Blue Bell Ice Cream is an iconic brand for millions of consumers in the South. But this spring, a listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell Ice Cream shut them down from April to November. Normally, this would spell disaster for a brand. But not Blue Bell. Instead of customers flocking to other brands, they impatiently waited for the return of this iconic brand. Consumers weren’t concerned about getting listeria. They were concerned about when Blue Bell would return.
Little was ever mentioned in local media or social media from consumers about the fear of getting sick. And when Blue Bell came back last month, there were lines of customers and local news reporting put Blue Bell in the headlines daily.
This level of loyalty is unusual, especially when tainted product could produce serious illness and in some cases death. Still, the Blue Bell brand prevailed.
It took millions outside investment dollars from a wealthy Texan to keep the company in business, but this investor could see why throwing his money at this would pay off.
The reason? Blue Bell doesn’t just have customers. It has raving fans.
Cultivating raving fans is money in the bank. I’ve seen this with Blue Bell, and I’ve seen it in a niche market for Vocal Majority, whose marketing I oversee (where last weekend we again sold out Christmas Show performances and thousands of CDs and digital downloads of "Then Sings My Soul," a brand new recording).
So what does it take to create raving fans? I think the foundational requirement is this: consistently producing an extraordinary product over an extended period of time.
And how can you emulate a successful company to support an extraordinary product?
• Know what your customer wants
• Stick with your product … be careful with changes or upgrades
• Consistent message and brand
• Meet your customers where they are, in the right channels
• Always deliver exceptional customer experiences and service
When you have the loyalty of raving fans, even when things are down, they’ll support you. Raving fans will market your product for you on social media. In a crisis, local news media will often pick up the story because they’re driven to report what people want to hear or read (which drives more advertising dollars for the media).
Want to take more money to the bank? Cultivate raving fans.
(This column originally appeared in Today @ Target Marketing).