By Michele Linn published October 31, 2014

How to Turn Your Customers Into Brand Fans: 3 Examples


Is there anything better for you as a marketer than having your customers share their passion for your company or product?

Not much.

In the content marketing space, we spend a lot of time (maybe too much time) focused on brand awareness. We don’t focus enough energy on using content to turn our customers into advocates or strengthen their evangelism for our brands.

Having your customers become cheerleaders for your brand is the mecca of marketing: Your customers not only sell for you, but they communicate in a way far more powerful than any content your brand can create. As Julie Fleischer, Director of Data + Content + Media at Kraft Food Group, comments:

Any time you’ve got one of your consumers making the case for you, it’s obviously very credible.

In fact, in the new series of B2C roundtables, David Germano, VP of Content Marketing for Magnetic Content Studios, predicts:

I think over time, marketers will come to embrace [customer evangelism] as probably one of the more important KPIs for content marketing.

These are just two of the insights from the first of the CMI B2C research roundtables from this year’s Content Marketing World. Fleischer and Germano joined Todd Wheatland, Head of Strategy at King Content; Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping; and Brice Bay, Chairman and CEO at EnVeritas Group. The recent conversation explores the concept of customer evangelism for B2C marketers.

A quick look at the stats

For the first time, we wanted to track the percentage of marketers who consider customer evangelism to be a goal for their content marketing efforts. Sixty-nine percent of B2C marketers and 57% of B2B marketers are focused on evangelism. This is a top goal for 86% of the most effective B2C marketers.

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3 brands using content for customer evangelism

One of the best ways to understand how content marketing can be used for customer evangelism is to take a look at some examples in action.


During the roundtable, Germano shared one of his favorite examples: GoPro. If you aren’t familiar with GoPro, it sells video cameras that can be mounted to capture most activities (think a camera on a helmet when you are skydiving.) The tagline, Capture + Share Your World, is the core of its marketing.

According to Google’s YouTube Brand Channel Leaderboard (last published in March 2014), GoPro is the highest-performing brand on YouTube. The calculation is based on audience passion and popularity as determined by tracking watch time, repeat viewership, likes, and shares.

When you scan GoPro’s YouTube channel, you see videos of everything from people jumping off a roof to a fireman saving a kitten, and people swimming with all sorts of sea life.

GoPro’s customer-evangelism strategy is to curate videos from users of its products and share them on YouTube. Not only does GoPro provide a place for customers to share their most enthralling moments, but it’s a great way for potential users to see the products in action.

Tourism Australia

Tourism Australia is a brand I have admired since I saw Jesse Desjardins present at Content Marketing World Sydney. His small team receives 900 photos from fans per day. Tourism Australia then shares its favorites on its Facebook and Instagram accounts, and many of the photos get tens of thousands of “likes” and shares.

Tourism Australia outperforms every other tourism board in the world and does so based on two primary ingredients: user-generated content and community co-creation. When Desjardins was nominated for Content Marketer of the Year, he told us, “We aim to make our audience the hero. Consumers take us places much faster than we can go on our own.”

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Betabrand is a fun and funky clothing brand in which customers not only promote the brand, but also suggest the products the brand creates. When CCO Editor Clare McDermott interviewed Founder Chris Lindland last year, he explained that 20% of the ideas for new products come from customers:

Giving over control to our customers is so much more exciting because magical things happen that marketers can’t plan. The best example I can give you — and, sincerely, as funny as the product may be, it’s the most illustrative product we have — is what’s happened to our disco product. We made 100 pairs of Disco Pants on a lark. We’ve sold well more than 20,000 pairs by now. What happened is, people took photos of themselves wearing this stuff, showing new audiences how to wear and use these products. In the beginning, the Burning Man crowd [a self-expression art festival in Nevada] went bananas over it, then golfers got into it, and now the BASE-jumping community has adopted it. And it just keeps going and going.

Betabrand has a think tank on its website where customers can submit ideas, vote for new products, and fund development of products they want to buy.

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How to start thinking about customer evangelism for your brand

While many marketers cite customer evangelism as a top priority, you may think: “There are so many other things I am working on. Should I really prioritize this?” Or you look at GoPro, Tourism Australia, and Betabrand, and think, “They are really visual brands. It is easy for them to get customers excited and participating in their marketing.”

While some brands have an easier time getting their customers so excited that they want to share and build new products, all brands can and should focus on customer evangelism.

Where do content marketers go from here? As Davis asserts, you may just need to take some time to brainstorm:

We should spend more time trying to get the right message to the audience that already loves us and measure the return on that investment in terms of revenue. How much more did they spend when they engage with our content than someone who doesn’t? I think it’s an easy way to do it. You own them. They subscribe to something. They follow you. They like you. Let’s know what that means to the bottom line.

It’s also important to note that while evangelism implies customers, you can also think about how your subscribers can be better evangelists and share more about your brand.

Here are some questions to ask in the brainstorming session:

1) Who publicly loves our brand? Make a list of people who are passionate about your brand and ask them to get involved.

2) What are the things about our brand that customers love? Ask the previously identified cheerleaders as well as your internal team. What do you offer that no other brand does? When you talk to your customers, what gets them most excited? Why do they want to do business with you instead of someone else?

3) What would you want people to share? Brainstorm on what types of things you want people to talk about more than others. The more specific questions you ask, the better.

4) How can you make it easier for people to share information about what they love? Once you decide what you want customers to share, think about how you can make it easy for them. Is there an obvious social platform on which you can build this community? Or should you have something on your website?

5) How can you delight your brand fans? Remember: You not only want to get, but you need to continue to give. Think about your best customers and also those who are new and may appreciate the unexpected surprise from you.

6) How will you measure success? Like anything, you need to be able to measure what you are creating so you can understand the return on your investment and time. As these people are customers, you should be able to track their involvement with you.

Now I’m turning this over to you: What are some examples of brands that you think excel when it comes to content marketing for customer evangelism? What steps should marketers take to execute a successful program?

Want to learn more about moving beyond brand awareness in your content marketing? Check out all the fantastic CMW sessions that are available through our Video on Demand portal.

Cover image by Daniel Robert Dinu, Unsplash, via pixabay

Author: Michele Linn

Michele Linn is the co-founder and chief strategy officer of Mantis Research, a consultancy focused on helping brands create and amplify original research they can use in their marketing. Before starting Mantis, Michele was head of editorial at Content Marketing Institute, where she led the company's strategic editorial direction, co-developed its annual research studies, wrote hundreds of articles, spoke at industry events and was instrumental in building the platform to 200,000 subscribers. In 2015, she was named one of Folio's Top Women in Media (Corporate Visionary). You can follow her on Twitter at @michelelinn.

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  • Kostas Chiotis

    Thanks Michele. I have always believed that success in any business means building lasting relationships with your consumers.

  • Hemanth Malli

    Converting the consumers to brands is the biggest task if we are success in this then we are on top.

  • Mark Olcott, DVM

    This is fantastic, and relevant to us in the veterinary field as well. With increased competition, veterinarians need to do a much better job of providing engagement with their clients. Great article!

  • Tanoy

    Know about the digital marketing courses for giving a flight to our career

  • Alex

    Great one. Thanks for reminding us with such excellent examples just how effective customer evangelists can be. For sure easier for some brands than others, but when it works it works.

    • Activ Hub- China Digital Intel

      Good point Alex, but I wonder if it is more of a case of some Brands looking and thinking differently than actually easier? Sometimes we can’t see the woods for the trees are are so entrenched in our ways we can’t even see the sky, the trench is so deep~

  • Joshua Bains

    I think we get sidetracked by the term “brand” when we should be thinking “people”. People and their stories are the propellers behind a brand. And people tend to care more about other people’s stories than a brand’s story…the stories of people add up to the story of your brand.

    • Michele Linn

      Great point, Joshua!

    • Activ Hub- China Digital Intel

      well said Joshua, I tend to support the theory that today it is not so much the BRAND itself that matter but how consumers see it, and, at the end of the day, ultimately the consumer, or people, own your brand, not you.

  • Letters Empire

    Excellent examples, Michele! Love to see Tourism Australia featured. We recently wrote an article about their outstanding success with social media, especially with user-generated content:

  • Himanshu Sethi

    i think the best example is Apple, they turned their customers into brand fans. now they are doing that everyone wants to do. customers are crazy.
    i think we should also learn from this post for better experience.
    Himanshu recently posted Sample Question Paper..

  • Maryam

    Great thanks

  • Activ Hub- China Digital Intel

    Thanks Michele, a good article, but in this case, preaching to the converted.
    We are based in China, since 2004, we have never advertised, yet we are still here and this year busier than ever. Part of that is the current admins anti corruption drive which has levelled the playing field a tad, but all of our work comes via WOM.

    That is not so unusual here as China has had a “relationship ” based culture for thousands of years, people are used to asking peers or superiors for advice. The explosion of Social Media and mobile just ratcheted that up to the stratosphere. We manipulate this with our small blog, Email news and G+, our focus is rarely on US [ as in our firm not United states!] but on the consumer, we share ideas and offer suggestions and support.

    Our aim is NOT to lock customers into an never ending dependency but “empower” them, we teach and coach. It is not as self defeating as it seems as digital marketing is constantly changing, we try to stay ahead of the curve [not easy here] so clients will always need some support, and it builds a much closer relationship and trust, they use us when they get a busy period or tricky campaign [repeat biz] and refer us to their friends.

    I still feel we have a long way to go, being a bi-lingual house my Chinese partners are sometimes wary of my this approach and I also tend to be cautious sometimes, but the proof of the pudding, as they say… articles such as yours only serve to give me ideas to bounce off and strengthen my commitment, so thank you.

    • Michele Linn

      Thanks for sharing your experiences, and glad this article helped,