Recently, my love for a restaurant was scolded by the owner. I was a regular at a local diner, where I ate breakfast once or twice a week for over three years. I introduced friends, family, colleagues, and clients to the place and extolled the virtues of their breakfast menu to anyone looking for a morning meal. I was, in marketer’s parlance, a “brand evangelist” (sometimes also called a brand advocate) for this restaurant. Unfortunately, they did not return my love.

What Is A Brand Evangelist?

A brand evangelist produces the positive word of mouth that brings new customers to your business. Brand evangelists are the holy grail of customers because on average, they bring three new customers to a company . But more than that, they give you “street cred,” and the kind of marketing you can’t buy.

What Does A Brand Evangelist Mean To Your Business?

If you calculate the lifetime value of a customer, a brand evangelist can add tens of thousands to millions of dollars to your balance sheet. It’s not only the business they bring you, but also the marketing dollars you’re not having to spend to acquire new customers because their word-of-mouth is doing your marketing for you. Big businesses like P&G have spent lots of time and money cultivating brand advocates to “talk up just about everything from movies and music to milk and motor oil” because the investment pays dividends in sales.

The Sky Rocketing Value of Word-of-Mouth Marketing

P&G cultivates and rewards brand advocates because they recognize that word-of-mouth is the most valuable form of marketing. In the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report, 83% of respondents said they trust the recommendations of friends and family. (Compared to 63% who “somewhat” trust brand advertising.) So, people who will chat up your business are pretty darn valuable. However, it’s much, much harder to cultivate a group of ten brand evangelists than it is to gain 100 “happy” customers. People can like your business and buy your products and services, but not many will go out of their way to introduce others to your brand. The few who do should be celebrated and encouraged to continue.

When An Evangelist Loves A Brand Too Much

So with all that value, why would a brand not love their brand evangelist? In my case, I committed the cardinal sin of sitting at a table on a Monday morning from 8:30 am to noon. I had a meeting with my boss and a potential client from 8:30 till 9:45 and then my boss and I sat there till nearly noon talking. We couldn’t believe how long we’d been there when the lunch crowd started to file in. (It should be noted that there were plenty of free tables available during our stay.) We over-tipped the waitress, recognizing that we’d monopolized one of her tables, and left.

On the following Friday, I walked into the restaurant with a business associate I was meeting for the first time. The owner of the diner came over and confronted me about staying at a table so long on Monday. She explained that the waitress doesn’t make as much money if the table doesn’t turn over to new customers. I said, “Yes, that’s why we left her a $15 tip.” (on a $25 bill). This verbal exchange with the owner happened in front of my new associate necessitating that I explain what happened on Monday to him, increasing my embarrassment.

Once I got over my discomfort, I was angry. How many meals had I eaten there? How many people had I told about the place and brought to their kitchen? My loyalty was overlooked and worse, admonished.

How Does A Brand Earn The Loyalty That Creates An Evangelist?

Why do people L-O-V-E (with hearts and flowers) Starbucks? Why are skateboarders obsessed with Vans sneakers? Why would I adore a diner? Marketingland explains, To achieve brand loyalty, a brand must facilitate consumers reaching their maximum potential. The brand must connect with the consumer’s core values and reflect who they are.” In short, the brand becomes a part of the consumer’s identity as the brand’s values align with the consumer’s.


Brand Advocacy/Brand Evanglism

Why I Loved The Diner

For me, I loved the diner was because it was a place outside of work and home where I could write uninterrupted. The white noise of the other customers facilitated my concentration. The waitresses greeted me by name and often brought me a cup of hot water before I had even ordered it. It made me feel as if I belonged to a community. Like Norm who always sat on the barstool at the end the bar at Cheers, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. By Marketingland’s definition, the diner’s values seemed to align with my own.

When A Company Breaks Their Brand Promise

The diner conveys their values in their brand promise. Their website boasts, “A place for the regulars and newcomers alike. It’s not home; it’s not work; it’s your “third place,” where you’re taken care of. We welcome you to visit and make our food a part of your tradition…”

Except, they broke their promise. It was my third place, and I made their food part of my weekly tradition, but I wasn’t welcomed or taken care of that Friday. Instead, the owner reprimanded me. When I walked out of the diner that day, I knew, sadly, that the brand did not deserve my devotion and it was time to find a new breakfast place.

How To Reward Your Brand Evangelists

When your small business earns a brand advocate, after you complete a happy dance, make sure you let that evangelist know you appreciate them. Reward programs that allow your best customers to earn points toward free stuff are one means of showing your gratitude, and there are many more methods of demonstrating your appreciation. (I will cover ten ways to show your customer’s your appreciation next month.)

How you exhibit your appreciation isn’t important. Making a point to acknowledge your best customers is, and it’s the smartest move you can make. Don’t, and you too could lose your fan base.

Finding A New Brand To Love

Since my diner didn’t love me back, I went out in search of a new breakfast nook. I felt like Goldilocks trying out different breakfast grills till I found the one that was just right. The third restaurant I auditioned was The Sweet Spot in Louisville. I took a seat by a window and ate my usual–scrambled eggs, bacon, and burned hashbrowns. After the meal, I asked the waiter if it was okay if I lingered for an hour and a half or two when they weren’t busy. He said, “Of course.” I recounted my recent negative experience at my favorite diner, and he thrust out his hand and said, “I’m Kyle, the front-of-house manager and you can stay here as long as you like.”

Now that’s how you treat a customer and cultivate a future brand evangelist.

Are you creating brand evangelists or discouraging them? Have you loved a brand that didn’t love you back? Leave your comments below.