I know a guy who was so passionate about Apple that the company paid him basically to be a fan while he was in school at Ole Miss.
On many of the larger campuses in the country, Apple finds influential students who are knowledgeable and excited about Apple products. They hire the students to facilitate conversations about Apple, answer others students’ questions about products and use the products publicly.
He was doing all of those things before he ever held the official title of campus rep.
When my friend got a new computer, tablet or phone, he couldn’t help but tweet pictures of the unboxing and let his friends know how intuitive the software felt.
He would tell people how Apple products increased his productivity or integrated into his schoolwork and then asked them how Apple products have changed their day-to-day life. These were conversations happening in class, The Grove, coffee shops and bars around town.
By marketing to particular people and then giving those people a platform from which they can share their experiences, Apple has developed a cadre of brand evangelists — some paid and others entirely volunteer. Those brand evangelists have in turn made Apple the fastest growing and most enviable lifestyle brand in the country.
What is a brand evangelist?
A vast majority of consumers who have an incredible experience (whether good or bad) will tell someone else about the experience. A 2013 Dimensional Research survey showed 95 percent of participants said they have shared a bad experience, and 87 percent said they have shared a good experience.
In fact, those with bad experiences were 50 percent more likely to share it on social media or online review sites like Yelp.
The crux of harnessing word-of-mouth advertising is this — understanding that consumers want to share their experiences and identifying consumers who greatly appreciate your brand.
Acknowledging these super-consumers makes them feel special and can often convert a consumer into a marketer — a brand evangelist.
Whether it’s a service provider that awards a discount to loyal customers who pay their bill on time or a national brand that credits and shares the content of its super-consumers on social media, consumers appreciate being recognized.
How much more valuable is the word of a trustworthy human than purchased ad space?
I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Word-of-mouth isn’t the best form of advertising. Word-of-mouth is advertising. The best brands understand this and hand-deliver their customers the right words to say.
Was my friend a little obnoxious to the people who heard him repeating Apple jargon every day? Maybe a little, but to those who only interacted with him around town and campus, he was a guy who fully believed he had a product that changed the way he lived. And this was long before Apple ever paid him a dime to represent the brand. His only motivations were brand loyalty and love for the product.
If you can create a product or service that will truly save your customers time or money, or change their life for the better (even in a small way), your customers will be more than happy to become your marketing team.
How do you create brand evangelists?
Getting your consumer to market for you is simple. Create experiences that make people want to share them, from a beautifully arranged floor set that’s a filter away from an Instagram post to a customer service policy that facilitates positive personal interaction in your business.
Make it easy for your consumers to fall in love with your brand, and then make it easier for them to share that love with the world.
Give them a reason to talk about you, and then give them the words to say.