There was a time when marketers focused on customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Then, we moved up the relationship chain to brand advocacy, in which loyalty was only the starting point and advocacy- saying good things about the brand – was the key. Today, with the growth in social media and peer-to-peer sharing, the mantra is brand evangelism: not just saying good things about the brand, but actively talking it up and frequently recommending it. Surely, this is the ideal position for a brand to be in: the promotional role taken over by informed, engaged and enthusiastic customers. But, how do we get there?
Consumers are increasingly sophisticated and desensitized.
In today’s competitive marketing environment, it no longer wows a customer when a company keeps its promises, does the right thing, or goes the extra mile. We’ve largely moved beyond the days of disappointing product and brand engagements. True, there are occasional surprises and disappointments. But, most brands by and large are delivering on expectations, or at least aware that they must. Today, there are very few fundamentally bad products. We expect companies treat us well. We expect satisfaction. We aren’t amazed and delighted over customized product and service offerings. We expect access to information, fast response times and generous return policies. We’re sophisticated and experienced enough to know marketers can reach us in very targeted ways, with very ingenious messaging; but, smart enough to know how to access real time, word of mouth, experiential perspective.
Sellers and buyers are looking at the same dashboard and know exactly which dials and switches to manipulate to achieve an outcome. Which makes real brand differentiation a challenge and brand evangelism crucial.
Consumers today want and expect a different relationship with the companies they interact with. Sometimes that means being left alone; more often it means some involvement in shaping the purchase and ownership experience. Sometimes it’s between the customer and the company; more often it is interaction between current, former and prospective other customers. Sometimes it’s about getting even; more often it’s about getting better.
How can you create evangelists from customers?
First, it’s important to know that evangelists don’t see themselves as your ‘customers;’ they view themselves as being part of the team – at the head of a movement, acting as unpaid salespeople for the brand. They’re willing to accept the occasional slip up and working on your behalf far beyond simple word of mouth.
Marketing cannot create brand evangelists – they create themselves
Marketers can facilitate evangelism, reward customers and encourage community and champion evangelism inside the company. But, marketing can’t serve as a substitute for product and service excellence, which is the foundation upon which evangelism is built. It all starts with great products and a great operation. Evangelists create themselves.
You can’t package it
Brand evangelism must be the result of genuine loyalty and excitement. Consider brands like Apple and Toyota Prius and the communities that have grown around them. How about the Grateful Dead? Talk about a community of evangelists. The Grateful Dead could mobilize thousands and thousands of brand champions who created their own communities, shared knowledge, celebrated their common interests, embraced related products, protected the reputation of the band and worked hard to convert others to their cause. It was always about something much larger and richer than just the music or the band itself.
Looking for help becoming an evangelical brand? We’re happy to share some additional insights, if you drop us a note.