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Four Lessons for Fostering Employee Brand Ambassadors

by Elaine Fogel  |  
July 29, 2008

An appalling customer service experience recently prompted me to think about basic business protocols. Ever since the beginning of humanity, business transactions have taken place with the equivalent of a handshake and an individual's word of honor.

Even today, with litigation fears and obsession for legal contracts, it is often our verbal agreements and discussions that precede any signed deals. And, yes, even in the 21st century, many business arrangements are decided at kitchen tables, coffee shops, restaurants, clubs, golf courses, and office bathrooms.

After all, as human beings, we have a need to relate to one another.

My definition of a brand is simple. It's a promise waiting to be fulfilled. Of course, there's more to it, but if we examine its raw essence, it's something derived from a transaction or experience with an individual, company, group, product, or service.

Many times, a brand experience is intangible and subconscious. People can feel good about a company or product without truly knowing why. Their experiences were positive in some way and often repeated and consistent, with the end result being some degree of brand loyalty.

Yet, confusion about branding still permeates executive offices in the business, public, and third sectors. No, Virginia, a logo alone is not a brand.

Marketers have spent gazillions on branding efforts. Some succeed, others fail. What is often missing in these campaigns is a major focus on the men and women who must carry the brand around every day: The frontline people who answer phones, the sales reps who follow marketing leads, the caretakers cleaning up as you walk by, and the technical support staff. Every word that is uttered from these brand ambassadors to each other and to their external audiences is part of their organization's brand. Yet, how many of them are aware of that?

What you say is equivalent to an ad

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Elaine Fogel is president and CMO of Solutions Marketing & Consulting LLC, and a marketing and branding thought leader, speaker, writer, and MarketingProfs contributor. She is the author of the Beyond Your Logo: 7 Brand Ideas That Matter Most for Small Business Success.

LinkedIn: Elaine Fogel

Twitter: @Elaine_Fogel

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  • by Helen Thomas Tue Jul 29, 2008 via web

    Great article, and one that I'm passing on to my leadership team. Too many employees assume that marketing is the business of the Marketing Department, and no one else's. All the great advertisements in the world can't overcome bad customer service, and in fact, can damage the brand more if the promise in the ad doesn't match what's delivered on the ground.

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jul 29, 2008 via web

    Thanks, Helen. I'm glad this will come in handy.

  • by John Ely Tue Jul 29, 2008 via web

    Fantastic message! I work for customer service training firm, and so many times my clients (especially execs) have no idea how their customers are being treated on the front lines and in turn, how the brand promise is being delivered (or not). Sometimes it's the people...most times it's the processes that they are handcuffed to. Funny how it took a social media threat to snap the president into action!

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jul 29, 2008 via web

    John, considering what business you're in, this is quite ironic! :)

  • by Amir Moradi Wed Jul 30, 2008 via web

    So true what Helen said above that marketing involves everyone in the organization in various ways.Well written articleand to the point.I will certainly use pointer in my meetings with my team. Thanks

  • by Elaine Fogel Wed Jul 30, 2008 via web

    Thanks for weighing in, Amir.

  • by Renee Phoenix Thu Jul 31, 2008 via web

    I work for a community college that just spent a "whole lotta money" for a new brand and look. In all the time that it has taken to come up with a new tag line and colors for the logo....staff and front line personnel (the folks who actually talk to students on a daily basis) have been presented with the theory behind the new branding - yes, you guessed it -once at an all district meeting. A 30 minute PowerPoint as I recall.
    I am emailing this article to my dept. director (who gets the concept of matching what you do with what you promise, by the way) and hopefully she can take it up the tree to those who need to hear it.
    Thanks for the great insights, simple as they may be, they are so true!

  • by Evan Thu Jul 31, 2008 via web

    Visual and verbal components (like a new look and/or logo) support a brand promise, but don't supplant it.

    This article is less about branding and more about good customer service. We only know, though, what the author is saying about the company, not what others say - that's why a brand has to be a sum, a collection of those promises and whether they were (or weren't) kept.

  • by Elaine Fogel Thu Jul 31, 2008 via web

    Renee, based on my own personal experiences as a community college mother, and as a marketing consultant to a university, I know what you mean. There's still a big misperception that the brand is visual, when, as Evan points out, it is so much more than that.

    Customer service is often a significant brand touchpoint, and that's where many organizations have a major disconnect. So what if they look good on paper - it's the brand experiences that need to be exceptional.

  • by Neil Anuskiewicz Mon Aug 11, 2008 via web

    Excellent article, Elaine.

    I am going to email it to everyone at our company. I rarely email everyone so they will know it is something important.

  • by Elaine Fogel Mon Aug 11, 2008 via web

    Thanks, Neil. That is a real compliment. I am grateful.

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