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The Coca-Cola Company may very well have more Zealots than any other brand on Earth.  Their span is far-reaching and their loyal supporters are avid fans of the brand, accepting no substitutions (ahem, Pepsi).

While there are many Zealotry actions we could showcase, AdAge recently publish an article (How Two Coke Fans Brought the Brand to Facebook Fame) spotlighting Coke taking a stand that is surprising for most big brands, making it the feature of today’s Zealotry Marketing spotlight.  The article discusses the popularity of Coke’s Facebook Page (second only to President Barack Obama’s page), and most interestingly, the fact that the Page itself was created not by the parent company, but instead by two Zealots of the Coke brand.

Due to some regulations in brand/Page ownership set in place by Facebook, The Coca-Cola Company made the decision not to shut down the fan-lead Page, but to instead thank the Zealots who created the popular Page and allow them to join forces with Coke to continue to effectively manage and grow the Facebook Page for the worldwide brand.

Not only did Coke activate and engage some of their most avid supporters, but immediately their Facebook Page becomes even more credible than ever before. The Page is run by those that love it most, not by a corporate voice, but by people that truly love the brand and want to share it with the world. It is a shining example of the power of brand love, of appreciation for their fans, and the amazing word-of-mouth and referral power your Zealots can have for bringing together other like-minded supporters for your brand.

Guest Relations Marketing
Transforming Prospects to Guests, and Guests to Zealots.

One of the key tenants in Zealotry Marketing is simply involving your Zealots in your brand.  A quick example of how to do so can be found in a recent email blast from Martha Stewart.

For those who signed up to receive information from Martha Stewart Weddings, a quick poll went out via email with three magazine cover designs, asking readers which they liked best and why. This is right on so many levels for working the Zealots in the database.

First, they feel like an insider. They have been given a sneak peak at the inner workings of the publication and the brand, and they’ve had a voice in shaping the brand – even better. Their opinion matters and will make a difference on the newsstand.

Second, talk about referral. Once that magazine hits the super market shelves, you better be sure those Zealots will sneak a peak at the cover and tell their friends about it. “Oh I choose the other one, it was much better for the Summer issue” or “That is the cover I selected, they asked my opinion of three choices.” Good, bad or indifferent – their chatter about the publication is sure to leave an impression.
Way to go, Martha!  A simply way to use email to involve your Zealots and engage them in the brand experience.

In the October 13th issue of Advertising Age, Jim Stengel, former CMO of Procter & Gamble has labeled certain brands as “purpose brands” – having some mission larger than the brand itself and connect at a deeper level with its consumers. He declared that given current economic conditions, this was “more important than ever” and that these brands will resonate much stronger at a time when corporate distrust is riding high.

Interestingly, the previously noted survey on women by WomanWise LLC noted that such “purpose” brands as Aveda and Method have earned their eternal loyalty, in good times and bad. Connecting to social causes is not new to branding. But, isn’t it interesting to note that if you participate/support causes and interests of value to your zealots, you will be able to survive the down times … and thrive in the good times.

Our panel of sales and marketing leaders do not reflect the gloom of the news media.   They are not ignoring the real problems of the marketplace and the fear and anxiety of consumers.  But, on the whole, this group has a fairly positive outlook.   They have a plan.  They see opportunity.

For some, it’s the price game.  It is tried and true, especially in the QSR category.  “The economic circumstances have been to our advantage,” David Ovens, CMO of Taco Bell. “We certainly expect the price wars and the aggressive value plays to heat up.”

For others, it is staying focused on what they do as a business.

“We are not economists; your next door neighbor can likely predict what’s going to happen as accurately as we can,” Jobs said in a nod to the gloomy global financial picture. But then he went on to argue that Apple should continue clobbering its competitors no matter what.

Steve Jobs is a leader.  He is one of the reasons I, like many others, are Apple zealots.   He understands you cannot control the economy, but you can control how you play against your competition.

Interesting … two companies, different industries.  Both have an aggressive attitude and like Warren Buffet are “buyers” in this market.   No fear or lack of action from either.

One constant we heard from our panel is it is more imperative than ever to demonstrate trust.

From our bankers:

“You have to say that banks made bad decisions regarding mortgage backed securities and they are paying for it.  Capitalism wins.  Yes, it’s sad that Merrill is gone, but the other side of the story is that Bank of America was strong enough to buy it!   Clients that hear that and stay with you become zealots.  They “get it”, Ken Yarbrough of SunTrust.

“We deal with this a lot because we are the new kid on the block.  To overcome this, I try to develop trust with the prospect by how we present our message with professionalism and speaking to our strengths of a solid capital base, experience in the local market, personal integrity, and being able to say that I am personally financially invested in this company.   The main thing I do here is try to stay in front of them on a regular basis and keep them informed of what is occurring at our company,” Ed Jenkins of Atlantic Capital Bank.

Ed recently circulated a letter directly from the President of Atlantic Capital emphasizing their stability and conservative operating stance.   I believe such a straightforward, but understated response is very important, especially for anyone holding your money.  But, have consumers become jaded to claims or promises of the CEO?

“I make it a point to stay in contact in good markets and bad regardless of markets dropping or going up. Staying in front of clients even in tough times (like now) and connecting on a level in addition to the business level is key. Referrals and good word of mouth then naturally follow,” says Jon Dickson, UBS.

Brokers may be able to write the book on managing client relations in bad times.

Other panelists:

“Every down turn offers an opportunity to shine. Look at your zealots as a community and ask yourself what they want and need right now, then ask how you can fill that need. Keep a regular stream of communication going,” from our favorite PR counselor, Deborah Stone of Pineapple PR.

“Now is certainly the time to be communicating something to them!  Now is the time for leaders to lead…to infuse a sense of urgency within their systems…and a sense of confidence in their product and their people…”

“Actions, not words, create satisfied clients and great referral sources.”

“Truthfully, I say nothing to passionate supporters except a constant and heartfelt “Thank You”. If you look after the clients the right way and communicate chemistry, conviction and confidence vis a vis them and their business, they will automatically refer you and be your best advocates,” Alf Nucifora, publisher of Luxe SF.

“On ‘fear’ objections, I would flip it and ask what is working best – now or in the past? and how can we get more of it…. For our passionate supporters, I think it is more what you do rather than what you say.  Wrap up the ‘good news’ for them in bite size stories about what they are passionate about, make it easy for them to pass it along and always ask ‘what did you like best’?”

“Keep communicating and remind them of the strong points of our project. We give them access to as much collateral as they want …”

“We speak to our most passionate supporters every week. Our zealots can see that we respond to changing industry circumstances and trends, which is what they want in a media company.”

Here are 5 zealotry marketing tips for overcoming the economic woes:

1.    Leaders need to be visible and take a clear stand.
2.    You almost cannot communicate too much to your zealots.
3.    Take action – be decisive and be aggressive.
4.    Ensure your communication reinforces what zealots love best about your product or service.
5.    Don’t’ try and solve the global economy, just solve why you are the best in your category.

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