways from this 1999 classic:

Image by IMBd.com

Image by IMBd.com

1.       By emphasizing exclusivity, you create zealots. And, that’s a good thing for a brand ambassador program. The film’s most quoteworthy scene outlines the rules. “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” By emphasizing how exclusive this group is, the founding 15 or so members who were sworn to silence could not help but share how cool it was.The MackCollier.com article 10 Things to Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program recommends you make membership exclusive.

In order to have an ambassador program, you need to recruit a select group of participants. With that role, their words carry weight when talking to others.

2.       Plug your ambassadors smack-dab into your brand (the seventh tip in the article I mentioned). By the time that Fight Club members had passed their initiation, they were completely integrated into the community and ready to roll. Note: your brand might want to go about this onboarding process in a less intense manner that they did in the film.

3.       Your brand ambassador program can fuel future initiatives. The film’s climax shows a well-organized effort called Project Mayhem, which sought to deflate the consumer values the community was against. This initiative was possible because members broke the first two rules not to talk about the club. The brand community that was Fight Club had grown so large and so focused on its mission that it became more like a cult. Craziness aside, it is clear that their goals to grow as a community ultimately provided enough dedicated members to execute Project Mayhem.

How would you choose your brand ambassadors? What would you do if you were armed with a community of ambassadors to back your effort?

Building Loyalty- 4 Brands That are Doing it Right


Building loyalty should be a priority to create a passionate branded community. In my opinion, it is one of the most important things to keep in mind when developing a strategy. People who are loyal to your brand become advocates and help you to promote the brand and broaden your audience. Having a small community of engaged core fans of the brand will be more valuable than having high visibility and an apathetic audience. When people are truly passionate about the company, the services, or the experience of the brand, it creates a community and is attractive to observers. This is where the role of a Community Managers comes in.

According to Work Smart Lifestyle’s post on strong social brands, to create this loyal following, you must connect with your audience and engage with them. It starts with a good product or service. You have to have a good product or compelling mission first in order for people to buy into your company. If they feel like your company values or brand vision aligns with theirs, they are more likely to champion your brand. This core idea ties into the concept of Lovemarks, where brands transcend the boundaries of a typical service and create a more meaningful connection to the people that follow them. This can be achieved by creating a brand experience and persona, and embodying it through social media outlets, blogs, internal services, and any other consumer touch points. A great brand will exceed expectations and provide value to their community.

Here are a few brands that have a very loyal fanbase:


Whole Foods

Whole Foods

Whole Foods, Whole Story

The core values of this grocery market is to provide its shoppers with high quality, organic food. The small grocery community crossed with national chain balances reliability with fresh food and a close community feel. They have established a strong brand identity, to the point where Whole Foods is associated with concrete attributes and characteristics. There is even a certain stigma of the people that shop at Whole Foods, though this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Whole Foods perpetuates the local, friendly community through their blog. They appeal to that niche target market and write posts on healthy, organic recipes. The website highlights issues such as sustainability, equal trade, and local community. In addition, the Co-CEO’s have blogs that support the vision, and sustain Whole Food’s image of a close community. Whole Foods uses blogging as a way to channel the mission of the organization and to support the community of Whole Food shoppers.



@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

@ChipolteTweets reaches out to a tweeter with a complaint and makes a successful brand interaction

Chipotle taps into the trend of conscious fast food. They promote their use of natural ingredients and casual dining to create a brand identity. I know people who are obsessed-going to Chipotle is more like an event rather than a meal. Chipotle embodies the down-to-earth brand persona through their interactions on their twitter handle, @ChipolteTweets. They are one of the best companies for responding on twitter, in my opinion. They make everyone feel like their opinions are important to Chipotle, and builds strong relationships. This strategy engages the consumers the and creates loyalty with the fanbase.



YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTubers on mainstage at VidCon Convention

YouTube, the video platform, has progressed from the website people used to watch cat videos to a platform that supports rising YouTube personalities. YouTube is dependant on user content and user viewership, but they have become very smart in the way that they encourage loyalty and engagement. They now support content creators, certifying channels that have a large following and high quality content and even supporting them financially. These high-profile vloggers are then given credibility, which supports YouTube’s brand popularity. There is a sort of mutual benefit to the people YouTube chooses to support, and those people become YouTube’s Brand Ambassadors.

There is a definite hierarchy within the YouTube community, based on viewership and connections. The YouTube celebrities encourage viewers to create their own content to achieve YouTube fame, and to keep watching their favorite personalities on YouTube. The loyalty in the YouTube community is most apparent during conventions like Playlist Live and Vidcon, where masses converge from all over to meet their favorite YouTube stars.



Starbucks Reward Program App

Starbucks Reward Program App

photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)

Like Whole foods, there is a stigma of frequent Starbuck consumers. People are crazy in love Starbucks, and this can be half attributed to the products, half to the community created through the love of Starbucks. They do amazingly well on branding and fostering loyalty with consumers.

An example of this is the Starbucks Reward Program, specifically through the app. The app notifies you when you are near your favourite Starbucks locations, and brings up your virtual card which you can scan to pay through the app. When you pay through the app, you are awarded a star, which accumulate to achieve different levels with increased rewards. This app rewards loyalists and enables an easy way for people to become loyal to Starbucks.


The New Blog / A Case Study

Blogger Joy Cho putting the finishing touches on her Target collection, via @ohjoy on Instagram

Blogger Joy Cho putting the finishing touches on her Target collection, via @ohjoy on Instagram

Blogger outreach is an important part of community management activities for any brand. There’s nothing more credible than an outside source, especially when that source is a place where thousands of people go solely because they want to.

Recently, I’ve noticed the emergence of Instagram into a pseudo-blog. I follow almost 400 accounts on Instagram, a large portion of which are lifestyle, fashion and event-planning bloggers. Most of them have blogs that tie into their Instagram accounts, but I would venture to guess that, like me, not all their followers read their blog. Their Instagram account becomes a second place where they can showcase their content to followers who maybe just want a few seconds of content in their timeline every day.

Brands need to pay attention to these types of people because while they might not as be as highly-engaged with one blog, they are minimally-engaged with many blogs. This requires a different strategy than, say, just partnering with one blogger. That being said, the same tried-and-true guidelines about bloggers still apply here: you need the right bloggers, the right content, and the right time. Research is key.

via @OhJoy on Instagram

via @OhJoy on Instagram

One of the most interesting blogger outreach efforts I’ve seen recently was a collaboration between blogger/designer Joy Cho (a Syracuse alumna!) and Target. Joy designed an exclusive party collection (Oh Joy for Target), full of bright colors and happy details. Joy is already an accomplished blogger, but instead of relying on her reader base, they expanded to other lifestyle bloggers in a big way. They hosted a brunch in celebration of Oh Joy, and invited several event and lifestyle bloggers to participate.

The brunch was gorgeous in all the right ways, and as you can imagine, totally Instagram-able. The next morning, my feed was filled with images from the brunch, and I didn’t even know that all my favorite Instagram accounts knew each other. Talk about six degrees of separation! Beyond Instagram pictures, there were also several blog posts, all in addition to Joy’s blog posts and Target’s blog posts. And, as a bonus, the brunch was a highly visual event, and Target has been able to re-purpose much of that content on platforms like Pinterest.

via 100 Layer Cake

Bloggers Instagramming, via 100 Layer Cake

This strategy created a ton of different relationships. It created a strong relationship between Oh Joy and Target, who will be creating three other lines for Target this year. This cements the relationship with Oh Joy’s readers and Target. It also creates a relationship between all the bloggers invited to the brunch and Target, who will be much more likely to cover Target launches in the future. Finally, it creates a relationship between all the bloggers’ Instagram followers, who then got a quick taste of the collection in an organic way.

Key takeaways from Target’s Oh Joy strategy:

  • Invest your time: Target’s investment was evident in this blogger outreach, which meant a lot more than simply spamming bloggers with a press release

  • Cast a wide net: Your audience isn’t just paying attention to one thing. They’re paying attention to many things. Make sure you’re hitting many (but with purpose!)

  • The new blog: Blogging isn’t limited to WordPress accounts anymore. Right now, Instagram can act as a blog. Pay attention to the next big thing!

What do you think about Target’s creative Oh Joy blogger outreach?