If powerful brands are built from positive experiences (which they are), then the role of brand ambassadors is one of the most important components of a good brand strategy.
A brand ambassador can mean different things in different organizations. In some companies, a brand ambassador is a special employee who rallies the team, builds morale, and keeps the distinctions of the brand present for everyone. This can be a very useful structure, but I like to think of a brand ambassador as anyone who can positively represent the brand to employees and, most importantly, the end customer. In fact, when you look inside some of the most powerful brands, you quickly see that the culture of those organizations nurtures the belief that everyone is a brand ambassador, and it shows.
Most leaders would generally agree with this idea, yet in many organizations some of the potentially most effective and powerful brand ambassadors are somewhat overlooked, or not given the attention and care they deserve, considering their unique ability to positively share the brand. In many cases, these ambassadors might be hiding in plain sight. Here are a few examples to consider.
Many products and services are represented and sold by groups who have little or no direct connection or affinity with the company and brand they are selling. Here are a few examples. Employees at a big-box electronics store who work in the computer department selling products that might contain an Intel processer inside. How well can they represent the “goodness” of the Intel brand and product at the exact point when the customer is making a purchase decision? Can they create a meaningful experience for that customer that Intel would be proud of?
Or what about sales associates at a major department store who are asked by customers to recommend one product or brand over another. How well will they know the differences and be able to share the correct story about the company and the brand? Or will they simply shrug and say, “they’re all about the same.”
The Primary Relationship
In some organizations, the people that own the primary relationship with the consumer are often the most disconnected from the brand. One example is in healthcare. With the rapid trend towards consolidating healthcare into large networks and systems, much of the internal energy to communicate the distinctions of the brand is often focused on employees in the hospitals. In healthcare, hospitals are often internally seen as the focal point of the organization, as they usually generate the most revenue.
Yet, when you look from the perspective of brand experiences, patients are likely to have about 20 interactions with their primary physician for every one experience in a hospital. The physician owns the primary relationship with the consumer but can often be somewhat overlooked when it comes to brand engagement. The reality is that the physician has the potential to be the most powerful ambassador for the brand, but it’s not uncommon for those same physicians to feel relatively disconnected from the brand they represent.
The Front Line
Both of the groups above also fall into this category. My reason for including it is simply to encourage you to ponder if your true front line is getting the nurturing they need to most effectively represent your brand with they kind of experiences you want. This seems so obvious, yet we have all been disappointed by front line interactions with various brands we interact with regularly. If organizations are not careful, brand engagement can dissipate the closer to the front line you get. This is exactly the opposite of what any organization would desire.
Just remember, your front-line employee is most likely not attending the highly engaging annual leadership conference, they are usually not sitting in multiple meetings a week where the goals of the company and its commitments to customers are being discussed. They show up at work having received some level of on-boarding and training. They have a few interactions with a manger that can often be about tactics and smooth operation rather than the commitments of the brand. If your stomach tightens a bit as you read this, perhaps there is more opportunity with these incredibly important members of your team.
Take a moment and simply think from your customer backwards. Who are they talking with the most about your brand and product? How well do those representatives know your brand, the experience you want to deliver, and the value the customer will receive from what you are offering?
Some of your most powerful brand ambassadors might be right under your nose and ready to step out of the shadows.