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BMW. The ULTIMATE driving machine.  They don’t care what others think about their owners’ attitudes towards their car.   And, yes there is an attitude and a swagger to a BMW owner.

Apple. Think DIFFERENT.   Uh, are you a nice, don’t make waves corporate type?   Check in at the Dell stand dude.  Mac people are more creative and smarter.  Just ask them.

Jif Peanut Butter. Only a abusive mother would not buy Jif for her family.  After all, choosy moms choose Jif.

First, Pepsi ran campaigns for years touting blind taste test wins.  And, arguably the biggest market research faux pas was about replacing brand Coke with “New Coke.”   Coca-Cola Zealots would rather go without than drink a competitive brand replacement.   For a soft drink that costs less than a buck at retail and with a myriad of competitors, this brand has many fans that believe you are desecrating their family lineage if you offer them anything other than a Coke.

Green Bay Packers. You probably know the “Cheeseheads” have a waiting list to endure sub-zero degree game (and tailgating) conditions. And, they consider the all-time Packer – Brett Favre – a traitor, because he “deserted” to a rival team.   Did you know they have a “FANS” hall of fame?  Or, that the team is a non-profit and owned by the community?  Packer fans are legendary and unique to all of sports.

What are your top 5 Zealotry Brands? Share them with us…

We recently executed a Valentines card promotion on behalf of CURE Childhood Cancer. Once again, we underestimated the referral power of social media among families and friends. The CURE community really showed their “love;” we nearly ran out of cards.

We developed a simple Valentine’s Day card that families could purchase in packs of 10, to give out to their children’s classmates, family & friends in celebration of the holiday. Each set of 10 was just $10, and we printed 1,000 cards, thinking that we could use them again next year to sell.

We placed the cards in our online store on the CURE website for purchase, and promoted only via mentions on Twitter, Facebook and in our monthly e-communication.
In less than one week, we sold 750 cards for a pure profit of $750 and had the highest engagement on our Facebook Page through just three posts – with 51 Likes and 17 Comments.

The premise of the promotion was to incorporate something the CURE community was already spending money on, and provide them a way to support CURE in the process, also keeping true to our brand and our focus on the children.

Be relevant to the Zealots of your brand, and they will support you – through purchase, positive word-of-mouth, referral – but support, nonetheless. Those most zealous fans want to help you, and will at every opportunity, especially when they are already planning to spend money anyways.

NOTE: Our printing-partner, Standard Press generously donated the printing of 1,000 Valentine’s Day cards to make this promotion possible – a special thank you!

Victoria Cerrone of the Florida council of The Luxury Marketing Council offers: “The top 10% of the demographic pyramid are responsible for 71.5% of total US household net worth and 50% of all spending.  But, they don’t all wear Brioni suits, drive a Bentley or carry a Vuitton bag.  In fact, 80% of affluent consumers are a product of the middle class.  Connecting with this narrow and unique segment has never been more challenging.”

Profiling has politically incorrect connotations.  Yet, smart direct marketers profile best guests in order to learn where likely future prospects are found.  And, profiling is a natural tendency of each of us.  We tend to rely on stereotypes – and if they are found correct initially, we are very comfortable remaining on that track.

As a marketer, it is a goal to attract new converts – ultimately new zealots.  Be open to the idea that these new fans may represent a different demographic and a new way of communicating what your brand delivers.   Ultimately, the sustainability of any brand depends on attracting new zealots, not just more of the same stereotype.

Zealots have been historically viewed as extremists.  On the edge.  Fanatics.   Excessive intolerance.  Fervent. Militant proponent. Extremists.

Really?  I want fans for my company … but, not so sure I want someone quite to this level.  Isn’t this just a little over the top?   So, marketers use less edgy, softer terms:  Supporters; Loyalists;  Preferred Guests;  Faithful Customers; Frequent Users.

The earliest definition of zealots in history was a sect that openly resisted Roman rule in Palestine.

In marketing terms, don’t you want a group of customers that are strong proponents of the principles behind your brand, not just the surface issues of price or features (which are easily duplicated by competition)?  That are staunchly resistant, even defiant in the face of competitive offerings?  That are armed with facts and a point of view to successfully debate those who try to persuade them to alternatives to your product or service?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I have a choice, I’ll choose Zealots over Supporters every time.

Social Media for Social Good: Using social media strategies to kick-start your non-profit this year

Guest Relations Marketing is offering three opportunities to take part in this free, interactive webinar. Feel free to share with any non-profit peers you feel may be interested. Just 45 minutes, including Q&A.

Friday 2/19:  2:00 – 2:45PM EST
Tuesday 2/23: 11:00 – 11:45 AM EST
Thursday 2/25: 2:00 – 2:45 PM EST

Click here to sign up and note which webinar you are interested in attending.

Interactivity, networking, sharing, referral, speed of information.  All points made by marketing experts about the benefits of social media in a recent group dialog on LinkedIn.  All actions that separate zealots from others.

“More than the benefits your get from it (which can be many), you have to look at how not being involved in social media is hurting your business. I think that at some point the cost of not being involved in social media will be too high for companies to bear,”  said Marilyn Oliva of MPower Philosophy.

If you are cultivating more Zealots for your brand, then you might consider social media as becoming more than a “nice to have” and more a “must have” in your marketing mix.

Clearly, everyone wants “zealots” – those unashamedly, passionate fans.
They are immediately receptive and initial adopters to new products, they go out of their way to talk your brand up, they introduce friends and family to “share” why they are so excited.

Simply, behind every great brand is a core group of zealots.

What defines a zealot?  Who are your zealots?   How do you cultivate them?   Do you know what truly drives them to become a passionate loyalist?

In 2010, we will devote one segment in each newsletter to “What Creates Zealots?” and how you can incorporate that into your brand.  Of course, you can get the accelerated solutions by calling Guest Relations Marketing for a Zealotry Analysis of your brand.

Doug Kennedy conducts training and speaks to hospitality groups.  He provides excellent examples and tips on how to improve zealotry referral and reduce detractors actions.  In particular, internal communications is a key facet to managing actions and reactions to posts and reviews.

As reposted by

Remember in “the good old days” when “all” we had to worry about from a negative guest was that they would tell their family, friends, and co-workers? Most seasoned hoteliers will recall being told in training classes that “a happy guest tells five others; an unhappy guest tells 9-10 others.” It seems like not that long ago I was facilitating workshops where, based on these numbers, we tried to quantify the cost of future business that was lost through negative word-of-month advertising, and even then it easily justified an investment in hospitality training and development.

In today’s world, a guest’s potential to share negative feedback is almost unimaginable, and seems to be gaining momentum. For example, in 2002 a now-famous Powerpoint presentation was created by two disgruntled business travelers who were members of a brand’s loyalty program, but who according to their slides were treated extremely rudely by a hotel in Dallas. The presentation, which was complete with graphics, charts and visuals, was sent to their contacts via e-mail with a cover note encouraging them to share it with friends, and encourage their friends to pass it on. It eventually was sent to hundreds of thousands of others and is now a media legend having been mentioned in the USA Today, NBC, and elsewhere. In checking online today under key words “Yours Is A Very Bad Hotel,” there is still extensive publicity out there about this now-famous presentation. Interestingly, the authors have since expressed they have accepted the apologies of both the hotel and the brand, are turning down interview requests, and have even expressed both empathy and a little sympathy for the night clerk who they claim treated them so rudely that night. “Way back then” then it was considered shocking that one complaint could be blasted to tens of thousands of people via e-mail networking.

Yet the potential damage from a negative guest experience today is far more extensive. Take for example a music video, which was posted on YouTube by a man claiming to be a traveling musician who, after being alerted by another passenger, personally witnessed his treasured guitar being tossed around the tarmac by baggage handlers on a United Airlines flight. According to the story told in his song and accompanying music video, his complaints were rejected by everyone from the flight crew to the baggage office and eventually to the United customer service office. Apparently out of frustration and at the end of the line, he wrote a song, created a music video, and posted it on YouTube under the title “United Breaks Guitars” which as of this writing has so far been viewed more than 5,000,000 times in just 45 days since being posted.  In fact the song is now available for purchase at iTunes. Here is a link to the video clip on YouTube:

As a former rock band member who still drags out my prized ole’ Alvarez-Yari now than then, I can certainly empathize with the songwriter who’s treasured favorite guitar was destroyed. I assume most any viewer would have to admit tells his story with humor and wit. Then again as a frequent traveler I also empathize United Airlines too, especially since my personal experiences with them have been positive and I can think of more than once when they provided above and beyond service when I was caught in a quandary.

Regardless, the point is this is a very recent example of the potential “cost” of an extremely negative guest experience. Of course most day-to-day guest interactions don’t result in this much negative publicity. Instead, an experience which is perceived to be extremely negative more typically results in a negative review on websites such as TripAdvisor, Travel Post, FlipKey, or at online travel agencies most of which now offer guest reviews. Even a single negative online guest review can cause significant damage be scaring-off future potential guests.

Besides such guest review websites, the feedback about your hotel on social networking websites is going to become even more critical in coming months and years, as meta-search engines such as have now been announced which will scan your social networking websites to direct you to postings from your network regarding the lodging facility you are considering.

Fortunately, there is also really good news in this trend as it can work both ways. If you as a manager or leader have the right vision and commitment, you can make this trend work to the advantage of your hotel. As in days of old where people made it a point to tell a story about a positive guest experience to friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, today’ guests who have an extremely positive experience do often motivated to post their positive feedback on websites such as TripAdvisor, FlipKey and Travel Post, which are but a few of the many guest review options available to today’s travel planners.

It is interesting to watch this unfold. Recently, my family and I went on a summer beach vacation with two other families at a wonderful resort where we had a terrific time. Throughout our week’s stay, it was not only the 17 year old girl who was making Twitter updates on how the resort “rocked,” but also my firefighter buddy Alex updating his MySpace page to let his firefighter friends and also his VW club know how much fun this destination and the resort was. Likewise, his wife Dana made several updates during the week to her Facebook page, which is where she stays in touch with her 8 brothers and sisters, plus about 500 other active “friends.”  Fortunately for this resort the news was all positive and I’m sure someone down the line is going to read what they posted and be influenced by it.

For hospitality industry organizations who are truly focused on creating guest hospitality excellence, this is really all great news because now our industry is becoming as transparent on the issue of quality as it became long ago on the issue of price when “best available rate” pricing was first implemented. Regardless of what your feelings and opinions are about social media and guest reviews, the fact is that now your hotel’s reputation is at stake and guests are going to be talking about how they were really treated for better or for worse.

If you are embracing consumer generated media, guest reviews, and social networking as marketing and public relation opportunities to get the good news out about your hotel, here are some training tips for your next meeting:

•   Accept that the key factor in the booking decision of your hotel’s future guests is going to be hospitality and guest service, as measured not by an inspector from AAA, Mobile, your brand, or the State health inspector. But is going to be a bigger differentiator based on the way ordinary guests are treated on a daily basis.

•   Make sure your team is aware of what guests are saying about your hotel and team. For associates who don’t have online access, print postings for display in the employee areas.

•    Categorize and react to recurring issues mentioned in negative postings. Put aside the “ranters” and “ravers” who provide extremely bad or good emotionally-based reviews. Instead focus on the day-to-day mundane feedback which is most indicative of your overall training needs.

•    Discretely and indirectly encourage positive postings. It has always been tradition for hotel service staff to encourage positive guest feedback by handing comment cards to guests who are verbalizing a positive experience. In today’s world, we can simply mention to departing guests who are raving that if the guest ever goes on TripAdvisor you would appreciate their “help in spreading the good word.”

•    Share all recent postings with team members. Support those departments or possibly individuals who might have been targeted unfairly, such as when the real service issue was reading a system or process and not a person. Yet be straightforward when the feedback is reasonable and valid. Take advantage of the occurrence being written about as a “teachable moment.”

Of course you can and should be posting responses which first and foremost apologizes for the circumstances in a way which defends the hotel’s actions (if they were in fact defensible) but doesn’t invalidate the person posting the review. There are also legal actions you can take for fraudulent postings which unfortunately still happen all too often even in the corporate hotel world.

By focusing on these and other best practices for hospitality and guest service excellence training, you can ensure that your team will be excited to sign on to the Internet and visit guest review websites and social media posting to read about all the positive feedback that is being posted.

From Seth Godin’s Blog:

“Marketing tells a story that spreads. Sales overcomes the natural resistance to say yes. If you don’t pay the salesforce (because you go direct, or you go free), then who is going to do that for you? The only answer that occurs to me is, “your users/fans/customers.” This means that a critical element of any strategy that ditches the salesforce is to figure out how you will empower and encourage your customers to take their place. Easier said than done.”

Zealots are the natural answer to building the most efficient sales force.

People fall in love with brands each and every day. In this economy, some brands fail thus making them unavailable to past customers. For Zealots, this can certainly be a detrimental thing. So the question is, can your Zealots save your business? If your own customers knew you were in jeopardy of going away forever, what lengths would they go to to ensure you stay afloat?

Well, Paste Magazine surely has an answer to this question .. and it’s a good one. Yes.

In spite of the current economic conditions, Paste Magazine (a music-focused industry pub highlighting up-and-coming artists) recently launched an online “Campaign to Save Paste,” reaching out to their readers & supporters to help keep the magazine alive. They also reached out to their musician base, several of which offered to donate music to the campaign for readers who supported the publication via donating money.

As a result of the campaign, the magazine has raised in excess of $240K so far, enough to keep them afloat a little while longer, and have realized the ultimate power of the Zealots for their brand.

As a Zealot for “the late”design pub Domino Magazine, I would absolutely have liked to have known they were struggling and would have supported them in their efforts to keep the magazine afloat.

What do you think? Are there brands you would help save? Would your Zealots help save your business if you reached out to them?

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