brand ambassadors, thunderbird-style

Yesterday I attended my step-brother’s graduation from the Air Force Academy.  The ceremony included a demonstration by the Thunderbirds, USAF’s Air Demonstration Squadron. thunderbirdsThe show was a rockin’ good time (if you’ve never attended an air show by the Thunderbirds, Blue Angels, or similar, you don’t know what you’re missing — really!) — and it also prompted me to think of the squadron as brand ambassadors and 3 things that great brand ambassadors do.

Importantly, I don’t mean “brand ambassador” in the way the term is commonly used by marketing agencies which, on behalf of their clients, hire people to stand on street corners offering product samples to passers-by or to go to bars and order branded cocktails in loud voices so everyone around them thinks it’s cool to drink X brand of alcohol.  Nor am I referring to celebrity spokespeople, who are contracted to promote the brand.

I’m talking about employees and others who have an ongoing, authentic, interdependent relationship with the brand and whose role is to represent the brand to external audiences in an effort to create positive brand impressions — like the Thunderbirds, brand ambassadors:

  1. showcase the brand at its best — the Thunderbirds execute breathtaking maneuvers that impress their audiences with high impact sight and sound — their show demonstrates the power, precision, and excellence of the USAF “brand” — similarly brand ambassadors show what the brand looks like when its being delivered at 100% (the following is a USAF-created video of the Thunderbirds in action — I hope to upload a video I took as soon as I return to the office)
  2. inspires people to join them — it’s no secret that one of the target audiences the Thunderbirds are trying to impress is potential recruits — their compelling presentation acts as a magnet and an invitation to those who may consider joining the Air Force — in the same way, brand ambassadors attract people (potential customers and employees alike) by providing a positive example of engagement with the brand
  3. connects the day-to-day to the bigger picture — the show serves to remind everyone, not the least of which are the nearly 330,000 enlisted men and women in active duty with the Air Force, what the USAF “brand” is all about — of course the day-to-day reality of the Air Force surely isn’t as exciting or awesome as the show, but the demonstration makes USAF’s mission clear — brand ambassadors also facilitate the connection between prospective customers as well as employees and the brand vision and values

Brand ambassadors fulfill all of these responsibilities by embracing and embodying the brand themselves, and delivering and communicating about the brand in an an authentic, compelling way.  What do you think are brands with great brand ambassadors?

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