Employees as brand ambassadors? Pepsico says, “Yes!”

I read an article recently about Pepsico’s employee ambassador program. This article emphasizes how important it is to prioritize creating brand loyalty internally.employee_brand_ambassadors

My first thought was this must be some kind of word-of-mouth program. You know what I’m talking about, the ones where you look for consumers who demonstrate brand loyalty and are willing to tell others.

Most of the time this would be a correct assumption; however, in this case it was not. Here, the term is applied to Pepsico employees.

Effective Social Business begins by internal listening

Pepsico discovered in an employee survey that over 65% of those surveyed were being asked specific questions about Pepsico products; more than half indicated they wanted information they could share across their social media platforms.  (Source)

Equally important, managers discovered most of the content included in internal communications could be adapted for sharing. This sharing would create an inspired internal reach-out to both new potential customers and those with current customer loyalty.

Building Brand Recognition

Most marketers and company executives spend a lot of time, energy and resources trying to figure out how to build their brand’s reputation in the minds of consumers. In most instances, employees are an afterthought. Usually internal product promotion consists of press release material, or worse, the moral equivalent of product labels.

Brand Loyalty Begins at Home

3 explanations of how Pepsico discovered the power of internal brand ambassadors:

  1. Pepsico has an innovative corporate culture. An innovative culture encourages experimentation, conversations, and questions. Many companies survey employees, the challenge is engage employees so they will provide useful feedback.
  2. There was coordination and collaboration. Once the concept received approval, IT needed to make adjustments to content quickly. Often internal departments compete rather than collaborate.
  3. PepsiCo understands the value of tapping into employees for ideas, insights and influence. By tweaking content and adding some familiar social media share buttons, as of the end of last year, employee distributed articles have provided around 30,000 hits since the July 2011 launch.
    • Even if the number of hits is small compared to external marketing programs the numbers are respectable. Most marketers would probably spend a significant amount of money to find a targeted group of influencers like their employees.

Employee Sharing Amplifies Corporate Culture

Encouraging sharing by employees keeps them engaged and aligned with the brand’s communications. It should become part of an internet marketing strategy. Employees promoting messages that create brand recognition are more likely to be long-lasting. Our recent post entitled 5 Reasons Social Corporate Culture Matters delves into the topic further.

Marketers can learn valuable information by being aware of the efforts of successful brands like Pepsico. We have offered this insight in the past when we analyzed the marketing process taken by companies like Starbucks.

I hope there will be studies to determine if there is a connection between brand loyalty when companies have brand ambassadors.

Do you think this is a viable way to promote products/services? Are there risks? I’d love to know what you think.