Are your employees effective brand ambassadors?

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 14 April 2015

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I am often asked at speaking engagements, conferences and workshops about brand ambassadors. Sometimes brand ambassadors are also called “brand champions” or ”brand evangelists”. What are they? How do you create brand ambassador programs? Are brand ambassadors internal employees or external customers? Does it happen naturally or is it managed and staged? I thought I’d take the time in this blog post to reflect and give you my definition of brand ambassadors.

My definition for brand ambassadors are a group of people who are organized and incentivized to promote brand promises, values and behavior internally and externally so that customers have more affinity for the brand and promote a better customer experience and image of the brand. It’s that simple.

I do think it is important to make the distinction between employee and customer brand ambassadors.

Internal employee brand ambassadors are people who are organized by management to be advocates of the company and its brand, and promote the brand promise to their colleagues and friends and relatives outside the company. These brand ambassadors can be organized and given specific roles and responsibilities through training, special recognition and incentives. Or it could be a group of employees who take it upon themselves to be brand promoters because of their passion and affinity to the company and its brand. In either case, organized or not, the company has a responsibility to educate, motivate and inspire their employees with knowledge and tools so that they can become brand ambassadors. This can be done through on boarding, brand orientations, social media platforms and brand portals.

We have found that gamification platforms are terrific vehicles to reward individuals for becoming brand advocates/ambassadors for the company. This is achieved by creating implicit and explicit motivators and by disseminating information about the brand and utilizing such things as friendly competition and leader boards. Whereby brand ambassadors could challenge colleagues and test their knowledge of the brand values and traits. Specifically, Inward created a brand advocacy portal called “World of Good” for McDonald’s to promote its brand ambition strategy of “good food”, “good people”, “good neighbors” and “myth busting”. Employees would register in the online portal to learn about relevant and interesting facts. At the end of completing all of the tutorials under each of the four elements of the brand ambition, participants would be directed to a “good game” where they could test their gained knowledge through a Jeopardy style game and receive achievement points for each question they answer correctly. All this time the employee would be accumulating points for learning about the brand and answering questions in the game that they could redeem for valuable prizes. In addition, there was a leaderboard that would track employee standings locally, regionally and globally and provide each employee some degree of bragging rights. “World of Good” created excitement, engagement and buzz throughout the company and employees waited for quarterly updates with great anticipation.

It takes a movement, an army of brand advocates internally who are passionate about the brand and the customer experience. This is a role that should be embraced inside and outside of work. Brand ambassadors should be highly respected, trained and recognized for their efforts and all that they do to promote the brand to their peers, friends and family, and customers alike.

This is how you get started.

  • Articulate a clear engagement/content strategy that excites and motivates your employees
  • Provide recognition, social networks and incentives internally so that your employees and customers can share their stories and create up-to-date content on a regular basis
  • Make it fun and enjoyable which creates frequency and engagement
  • Consider gamification platforms and leader boards which we know promote learning 10 times more effectively than traditional computer-based learning platforms
  • Recognize and reward your brand ambassadors by giving them the spotlight and making them rock stars
  • Show your appreciation and gratitude for promoting your brand internally and with customers - give them premiums, special access and knowledge and monetary incentives if possible

Having brand ambassadors are really important to the success of the company. When employees support your brand it creates marketplace momentum and a competitive advantage that is priceless and hard to catch. It can take on a life of its own.