happy employee

Marketing isn’t just about making sales—it’s also the deep, long-term work of building a brand that customers connect with. But getting your brand to a place where it grows easily and continuously attracts the right customers can be a difficult journey—one that is simpler and faster to navigate with brand champions on your team. In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly brand champions are, some of their most common characteristics, and strategies you can use to find and uplift these amazing people.

What is a brand champion?

A brand champion is a person who loves your brand and isn’t afraid to show it! They may be a dedicated employee or a loyal customer. This individual understands and believes in your company’s values. They have an intuitive sense of what would push your company forward. If they’re a customer, they might talk about your company on social media, write reviews, and tell their friends about your products or services. If they’re an employee, they’re an active participant in meetings, always going the extra mile to support their coworkers and propose new ideas. In short, these are the people you want advocating for your brand, whether internally or externally.

Why are brand champions important?

Today’s consumers are bombarded by advertising and other corporate messaging every moment of the day. We spend an increasing percentage of our time online, where information overload is common and advertisements are ubiquitous. Consumers are becoming ever-more savvy about sniffing out when they’re on the receiving end of a marketing campaign. They’re tired, wary, skeptical, and searching for brands they trust.

Brand champions share authentic messages of support for brands and their values. This authenticity does wonders to combat the weary cynicism that so many consumers experience, and it helps them internalize the most important messages about your brand. Naturally, it’s in your best interest to find these brand champions and support them, so that they can continue to express themselves and help your brand and your bottom line.

We can’t downplay the importance of external brand champions in the form of dedicated, excited customers. But internal brand champions—employees who advocate for your company, push for progress, and work hard every day in pursuit of that vision—are just as vital to any company’s mission. For one thing, their presence can be used as a barometer for work culture and employee well-being. How easy or difficult is it to identify brand champions on your team or elsewhere in the organization? This alone may indicate how your staff is doing and whether you’re on the right track in building a strong culture. 

Internal brand champions also help uplift their coworkers. Collaborating with coworkers is one of the joys of work, and working with individuals who are so passionate about progress can bring a zest for the daily grind back to an exhausted employee.

How to identify and build brand champions

If you can single out the brand champions for your business, you can encourage them and give them the resources they need to reach more people. So how do you find these brand rockstars in order to recognize them for their good work? And once you find them, how do you uplift them and make the most of their passion for your business?

Review employee performance. 

(It’s also difficult to keep employees satisfied and productive without this kind of oversight.) If your organization doesn’t have a system for employee performance review, start there. If you do, look for folks who have received consistently great reviews. Employees who are or could become brand champions are generally praised for their enthusiasm, hard work, and creative problem solving. But don’t limit your search to just formal employee reviews—ask around for who always goes above and beyond the scope of work. You may also want to look at data on who is recognized most often within your organization to find folks who consistently do great work.

Collaborate with customer support or social media employees.

It may be a bit more challenging to discern who the brand champions are outside of your business, because you don’t have the same amount of information about them. But there are a few strategies you can use. Namely, we recommend seeking out your customer support and social media management employees and asking if they’ve noticed any customers who seem particularly passionate. These folks come into contact with customers on the daily while conducting their normal business responsibilities. Chances are, they’ve noticed when a customer writes an email with positive feedback, or when an influencer posts about your product a few separate times.

Set or clarify expectations. 

Use our list of brand champion characteristics that we shared earlier in this article to clarify what exactly you’re looking for in a brand champion. You can (and should!) customize your expectations to fit your business values and priorities. Is your current focus boosting sales? Focus on external brand champions with fast-growing audiences who can promote your products or services to potential customers. Are you focusing instead on fleshing out a cohesive brand? Identifying internal brand champions who have a sixth sense for company messaging may be the best route to go.

Recognize and reward brand champions. 

Brand champions work hard for your brand because they genuinely believe in your company and its values. If you want to make use of this enthusiasm, you should commit to recognizing and rewarding the work these folks do. They may not be writing positive reviews online or actively participating in meetings in hopes of receiving material rewards, but recognition can go a long way towards assuring that brand champions keep up the good work.

Ask for feedback. 

People who truly care about the future of your brand may occasionally have some critical feedback to share. Whether it’s a bad experience with one of your products or a contradictory opinion about the direction of a certain sales strategy, brand champions sometimes have contrary opinions. If you’re interested in taking advantage of the work they do to support and promote your brand, you should pay attention to their critical feedback, too. It can help you pinpoint areas with room for improvement. The feedback of people who are genuinely invested in the future of your brand is priceless, and showing them that you care enough to listen invites more positive collaboration in the future.

Incentivize engagement. 

Don’t just limit yourself to rewarding brand champions when they contribute in a way you appreciate. You can also be proactive and incentivize them to connect with you. For example, you might run a giveaway, and offer giveaway entries to people who talk about your brand on social media using a particular hashtag. Or you might send out a survey to employees who participated in a certain project, and offer them an extra vacation day in exchange for filling it out. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to incentivize brand champions to continue to fully engage with your brand.

Take time to reflect. 

Brand champions are not personas to be used and discarded when it’s convenient for the company. They are real people who are freely giving their creativity to a company. Their contributions are a gift, and they should be treated as such—especially brand champions who are also company employees. Their expertise and enthusiasm are irreplaceable. As you work on engaging with them and making the most of their insights, reflect on how you’re showing gratitude and support in return. 

Be a brand worth talking about. 

Perhaps it goes without saying, but one key way to make sure your customers and employees are invested in your company’s success is to be a brand worth caring for. What are your brand’s values, and how do you promote these values with concrete action? Are your products or services the best they can be? Are they solving problems for your customers? Do you treat your customers well? These are the things that build brand loyalty and cultivate the brand champions you’re looking for. 

How to leverage brand champion marketing

Once you’ve found the internal and external brand champions of your business, you’ll want to use their input and expertise to make your brand shine. Here are some tips for leveraging brand champion marketing within your business.

Spotlight the people who love your brand’s work.

Find the people who feel strongly about your brand and shine the spotlight on them. They already intrinsically understand your brand’s message and values—all they need is a platform to speak. Interview them, feature them on your social media or in your email newsletters, shout them out in internal company memos, share their words on your website; essentially, give them a larger audience to share what they’re already feeling.

Offer referral & affiliate programs.

You might also consider implementing a referral or affiliate program that provides employees or customers with a small kickback every time someone registers or purchases using their link. These tools aren’t just for influencers or folks with a large online following—average people can also use them, and brand champions who feel strongly about your company may send lots of business your way using affiliate programs.

Ask for testimonials and reviews.

Positive testimonials and reviews build a company’s ethos. You can build trust with potential customers by inviting your brand champions to send in a testimonial or write a review on your website. These things may seem small, but for potential customers deciding whether or not to trust your company, these endorsements can make all the difference.

Reward the right messages.

Amplifying your brand champions’ messages is certainly an important part of this style of marketing, but so are rewards and recognition programs. Some people will appreciate gratitude shown in a highly public way (like on a brand social media account) more than others. So keep an open mind about how to reward your brand champions for their contributions. How about a giveaway or prize? For employees, consider a spot bonus or even a pay raise. Rewards go a long way to boosting team morale and employee well-being.

Research has shown positive reinforcement is a highly effective method for incentivizing behavior. People subconsciously evaluate the potential value of rewards they might receive when deciding how hard to work at a particular task. Put simply, you can’t afford not to reward your brand champions for their work—especially when it’s employees who are going above and beyond. A rewards and recognition platform makes it easy to launch, track, and manage an official employee recognition program at any company. To effectively recognize and reward brand champions at your company, contact us today to receive a free demo.