Another great study tour completed! I came away from this tour with a strong belief in brand ambassadors and the power of having everyone in your organization represent your brand. Some of our best visits stick in the brain because they felt tailor-made for us, like the company really cared and was excited to have us. From the acne CEO gamely posing with us in an MIT to the Carolina Herrera umbrellas offered to us during a rainstorm to the surprise Spongebob headphones from Nickelodeon, companies that made a special effort to accommodate us left us all with such powerful, gut-based love for the brands. Other visits, even when interesting and engaging, couldn’t reach that above-and-beyond feeling we got from the standouts.
After every visit our professor polled the class to see if we had improved or reduced impressions of the brand. In almost every case the majority of us had an improved perception: seeing the inner workings and hearing behind-the-scenes chatter is empowering and inherently fascinating. But the brands we kept coming back to, the brands whose stores we walked into in airports and on the streets whenever we saw them, were the brands that really impressed us and made brand ambassadors out of us all. In the week since our trip, our whatsapp group has been blowing up with pictures and information on where we can locally buy Dominio do Bibei wines. Those wines were interesting, great wines but there are plenty of interesting, great wines in the world. It is the power of the brand that they instilled in us in their dark, remote, stunning winery that has us spreading the word.
An extension of this concept is our tour guides. In each city we had a different tour guide who gave us a city tour and came with us to every visit and event. They were the representatives of their city’s brand, and as a result I associate the cities strongly with our different guides’ personalities, fairly or unfairly. Our guide in Berlin was extremely knowledgeable about German history and somewhat stoic until we got her to open up. Our guide in Stockholm was quietly sarcastic and reserved. Our guide in Madrid was fast-talking, funny, and energetic. For better or worse, those were the impressions I was left with from those cities.
Especially in a context where you have a limited interaction with a brand, its ambassadors and the people it chooses to let represent it are so important to the perception you are left with.