I recently did some research on what we all now know as “Brand Evangelism.” I looked into two very interesting initiative launched by reputable companies who appear to be on cutting edge of this craze. The first being Starwood Hotels and Resorts which launched its “Starwood Lurker” on popular travel website Flyertalk.com. So what is the Starwood Lurker you ask, “Every workday, the Lurker trolls the Internet. He dips into frequent-traveler electronic bulletin boards to check the postings about his employer, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. He ferrets out comments on any of the big hotel chains that operate under Starwood’s corporate umbrella — Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis or W….He dispatches an e-mail to the sender or posts his own message on the electronic bulletin board.”
Chat room prowlers such as the Starwood Lurker have become common on the Internet. Hotel and airline representatives are increasingly showing up on travel bulletin boards to answer questions or clear up misunderstandings.
This program is an amazing success story for Starwood, in fact they just enjoyed a Freddie Award for Industry Impact. The real question is why did it succeed?Starwood customers are well known brand evangelists, but how did they get to be this way? By offering a superior product? Perhaps. By showing that they care? Well yes. By listening to their customers? of course. All these things come into play when creating brand evangelists, but the truth is that Starwood has gone above and beyond what they need to do for their customers and their customers love them for it.
You can’t just create brand evangelism, damn it! You have to earn it. People will love you for going the extra mile, not asking them to love you.
The following was the case with Cadillac: A great company/brand with few brand loyal/passionate users. So what did they do? They created “My Cadillac Story” a website dedicated to Cadillac enthusiasts. It seeks out celebrity owners of Cadillac’s to tell their stories of how they came to owning one. It develops a unique persona in that it shows celebrities from all walks of life and explains why Cadillac is the right car for them. Additionally, it invites people to post their own videos about their Cadillac Story on a dedicated YouTube site, write emails, post pictures or even record audio. Check it all out at mycadillacstory.com. Sounds like a great idea right!? Well not entirely, the site has been up for several months now and I can’t even count one YouTube video that has been uploaded by someone other than Cadillac. In my mind, the purpose of this site was to generate a buzz around Cadillac, a creation of passionate Cadillac users. My feeling is Cadillac is asking too much.
Starwood didn’t ask their customers to “do” anything. There customers did it on their own. You can’t ask your customers to evangelise for your brand, they will do it for you if you give them something great to talk about.
Starwood is giving their customers a forum to vent their frustrations and is in turn rewarding them with explanations and help for their next visits. Cadillac didn’t do anything for their customers but show them a bunch of celebrities who claim loyalty to brand despite owning 5 others automobiles. My Cadillac Story seemed like shameless self promotion, a far cry from giving customers something useful nevermind something to talk about.
So what can Cadillac do? Well my advice is to create a great service, a customer service, that really makes people think “Man, Cadillac really cares about me” and only then will Cadillac Brand Evangelism be created on its own.