3 Benefits of Brand Ambassador Marketing for Growing Companies
Growing companies are facing competition on an unprecedented scale. Not only are the markets saturated, but consumers have a tremendous amount of power to choose between products due to the internet and easy cross-border shipping.
In this environment, how can you increase click-through rates, social reach, and sales on a budget that gets cut each year? Influencers have recently been added into the media mix that marketers use, but are increasingly being seen as inauthentic. As their perceived lack of authenticity increases, their influence dwindles. In fact only 5% of people think that influencers are authentic and believe in the product they are promoting. Though influencers have a great social reach and provide millions of connection channels for brands, the quality of those connections is decreasing. Brands are now turning to create ambassadors out of their existing customer and employee base. Why start at zero if you can have a head start through already loyal customers and employees and as Macy’s executive VP of business development said ‘it’s easier to leverage assets that exist than creating something from nothing’.
Nano-influencers and micro-influencers, however, are still able to drive direct purchasing from their followers. This is partly due to their 6.7x greater follower engagement, and partly due to the fact that they are involved in fewer paid sponsorships. Similarly, each customer has a network that they have influence over, and can be collaborated with in order to spread brand messages through high quality channels.
Using a brand ambassador program, you can utilise nano-influencers, micro-influencers and your own customer ambassadors to spread the message through high trust channels. These ambassadors still have high engagement, high influence over their followers, and often a true love for the brand that they work with.
What are Brand Ambassadors?
The Oxford Dictionary defines a brand ambassador as someone who promotes a product or company, both publicly and amongst their friends. The promotion and advocacy of the brand is rewarded through payment, free products, experiences or exclusive perks. Brand Ambassadors consist of influencers, micro-influencers, nano-influencers, employees and customers, all of whom have a natural organic reach. Ambassadors work to increase brand visibility, relay messages between brand and customers, and increase sales and drive traffic.
What different Brand Ambassadors are there?
There are various ambassador programs could you focus on: macro-influencers, micro-influencers, employee or customer. If leveraging a new asset, micro-influencers have the advantage of driving higher engagement, but are more difficult to manage - requiring ambassador software. If you are leveraging a pre-existing asset, you have the choice between employees and customer ambassadors.
Employee brand ambassador programs have been successfully executed by company giants such as Nokia and Macy's. Customers of the brand can relate to employee social posts better than those released by the brands marketing and advertising team. In fact, it has been shown that customers trust employees as much as three times more than the CEO. If the love for the brand originates from within, this passion and advocacy can emanate and spread to its customers, driving traffic and sales.
For some brands, an employee ambassador program may not be feasible or the direction they want to go in. Below we highlight some of the main benefits of a customer brand ambassador program. If executed well, they can carry a brand through the ranks.
#1 Create a Community (Lululemon, Strange Bikinis)
Humans love community. They reinforce a sense of belonging and establish an emotional connection with the brand. Becoming an ambassador of a brand gives the ambassador access to a social group based on a shared, exclusive membership. Once an ambassador and part of the brand bubble, a customer ambassador can create, highlight, and promote your brand in an authentic way. This allows you to build your brand from the bottom up, and this approach has found to be highly successful for brands like Lululemon (read more about this here).
The community can be a powerful networking tool for both ambassador and brand. Strange Bikinis, through an ambassador connected with a shoe brand. This lead to a photo shoot collaboration and in the process, Strange Bikinis were able to gain the shoe brands social reach too.
Example: Lululemons Ambassador Program
Lululemon have an extensive ambassador program that is populated with three types of ambassadors; Global Yoga Ambassadors, Elite Ambassadors and Store Ambassadors. These ambassadors work together to create the holistic community that generates authentic content and is solidified by loyalty. Through cultivating a community, passion around the brand is accelerated and makes your brand and its ambassador community aspirational.
#2 Drive Visibility (Harley Davidson, Red Bull)
People need to know about your brand and your product. Without visibility your brand can’t grow and succeed in the ways you have designed it to. You may have the answer to space travel, but, if you don't tell the right people then it won’t be used and the world will never have commercial flights to Mars.
Harley Davidson do a great job at driving visibility through their ambassadors. To become part of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) you must own a Harley Davidson bike which means their ambassadors are continuously driving visibility. The exclusive HOG events that Harley Davidson run create a buzz around the bikes and non-members want to be a part of it.
Your ambassador program collates those who love your brand, places them together, and fuels the content creating engine and drives visibility. This gives you on-brand material to work with that can increase the engagement of potential customers by 98%.
Example: Red Bull, The Wings Team
Red Bull has perfected this technique through their Wings Team. The brand started to soar when their ambassadors posted videos on YouTube showcasing the awesome things they do. People loved these videos and they went viral which increased the brand’s visibility. The ambassadors perfectly executed Red Bull’s strategy of selling the experience after the customer drinks the drink, not the product itself.
The Wings Team also visit events, represented Red Bull and engaged with the public, creating a personality for Red Bull giving consumers a face to a name. It has been shown that brands that are emotionally connected with their customers see three times greater advocacy than those who don't form an emotional connection. Red Bulls public engagement coupled with their amazing video content make people talk about them, increasing visibility and driving referrals and sales. This has been shown to also be the case with other brands who have seen a 50% increase in sales when UGC is used in campaigns.
#3 Cultivate a Symbiotic Relationship
Ambassador programs are not a one way street; a symbiosis forms. Both parties in the deal are winners and dependence is equal. The brand requires the ambassadors for visibility, engagement, and feedback and the ambassadors enjoy the perks of the community, free stash and exclusive on-brand offers. As evidence for this, top performing brands in customer engagement experienced 50% higher revenue growth than all other brands.
Through engaging with your customers, you humanise your brand. This turns you from just a product to a walking, talking, living thing which has an opinion and the ability to influence. It creates loyalty from both your ambassadors and your consumers. Offering a brand opinion will encourage your ambassadors to give theirs and the symbiotic relationship is enhanced.
Ambassadors can get involved with new product development, promote product launches and influence new directions for the brand. They are your external eyes and ears. This comes with caution though, ask what they want, not what your current product lacks.
Brand ambassadors are a way for a brand to make a real, genuine connection with their audience. Their ability to create a community, engage customers, deliver brand messages, provide feedback, and drive visibility makes them invaluable. In return for this, they should be fully rewarded. Ambassadors love your brand and may advocate naturally for you. Often, however, as recognition for their actions and to keep the relationship sweet, rewards are expected. These rewards can be anything from merchandise and exclusive event invites to discounts and points. Your ambassadors can be a huge asset to your brand - building equity and solidifying trust, all the while driving sales.