Saturday, October 1, 2016

Brand Experiences, Brand Ambassadors and Brand Advocates, Oh My!

The subset of marketing known as branding, brand-building, brand engagement, brand experiences, and brand equity is my passion, so when I run into someone who shares this passion, I like to talk shop. Years ago, I had the pleasure to meet Elaine Fogel as a result of our social media activity, and over the years, I've enjoyed her blog and insights on Twitter. Recently, I invited Elaine to participate as a featured guest in a TweetChat for a nonprofit organization for communications and PR pros for whom I serve as a Board Member, and her Tweets provided much value to the chat. In case you don't know Elaine, a brief bio appears at the end of this post, which contains highlights from our recent discussion about branding.

How do you define a brand experience?
ELAINE FOGEL: A brand experience is any interaction one has with a brand. Brand experiences include a range of touchpoints including transactions (sales), website visits, inbound inquiries, communications, product or service usage, customer service, and more.

What makes a successful brand experience, and please provide three examples of your favorite brand experiences.
ELAINE FOGEL: A successful brand experience is when one’s interaction with a brand is easy, friendly, customer-oriented, and produces a positive result for the individual. As I wrote in my book, “Your brand is more than its logo, look, and colors. It emanates from the mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors of anyone and everyone involved in it. And, since success depends on its brand reputation, it’s critical that you do everything possible to ensure that your customers’ experiences are amazing.” No matter what we call it, anytime we interact with a brand, it is an experience.

Here are my faves:
I am an Amazon brand loyalist. Every time I purchase products, the experience is consistently positive. Once when I ordered a marble bathroom accessory set (tumbler and toothbrush holder), the tumbler arrived in pieces. I contacted the seller company and advised it of the situation. I assumed that I would have to return the set with the broken pieces to prove the damage. I was surprised when the customer service rep apologized and told me that it wasn’t necessary. She would credit my credit card for the full amount, and I could keep the toothbrush holder. Now, that experience went beyond my expectations.

Jet Blue Airlines is another example of a successful brand. I will always remember the flight attendants’ style on a flight several years ago. They were jovial and welcoming, making wisecracks and jokes in their announcements. Every seat was comfortable (and leather) and seat backs had individual TVs on which we could watch FREE movies or TV. No nickel and diming here. (That was before it became a common feature.) The flight departure was delayed quite a bit from its original time, and as compensation for our patience, the airline awarded passengers a few thousand miles to our frequent flyer accounts. This proactive approach delighted everyone and made the delay a distant memory.

This last brand experience was shared with me when I was conducting a customer service presentation for internal staff. Once you read it, you’ll know why I never forgot it. A man and woman checked into a luxury hotel. As with many luxury properties, the service was impeccable. After they checked out, the housekeeper noticed the woman’s nightgown hanging behind the bathroom door. So, one of the staff members called the male guest’s phone number to ask how the hotel could return the nightgown. When the woman answered, he explained that she had forgotten her nightgown in the room and he wanted to make arrangements to return it to her. Turns out the woman who answered the phone was NOT the woman her husband was with at the hotel! So, was it a successful brand experience when the intention was to offer 5-star service? What do you think?

How would you define the difference between a brand ambassador and a brand advocate?
ELAINE FOGEL: Brand ambassadors may or may not be compensated to serve as spokespeople for a brand. For example, in the corporate world, brand ambassadors can be experts related to the brand’s products or services. They may have access to "insider" information and be part of an external product team.

Paid celebrity spokespeople are another type of ambassador such as when a professional athlete does a TV spot for a local car dealership. An example of unpaid brand ambassadorship is when a charity’s board members and volunteers toot its horn and help it fulfill its mission.

Brand advocates are the people who absolutely love the brand and engage with it, talk about it, and share their passion.

With all the buzz surrounding social ROI, what metrics are important to you in the social space, and why?
ELAINE FOGEL: This is an interesting question because several studies I’ve read indicate that determining social ROI has been very difficult. In enterprises, there are teams devoted to social media in which they use top analytical tools to evaluate their tactics. For those of us without big budgets, there are many free and cheap tools available.

As a Hootsuite user (and affiliate), I have access to all my social media accounts in one dashboard. It’s much easier to engage with my connections and post links to my blog posts simultaneously. I have access to reports on my Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ engagement, clicks by region, direct referrers, and which are my popular links.

I also measure how many people follow my calls to action through social media. This is even more important to me as it’s how I capture email subscribers and sell my book.

What do you think will be the central focus of our social media marketing discussions a year from now?
ELAINE FOGEL: I think the discussion will still focus on the ROI for the time and effort we devote to social media marketing. Even though I participate in it wholeheartedly, I admit that I have been somewhat skeptical all along. Is it producing results equivalent or close to what we put in? Could we be better off spending some of that time and money on more traditional channels? Multi-channel marketing based on a sound marketing plan can be much more effective than relying on one channel like social media marketing.

Much gratitude to Elaine for appearing here on my blog and applause for sharing my passion for branding!

Here's Elaine's Bio:
Elaine is a professional speaker, marketer, brand and customer experience evangelist, educator, and consultant. She has been a contributing writer to The Business Journal, and contributes to MarketingProfs, SmallBizClub (founded by NFL Hall of Famer and author, Fran Tarkenton), Business2Community, and People in 100+ countries have read her blog, Totally Uncorked on Marketing (, and her articles have appeared in many print and digital publications. She is also the author of the award-winning book, Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most For Small Business Success ( I highly recommend that you follow Elaine on Twitter at @Elaine_Fogel (

Image Credit: Stuart Miles via

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