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Ambassador Program Turns Customers Into Salespeople

Few companies realize the value of their most passionate customers. They occasionally acknowledge them with frequent buyer programs or other discounts, but it’s rare for a company to really empower their customers to share their passion for the company and its products or services with others.

Most companies rely on salespeople to position the benefits of their products or services to potential customers. Good salespeople do this in a way that excites customers about the possibilities and potential of using what they’re selling, but their ‘passion’ for the product is motivated by the paycheck they get for selling it, not by the product itself.

However, if you give your passionate customers the tools they need to share their passion for your product or service with others, and reward them for doing so, you can create an army of great ‘salespeople’ who will do more for your company than any high paid salesperson ever could.

That’s the beauty of a well executed ambassador program. With a small investment in materials, it becomes a formalized, simplified, and easy to maintain word of mouth marketing campaign that the company itself can participate in.

Bose Curtosey Card

The Bose Courtesy Card set the standard for a well executed ambassador program. Customers who were using (and loving) their Quiet Comfort headphones while flying would get asked about them by other passengers, and instead of disrupting the quiet zone that the headphones created, the customer could simply hand the person a Courtesy Card and let them check out Bose on their own time.

It was simple and easy for the customer to do (not to mention unique and ‘cool’) and it also gave Bose control over the message that potential customers received.

Fishing

If you think of sales as fishing for customers, then Bose provided the bait, and just asked that current customers set the hook. After the initial interaction, potential customers would come to Bose, and all Bose had to do was reel them in.

iPod Silhouette

The hype that Apple generated with their white headphones is well known, and an Ambassador Program is like a whole army of white headphone wearers, but ones who have been given the tools necessary to help convert that initial interest and opportunity into additional sales.

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen many companies follow in the footsteps of Bose, which is why I was intrigued by Foursquare’s announcement of their Ambassador Program.

Foursquare Ambassador Card

Foursquare users love the deals they get from participating venues, but venues can’t provide deals if they don’t know about the service, so Foursquare created the Ambassador Program to help users spread the word. As long as you’re a “creative and excited evangelist”, Foursquare will send you a pack of Foursquare Ambassador Cards that are custom-printed with your name on them for you to hand out to the businesses that you frequent. Assuming that the businesses use the cards to sign up, Foursquare says that “the businesses get details about their foot traffic and loyal customers, and you and your fellow foursquare users will see more Specials at your favorite places.”

With the Ambassador Cards, Foursquare rewards users by crediting them with the creation of the location, and users get additional rewards when their favorite locations sign up and start offering deals and discounts. It’s a win-win, and Foursquare is simply enabling and encouraging their most passionate users do the selling for them.

One of the main reasons businesses get involved in social media is that they want to support the word of mouth marketing that customers are doing online. With a well planned ambassador program, you can get those same benefits offline as well with a small investment in materials and a way to thank those customers who are out there doing your work for you.

Foursquare Ambassador Program

Carl’s Jr. Uses YouTube Stars For Online Video Success

Carl's Jr. Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger

One of my advertising rules of thumb is this: Content that works well online is not the same as content that works well on television.

To see why, let’s look at Carl’s Jr.’s latest ad campaign for their Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger.

First, their television commercial:

Next, one of the videos created for their online campaign:

See the difference?

While their heavily produced, perfectly scripted, hero-shot filled 30-second commercial managed to acquire more than a quarter million views in under a week, less than 200 people rated the video during that time, and less than 500 commented on it, indicating that a very low percentage of those quarter million viewers were actually engaged by the video. (Plus, their previous videos have around a thousand views or less, so I’m guessing most of the Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger’s quarter million views were bought and paid for though an ad buy.) By contrast, the second video, created by one of YouTube’s top users named NigaHiga, acquired more than a million views in under a week, nearly 20,000 ratings, and more than 16,000 commentst, indicating a HUGE amount of engagement.

So what did Carl’s Jr. do right?

  1. Create original content – Instead of trying to push existing assets online with banner ads and video buys, a smart company will reach out to prominent users and elicit their help with creating original content that will appeal to that user’s existing fanbase. The resulting videos might not have the highest production quality, or may stray from the strict brand guidelines from time to time, but they will be done in a style that the online community has come to expect, and will be an open and honest interpretation of the product by the creator, rather than the company speaking through a hired personality.
  2. Involve the viewer – If online content is good, viewers will often want to emulate the campaign with creative of their own, so smart companies will encourage that response and find ways of compensating users that go above and beyond to engage with the brand by creating videos of their own. In this case, each sponsored video ended with a call out by the star to the viewers to encourage them to make their own ‘How do you eat yours?’ video. As a result, while most pure UGC campaigns require a huge prize or some other promise of fame and fortune to get a response, this campaign is fueled by viewers’ desire to relate to the personality behind the video, and the compensation is the fact that the star might actually see the video response. A UGC video response campaign also doesn’t have to cost a lot when using YouTube, since the site’s built-in video response feature and viral sharing tools mean the backend is already in place for a campaign with little to no effort required from the sponsor company.
  3. Use the toolsYouTube provides built-in tools for creating and spreading a message, and smart companies will make sure any online video campaign uses them to the fullest. For one, each video should be embeddable. It sounds obvious, but there is still the occasional video that gets put online by a company that can’t be embedded into other sites, and it’s just a waste of potential free media. Second, smart companies will establish a way for viewers to integrate their own content quickly and easily into the overall campaign. Whether it’s posting video responses to campaign videos or tagging their own videos with a specific keyword, giving users the ability to contribute will do a lot to increase the viral spread of a campaign idea. Lastly, tools like the ‘Favorites’ area of a brand’s channel and Flash video viewers allow a company to separate videos into unique campaigns and make it easy to do a lot with a little.
  4. Start from the top – If the budget is big enough, there’s a lot of value in going after the biggest online stars you can find and afford. In this case, Carl’s Jr. got a few of the top 10 most subscribed to YouTube stars to create a video, and the results speak for themselves: After less than a week, each video had an average of 250,000 views, with some receiving more than a million. It might be tempting to save a few bucks by going after the up and coming stars, but there’s a reason certain content producers have so many subscribers, and that’s usually because they consistently make quality videos that others want to watch.
  5. Give creative freedomToo often, companies get online stars involved in their campaigns and then limit what they can say and do, or try too hard to keep them on brand. The main problem with this is that viewers can usually tell when a message is heavily controlled, and views, pass-along and overall engagement will decrease dramatically as a result. Second, the popular YouTube users are popular for a reason, and they will know what their fans want and what works best, so why try to reinvent the wheel? By giving the content creators more creative control, the videos will be more original and more unique, the views will be higher, and the costs associated with trying to control the message will be much, much lower.

As far as online video campaigns go, the Carl’s Jr. Portobello Mushroom Six Dollar Burger campaign was a complete success. They got a number of top users to create content, that content has generated a high amount of engagement, and viewer response has been very positive overall. Sure, it’s not the flashiest campaign, and it’s definitely not the most expensive, but when the results can speak for themselves, who can doubt the power of a well-run online video campaign?

The Good:

  • Uses existing cewebrities to tap into existing communities and create content that is specifically targeted to the online audience.
  • Engages the viewer and encourages participation.
  • Uses existing YouTube tools to their fullest, which extends the campaign while keeping costs down.
  • Offers an online only coupon to try out the product, giving viewers an exclusive offer and connecting the campaign to actual sales.

The Bad:

  • Some of the videos are a bit on the quirky side, and may catch unaware viewers and those that aren’t used to web content by surprise.

The Future:

  • Brands use existing online personalities to give their campaigns life and guarantee initial success.

YouTube – Carl’s Jr.

Vodafone and Cubeecraft Make Holiday Clones To Help Spread Cheer

Holiday Santa

The holiday season often brings out the worst in advertising, as companies know that they need to make a holiday push to get themselves into the public eye, but they don’t take the time to do it right because they figure that everyone is already in the buying mood, so there’s no need to put effort into motivating sales.

However, standout (and unique) ads will always prevail, so I’m going to highlight some of the best from this holiday season, and look at why they succeeded when others failed.

Vodafone Christmas Clones

The first campaign to catch my eye was Vodafone Christmas Clones. For this campaign, Vodafone teamed up with Cubeecraft, which is the leading designer of papercraft toys, and made a set of holiday characters that users could customize right on the Vodafone site using built-in tools. If you’re not familiar with Papercraft, it’s the art of printing, cutting and folding a single sheet of paper to turn it into a custom toy, and through interlocking tabs and clever construction, the toys don’t need any tape, glue or other messy adhesives to stay together, so you can make them easily and then take them apart and rearrange the pieces to form new characters or creations.

Vodafone Christmas Clones Selector

For the Christmas Clones project, Cubeecraft designed a set of ten papercraft characters that were all themed around various parts of the holiday season. There’s Santa, a Snowman, an Elf, Mrs. Clause, and an Angel for traditionalists, a Beach Babe for those that like to escape the winter weather, a Turkey and a Cook for those that enjoy time spent in front of the stove during the holidays, and a Cricket Player for those that are die hard Australians. Each is selected via a rotating page that changes its background to match the theme of the character, and the overall experience is very fluid and easy to use.

Vodafone Christmas Clones Custom Face

Once you’ve made your selection, the real fun begins as you can upload a photo of you or a friend to customize the face of your character. The upload process is also very easy to use, and then you’re presented with a few simple tools to move, rotate and stretch the picture to match the position of the face. The site provides a live preview of the end result as you change each setting so that you can keep an eye on what it’s going to look like, and each tool works as expected without a lot of extra explanation needed. Finally, when you’re finished adding the photo to your character, it ‘clones’ you, and then you can either print out your character to make it yourself, or send it to a friend as a holiday card so that they can print out and make their own little clone of you.

It might seem like a loose connection to the product, since papercraft toys and cell phone service are pretty far removed, but Vodafone’s current slogan is that you can share the love and be everywhere you want to be this Christmas with Vodafone, so a little cloned version of you that your loved ones can print out and keep close by is about as close to being everywhere you want to be as possible without the aid of time travel.

Social Buttons

Lastly, Vodafone did all the right things that they needed to do to help this campaign go viral by offering a $5,000 prize to one lucky clone maker, getting Cubeecraft to market and promote the campaign to their own users on their own site and adding in social media and social bookmarking buttons that are a focus of the page and are easy to access and use. The buttons aren’t perfect, because there’s no way to tell what each one does without clicking it unless you’re very familiar with each site’s logo, but it’s not a terrible mistake either, and could have been remedied with a simple rollover title or other such hint. Though you can’t force a campaign to go viral, you can take a good campaign like this one and help it along the way, which is exactly what Vodafone has done with their Christmas Clones.

The Good:

  • Unique, little-known but fun and easy craft art grabs attention and provides value to the user.
  • Partnering with Cubeecraft allows Vodafone to leverage that name and its existing community while focusing on the marketing and allowing Cubeecraft to focus on creating a quality product that many will enjoy.
  • Easy, simple navigation provides a low barrier to entry.
  • Social Media, Social Bookmarking and Send to a Friend features further extend the virality of the campaign.
  • Campaign was a natural extension of an existing slogan.

The Bad:

  • Christmas focus eliminates non-Christian users, even though some of the characters were religion-neutral, and the site could have been easily converted to be more general holiday themed.
  • Lack of a campaign specific URL on the TV ad misses out on additional, easy to capture opportunity for extension.

The Future:

  • Customizable but still desirable knickknacks allow companies to cheaply and easily provide added value to users and increase virality while high value partnerships bring over an existing audience and keep creative costs low.

Vodafone – Christmas Clones

Photo Via: kevindooley