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Be The Brand Customers Love

Several years ago, a friend relayed the story of her experience with BMW—one that springs to mind when I think about brand passion.

After test-driving several makes, she and her husband settled on a Z3 roadster and ordered the exact model, color and features on their wish list. When they arrived a few weeks later to pick up the car, they didn’t see it on the lot.

Instead, the silver convertible was sitting under spotlights inside the showroom, facing the entrance, perfectly polished and ready to go. Their salesperson met them at the door, and two others stopped what they were doing and came over to congratulate the new owners.

When the final paperwork revealed a slight discrepancy, the salesman apologized for the error and offered merchandise from the logo shop to make amends. Golf shirts and hats in hand, my friends drove away feeling like royalty. And they’ve been singing BMW’s praises ever since.

Here’s the kicker: Most of the little touches that added up to an exceptional brand experience cost BMW nothing more than time and effort.

And neither do these passion-building ideas for your business:

Engage your employees.

If your employees are excited about your company and its products or services—your brand—the customers they interact with will be, too. One of the best ways to generate enthusiasm among employees is to simply include them: listen to their ideas, share information about the company’s goals and results, thank them personally for doing great work.

This really hit home as we conducted a brand assessment recently for a well-known industry distributor. Every employee we interviewed had such positive feelings about working for this company. And the president does amazing things to show his appreciation, like occasionally handing out a crisp 50 to each employee out in the yard with a simple, “Have a great weekend.”

Profile the customers who already love you.

Identify customers who are evangelizing your brand (social media platforms are a great place to look), and find out what, specifically, they love about it. You could survey them, monitor their comments online, or even invite them to a quarterly lunch or “power summit” to find out exactly how you can serve them better.

When Felt profiles key customer segments for our clients, we take it a step further by naming and putting a “face” on them. (i.e.: “Jeff,” a product specialist/buyer for a 50-year-old door and window company. Responsible for purchasing $15 million in product annually. Bonused at year-end for smart buying and company-wide sales. Typically married, with kids. Enjoys golf. And so on.)

This kind of profiling allows companies to visualize and better understand different customer types—and the gestures they’ll appreciate most.

Heed their advice.

Ask your evangelists what’s working, what’s not, what could make their lives easier. Then share your findings with employees throughout your company, and challenge them to look for ways to do more of the good stuff. Big stuff, like the Genius Bar in every Apple store, or the Gold rewards card for Starbucks customers. And little stuff, like parking the car in the showroom.

Then reward them with exclusives.

Give your evangelists free samples, and encourage them to voice their opinion in blogs and user forums. Or invite your evangelists in to demo new products, and serve lunch. People love to eat, and they’ll love getting first crack at trying the newest thing. They’ll feel important, involved and empowered to speak on your brand’s behalf.


Apply what you learn from existing evangelists—to your marketing practices, your order and fulfillment operations, your customer service processes—and you’ll create even more passion around your brand. And more evangelists to spread it.

Here’s to creating a sensation! Let’s get started.

Allison DeFord, Trailblazer

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