The best form of advertising is free, spreads your message like wildfire, and is extremely profitable. It also happens to be partially out of your control. This form of advertising happens when one regular person tells another regular person about a product or service they are excited about. People want to hear from similar people that something is “a great deal,” or “made by a great company,” or “the quality is worth the cost,” or “since I switched, I’ve never had a problem”. While these truths should be conveyed through a marketing campaign, they carry the most weight when coming from an unofficial brand advocate. An excited customer seemingly comes out of nowhere to give you a ringing endorsement, then goes back to living their life like a normal person, which is fine, because that’s exactly who they are. But how do you turn customers into great brand advocates?
Chewy: Cultivating Brand Advocates
Chewy is a brand that has figured it out. Chewy sells pet food through their website and ships directly to you. It’s not a unique business model or product, but Chewy sets their brand apart through customer service. One customer called to see if she could return the product she had just ordered because her dog Lucy had regrettably passed away. The customer service rep extended sincere condolences and told her to donate the order of dog food to a local pet shelter in Lucy’s name. They refunded the purchase, and a few days later, a sweet note and a bouquet of flowers showed up at her house. The story began making the rounds on social media, soon going viral. She isn’t the only customer to receive such meaningful, thoughtful attention. Chewy makes a practice of understanding and caring about their customers. The result? The story is being told, shared, and commented on by thousands.
Chewy Delivered on Their Brand Promise
What causes Chewy to go above and beyond for their customers at such expense to their bottom line? Chewy is determined to deliver on their brand promise of customer delight. Ryan Cohen, founder and CEO, claims to get goose bumps as he reads positive reviews on the company’s Facebook page. Chewy’s position is clear, they know how much pet owners love their pets and they want to treat their customers with the same care and attention. That’s Chewy’s brand promise: we understand pet lovers because we are pet lovers. If this was just a feel-good story, one could argue it’s not sustainable. But it’s more than that, Chewy is staking their claim as the brand that delivers service so far over the top, you simply have to love it.
Customer Service Created a Brand Story
Chewy has unabashedly staked their claim of distinction. But they’re doing what so many companies fail to do: they deliver on their claim. Because of an audacious claim of distinction and a strong follow through, they have created advocates who are telling the brand story to anyone who will listen. At Idea Agency, this story came up because Paul Tonelli, our creative director, had noticed it on Facebook. He explained that he had considered looking for a different option for dog food because Chewy felt a little too expensive. As he and his wife read the story, they were so impacted they decided to continue buying from Chewy. “How could you not?” asked Paul with a big smile, “What a great company!” Chewy not only gained the loyalty and advocacy of the lady who they treated so graciously, they gained loyalty among people who heard the story. Believe it or not, every company can follow this principle to gain loyal brand advocates.
How Can You Do This
Maybe replicating Chewy’s elaborate (and expensive) customer service practice seems impossible. That’s the point, you don’t have to. Over the top customer service that delivers flowers to customers when their pet dies probably isn’t your point of distinction. What you have to do is define what does make you different from the competition. Use that differentiating factor to create a desirable brand, defend your position, and deliver on your brand promise. Your distinction might be reliability, or personalization, or a unique backstory for every product. Whatever it is, when you combine these three elements: desirable, defendable, and deliverable, you are well on your way to delighting your customer into becoming a brand advocate.
Need somewhere to start? You can get an idea of how strong your brand is by taking our free, three-question quiz, "How strong is your brand?" It only takes a few minutes to complete. Be honest, it's your brand at stake.