By Stacy Lambert - April 9th, 2015
With a little creativity, brands who sell more mundane products can benefit just as much from their own advocacy programs.
When you think of brands that inspire customer advocacy, the first that jump into mind are often cutting-edge tech companies like Apple or Tesla. Companies that pride themselves on creating appealing products and crafting experiences that win fans by their sheer quality alone. It’s surprising to learn that, with a little creativity, brands who sell more mundane products can benefit just as much from their own advocacy programs. (For more insight into building customer advocacy, check out the upcoming Incite Summit: West, May 18th and 19th in downtown San Francisco.) Fiskars Brands, Inc sells scissors and other craft-related tools. Before 2006, they noticed sales were sinking due to a growing number of options for cheaper craft products. At the time, craft and hobbies was a $30 billion industry (Craft and Hobby Association). With no dominant leaders in the crafting marketplace, customers’ loyalty to any particular brand was nearly non-existent. Selling at a higher price point than their competitors, Fiskars had to think of a way to increase market share by gaining brand loyalty. Fiskars hired a group of brand identity consultants from Brains on Fire. The consultants helped implement the one-of-a-kind Fiskateers Program. According to Digital Strategist B.L. Ochman at What’s Next? Blog, here are the steps they put into place to launch and sustain the program
Determined the Goal of the Program:
In hopes of increasing market share, the consultants set out to recruit a select group of brand ambassadors to help unite the company with the crafters and increase online mentions of the brand’s name.
Discovered Who and Where:
They found fans by joining online chatroom conversations and learned about their culture by interviewing over 100 crafting enthusiasts. Along the way, the consultants discovered that the demographics of crafters slanted towards a younger-than-expected audience.
Identified and Recruited the Top Influencers Within the Community:
The advisers conducted in-depth interviews amongst the top Fiskars influencers. They selected four enthusiastic brand ambassadors from different regions of the U.S. The ambassadors, known as the “Fiskateers,” were compensated for 15 hours of work each week.
Trained Brand Ambassadors:
The new Fiskateers received thorough transparency and community development lessons over the course of three days.
Empowered Brand Ambassadors to Recruit Members:
The four original Fiskateers recruited members into the Fiskars community. The ambassadors facilitated online chats amongst fans and Fiskars corporate employees.
Lead in Offline Events:
Fiskateers were empowered to head community scrapbooking events at trade shows and local stores. Their main focus was to create an emotional connection between the company and the community of crafters and establish relationships with store employees.
Results of the Brand Ambassador Program
To say this program was successful would be a mammoth understatement. The program surpassed all expectations. Not only did they establish a powerful brand-to-consumer connection, they were able to gather information about product deficiencies and make design changes before going into mass production. Within two years of the start of the program, the Fiskars website received over 1.5 million visits per month from visitors based out of more than 50 countries. According to Brains on Fire, Fiskateers trained over 1,000 volunteer Fiskars craft demonstrators. Many of the demonstrators went on to teach crafting techniques at their local stores, and were even compensated by store owners. The stores the Fiskateers visited more than doubled their sales, outstripping their competitors. Within the first 5 months of the program, Fiskars’ online mentions increased by 600%.
The Big Takeaway
Executing and maintaining a sustainable brand ambassador program is a brilliant marketing strategy. The key to implementation is preparation. Just like the consultants at Brains on Fire, you need to envision your end goal and invest some time into gaining a solid understanding about the culture of your customers. Customers are sharp; they can detect a pushy, sales-centric marketer from a mile away. This is why testimonials from brand ambassadors are far more genuine and impactful than anything a salesperson can produce. For this reason, creating a program like this one is more than worth the time and energy. For more insight into building customer advocacy, check out the upcoming Incite Summit: West, May 18th and 19th in downtown San Francisco.
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