Giving your brand a personality through the people you employ can really increase customer loyalty.

Last week I had the pleasure of travelling to London with my 4 year old daughter and mum. The journey didn’t start out as planned, as a strike meant our connecting train from Skipton to Leeds was cancelled, meaning we would miss our London train. After a mild panic and transferring our original tickets for a later train, we finally boarded the 11:15 to London Kings Cross.

By now you’re probably asking yourself…

Why is she telling me all of this?

Well dear readers, I’m telling you this because I then witnessed an excellent example of how companies can use PEOPLE in their marketing mix to create loyal customers and generate organic promotion.

So here’s the story of Angie & Virgin East Coast Trains…

Having settled into our seats and left the station, we made our way to the food bar. A little frazzled and a lot peckish!

We were greeted by Angie; smiling, friendly and rocking some of the chicest curls I’ve seen in a long time. I could only snap a covert image of the back of Angie’s head…

Angie Virgin Trains

But I digress.

Angie proceeded to ring up our order, not batting an eyelid when we asked for two glasses with ice for the cheeky G&Ts we’d brought with us.

She also asked my daughter lots of questions about our journey, and gave her the Virgin Trains colouring book and crayons which includes window bingo, such fun!

So what pushed this experience from meh to A-meh-zing?

Firstly, on our second trip to the food bar, not only did we get another two complimentary glasses of ice (this time for the Pimms), but Angie also gave us one of the kids snack packs for free. Everyone loves a freebie!

Secondly, Angie perfectly understood the needs of us (the customer) and delivered a solution – and that my friends, is the very definition of marketing.

After a stressful start to the journey and with another 2 + hours left on the train, Angie provided distraction and entertainment for the 4 year old travelling with us, and allowed the adults to relax (read: alcohol) in peace.

People blog post
Aforementioned colouring book and Pimms (pre-ice)

So how did Virgin Trains benefit?

They’ve given away stock and made it easier for us to enjoy our own beverages and therefore, didn’t buy any drinks from the bar.

  1. Customer Loyalty – these small, relatively cheap acts of customer service made loyal customers out of my mum and I. We’re likely to book with Virgin for our future trips down south.
  2. Word of mouth – I told my sister about our positive experience. She’s another frequent user of train travel who will now likely book with Virgin.
  3. Organic promotion – Following our journey, I added a positive message to the Virgin Trains Facebook page, which then got a response from one of their reps. These type of peer reviews have been proven to increase the likelihood of a prospective customer choosing one business over another of their competitors.

Virgin Trains screenshot

Phew, that was a long story to get down to the real point of this post.

  1. Your people are the first line response to your customers. Whether that’s you as a sole trader or members of your staff, they need to be able to deliver good customer service
  2. Often the cost of these types of loss-leaders – where you give away a product or service – generate sales worth far more than the cost of the freebie
  3. Generate as much organic publicity as possible by making it easy for customers to review your service – it might be on your Facebook page, TripAdvisor, Rate My Builder, Google Places, your own website, and niche review sites
  4. Let your business have a personality – customers are more likely to leave positive feedback if they can include a name of the person who helped them – just like we did with Angie

Here’s some more examples of really effective ways businesses use their people combined with promotions to get great publicity…

Pret a Manger

CEO of Pret a Manger, Clive Schlee confirmed that “staff have to give away a certain number of hot drinks and food every week.” and the social media posts generated by this policy generate more positive marketing than spending the money on advertising would.

Pret feedback


When  7 year old Luk wrote to Lego to ask for a replacement  Ninjago that he bought with his Christmas money, and lost on the same day (parents, we’ve all been there), Lego representative Richard replied with a creative letter that went viral. And of course Luk got a free replacement Ninjago.

LEGO example
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