Voice of the people

Brands harness grassroots passion by letting their most loyal customers do the talking

Michael Morrison was 13 when he first visited a Red Robin restaurant and experienced the teenage heaven that is burgers and bottomless fries.

As he grew to adulthood, Morrison’s love for Red Robin also grew. Now 28, the small-business owner and father of four from Spanaway, Wash., said he takes great pleasure in introducing Red Robin virgins to the brand. He takes an active role responding to negative comments on the chain’s Facebook page. And his second child was born in a Red Robin parking lot — although not deliberately.

So it’s no surprise that Morrison was selected in an online contest as the 450-unit casual-dining chain’s first “chief burger officer,” a volunteer position of sorts, paid in burgers — actually, a dozen $30 Red Robin gift cards — an iPad and other perks.

Red Robin is one of a growing number of companies that are tapping the civilian ranks — or, more specifically, their customers — to enlist brand ambassadors. Others include Jamba Juice, with its ongoing “Ambassadors of Wow” program, and Tommy Bahama, which now is searching for the ultimate Rumologist, an expert on rum. Read More