Tag Archives: brand ambassadors

Open dialogue, open happiness

Many companies are reluctant to embrace existing user-generated content for fear that the messages disseminated won’t reflect their brand personality appropriately, or may imply negatives things about their product and/or service. Brand giant Coca-Cola encountered this problem in 2006 when a pair of consumers introduced the infamous Mentos and Diet Coke video.

Comments ranged from “this just makes me want to go to a store and make a mega mentos+coke bomb” to “no wonder there wasting it ITS DIET COKE EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.” As a result, Coke’s reaction to the video was less than favorable. They worried that the ingredients of Diet Coke, specifically aspartame, would come under question as consumers wondered what type of ingredient could fuel this reaction. Coke went on to create a YouTube-like cite called the Coke Show to draw traffic away from the video and ultimately create a more controlled conversation. However, the user-challenge based site failed to garner many submissions, and instead created backlash among consumer groups who saw the motive behind Coke’s new site (Morrissey).

Based on consumers’ reaction, Coke decided to take a different policy moving forward, “The biggest takeaway [from the Diet Coke-Mentos video] was consumers own our brands,” said Carol Kruse, VP of global interactive marketing at Coke. “We had absolutely nothing to do with it, but we were the beneficiaries. [We] needed to embrace that.” (Morrissey)

Coke went on to delve into a consumer controlled Facebook page, online contests and blog with the hope of engaging consumers on a more organic level and creating increased loyalty. Their strategy is simple: put fans first. Coke continues to prove their loyalty to this philosophy by doing things many other brands shy away from.  For example, their Facebook page not only is controlled by two super-fans in conjunction with Coke VP’s, but also displays user created content in their main Facebook Wall feed by default (even critical comments), allows fans to upload their own content their various social media sites and incorporates employee photos, Coke products from around the world and pictures of old Coke nostalgia (Baron).

The result is over 14 million engaged fans on Facebook alone, and a new image for Coke. A big brand went grassroots and empowered millions of brand ambassadors to speak in their name.  This has continued to increase Coke’s brand equity around the globe, as well as further distance the brand from competitors.

Baron, Lisa. 2009. What Coke Knows About Social Media That You Don’t. Outspoken Media. Retrieved from http://outspokenmedia.com/social-media/what-coke-knows-about-social-media-that-you-dont/.

Morrissey, Brian. 2008. Coca-Cola Hunts for Social-Net Formula. ADWEEK. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/our-products/in-print/digital/e3iac100babad132e4d5267adba9a8f04c7).

Southwest’s Battle Cry defeats competitors, wins loyalty

I’ve realized a critical error in going over my last few posts – I’ve broken my own rules.  I’ve been talking about how to create effective, engaging messages without being engaging at all.  This week, to better illustrate how successful messages come to be, I’m going to tell some simple, concrete stories about brands that have engaging consumers in unexpected, emotional ways.

My first example is Southwest Airlines, a company that has managed to stay profitable for the last 30 years among competitors that are consistently in the red (Heath).  Southwest has managed to do so by adopting a simple idea throughout their organization.  They are THE low-fare airline that makes it fun to fly again.  This simple idea addresses two of consumers’ biggest grips with air travel: the cost and the hassle.

So how did Southwest convince its external customers to believe this internal message?  First, they listened.  Christi Day and Paula Berg, head of the communications team, use Twitter, the blog Nuts About Southwest and other social media monitoring tools to gauge customers opinions and preferences before developing messages and corporate policies.  When examining their assigned seating policy, Southwest asked customers, via their company blog, how they would prefer seating to be structured.  They found out that customers didn’t mind first come, first serve seating.  Not only did this save the company valuable time and resources, it reinforced their commitment to customers. (Radian 6)

By listening to what customers want out of an airline, Southwest is able to create concrete benefits that are easily communicated.  In their ‘Bags Fly Free’ campaign they were able to tap into customers opinions on checking luggage in a surprising, personable way.

They carry this attitude through to their social media platforms, where they respond to customers praise, concerns and grips. Their famous ‘Rapping Flight Attendant’ video was actually filmed by a passenger, and later picked up by the communications team and distributed to news outlets where it received media coverage. (Radian 6)

Since then, Southwest Airlines has become well-known for their fun flight crews. They’ve learned how to make the monotonous experience of flying unexpected and fun, and have successfully created a memorable, emotional experience for passengers.

YouTube reaction to rapping flight attendant.

Southwest doesn’t just go the extra mile to entertain customers – their whole customer service philosophy is based on going above and beyond.  They monitor social media and customer feedback for complaints and work to address them transparently and quickly.  In the following Twitter stream, customers’ express their gratitude for Southwest’s level of service in providing a positive experience and addressing problems.

Southwest is a great demonstration of how to create compelling messages based on a simple, concrete idea.  They made flying fun and stress-free for their customers and gave them unique experiences they could easily share with their social networks.  As a result, the brand has been able to create loyal brand ambassadors that not only refuse to fly with competitors, but also pass on strong recommendations to their friends, family and colleagues.

Heath, Chip & Heath Dan. (2008). Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Rev. ed.). New York: Random House, Inc.

Radian6. Southwest Airlines Social Media Cast Study. Retrieved from http://tiny.cc/2ijkb.