Brand ambassadors have evolved to become a staple part of every marketer’s toolkit.
While brand ambassadors made their way into the mainstream as celebrity endorsements, they have evolved today to your every-day online entertainer. Why? Partly because being popular is becoming mainstream. According to a study done by The Harris Poll, kids are more likely to want to be a Youtuber than an astronaut.
With the continued rise of social media stars has come a rise in marketers effort to use brand ambassadors in their marketing mix.
All of the noise around using brand ambassadors for marketing makes it easy to get lost in a sea of (often mis-) information.
Here is your ultimate guide to finding your footing with brand ambassadors in 2019.
Table of contents.
- What is a brand ambassador?
- What is a brand ambassador program?
- How to find influential brand ambassadors.
- How to recruit brand ambassadors.
- How much do brand ambassadors get paid?
- What do brand ambassadors do?
- Brand ambassador program examples.
- A brief history of brand ambassadors.
What is a brand ambassador?
Read the whole post, what is a social media brand ambassador?
A brand ambassador is hired to promote a company on a long term basis. This person evangelizes the company’s brand, product or service to their network. This ideally drives awareness, leads and conversions.
Often, brand ambassadors have an existing following on a social media site like Instagram or Youtube. Brand ambassador programs are an effective marketing tactic, because they generate buzz, provide social proof and broadcast the brand to a loyal audience.
Pewdiepie (Felix Kjellberg), the most highly subscribed Youtube creator in the world, is shown in this video to promote Origin PC.
In this case, Felix is a brand ambassador for Origin PC. Felix discusses Origin and their products on a regular interval on his channel and uses their products regularly. They also collaborate on competitions and other fan-engagement campaigns. Origin PC has sponsored Felix starting as early as 2017. Since then he has grown from less than 50 million to 100 million subscribers. The combination of their long term partnership and Felix’s rapid growth has likely made this an extremely profitable relationship for Origin.
We can tell from the structure of this video that Felix was likely paid a significant portion of earnings from all users who signed up using his custom link and probably those who buy their “Pewdiepie” branded products. This is referred to as an affiliate model.
Traditional celebrities such as musical artists, actors or sports celebrities who are paid to endorse a product are also considered brand ambassadors. Studies like this one from the International Journal of advertising show however than social media creators or “influencers” like Felix make more effective brand ambassadors than celebrities.
What is a brand ambassador program?
Read our step-by-step article on how to create a brand ambassador program. It’s really good.
Brand ambassador programs are created by marketers to establish a scalable model of recruiting and managing brand ambassadors. To continue with the example above, Origin also sponsors other Youtubers and Twitch streamers according to Origins PC’s website, who references several other brand ambassadors.
They do this to promote their companies brand, product or service. This involves sponsoring many individuals trusted by the companies target audience in an attempt to win new customers.
The cliff-notes on creating a brand ambassador program:
- Structure a budget and strategy
- Identify potential ambassadors
- Outreach to recruit ambassadors
- Pay ambassadors and manage relationships
- Recruit further ambassadors and optimize step 1.
There are many important nuances in creating a brand ambassador program. Some of them including finding, recruiting and paying members of your program.
How to find influential brand ambassadors
This part of the article focuses on using Modash to find influencers. While there are other methods, we built, use and love this tool.
Identifying people qualified to evangelize your brand is a serious undertaking. For starters, they should speak to your target audience. They should also be considered a trustworthy source of information on the topic your brand relates to.They also have to have a level of popularity that fits into your budget and of course, be willing to promote your product.
Modash is a search engine with data on nearly 100,000,000 influencers on Instagram and Twitch.
If you use this tool, you can input details about your target audience including their age, gender, location and interests and get a list of people who speak to that audience online. From there, you can quickly and easily view further audience data as well as details about the performance of the influencer.
From there, you can build lists and export public contact details that work great while recruiting your brand ambassadors.
How to recruit brand ambassadors
As we discuss in this article about influencer outreach strategy brand ambassador recruiting is all about automation.
Getting emails is often the biggest problem in influencer outreach. Since we have our influencer’s contact details from the previous step we can go ahead and move to the nitty gritty. Followups.
Sending outreach is useless unless you plan to get responses. This requires regular followups, clear messaging and a compelling case for why the ambassador should join your program. It’s a bit like a great sales email and, as in sales, getting great results is all about automation.
Create E-mail automations with tools like Woodpecker. Instagram automations with tools like Phantom-buster.
Unlike (some) sales E-mail’s, outreach shouldn’t be boring. It should be hyper personal.
Furthermore, optimizing your budget and relationship management strategy will be an ongoing (albeit quite fun) task. The beauty of brand ambassador programs VS traditional influencer marketing is that you can optimize key metrics over time.
For example, let’s explore how much to pay your brand ambassadors.
How much do brand ambassadors get paid?
Payment structure is a noteworthy topics in the brand ambassadors vs influencer marketing topic.
Long-term (vs short term) brand ambassador partnerships are rising in popularity. Brand ambassadors are often incentivized with an affiliate model: they receive a commission on every payment paid with their custom link or promo code. This number can vary from a few dollars per purchase to millions of dollars in the case of extremely popular individuals with powerful networks selling very expensive goods.
The beauty of brand ambassadors is that they are long-lasting, giving the opportunity for optimization over time. It is extremely beneficial to experiment with your CPA (cost per acquisition) in your affiliate model. That means changing the amount you pay your ambassadors per acquisition, to see when they start converting customers at an optimal rate.
Ideally, your brand ambassador program becomes the cheapest and most effective method of acquiring customers in your marketing mix. This means you will have to experiment with paying less, as well as more, to your ambassadors.
While paying less might seem obvious in order to acquire customers for less. It can sometimes work out the other way. Ambassadors sometimes feel more incentivized to create content and showcase the brand more often if they are paid more, resulting in a net higher number of customers for the same amount of money.
There is an inflection point when the influencer feels properly incentivized. At which ambassadors will create more content of a higher quality and attempt to drive more people to purchase using their custom link or promo code. Sometimes, you get what you pay for.
There are other metrics you can optimize when working with brand ambassadors as well, such as what they are expected to do.
What do brand ambassadors do?
Brand ambassadors evangelize the brand they should represent. They often create content showcasing the brand to their audience. Sometimes they are more subtle, for example wearing clothing brands new release without mentioning much about it at all.
Sometimes, they even appear in the ads or content of the brand, such as the example below featuring popular Youtube film-maker Casey Niestat and Samsung.
Samsung was so confident on the impact Casey’s ambassadorship would make, that they had him at the core of their ad-spot in the 2017 Oscar awards.
In modern, affiliate-based brand ambassador programs, it’s possible to optimize your expectations of what a brand ambassador is to accomplish. This is done with a simple quota system.
Because your ambassador program takes place over the course of many months and ambassadors are paid on an affiliate model, we can set a minimum number of acquisitions (customers) they are expected to convert every month.
Experimenting with this number (as well as the amount you pay per acquisition) incentivizes the ambassador to continue mentioning the product on a regular interval and allows you to forecast your acquisitions even from the very early days.
This type of experimentation is very important not only in brand ambassador marketing but in all Web 2.0 marketing. According to this study published by the IEEE, measurable experimentation in marketing is one of 4 great opportunities in the modern web.
Examples of top brands using brand ambassadors.
Apple’s unique recruiting strategy for its brand ambassador program.
Apple, which is according to Interbrand is the most valuable brand in the world, is about to turn every single customer into a brand ambassador.
How? By paying them 2% cashback on Apple Pay, 3% cashback on Apple products, 3% at partner merchants like Uber and Walgreens and 1% cashback on everything else.
Everyone, you know is about to start asking: “Do you accept apple pay?”
While this is a very non-traditional approach to creating an ambassador army, they effectively follow all of the rules I mentioned.
- Structure a budget and strategy
The strategy here is to simply pay people for using the product. While we don’t know the budget, we can assume Apple made some serious investment in this program and focused on the LTV (lifetime value) of a customer versus the average amount they would spend.
- Identify potential ambassadors
People who use their product in this case, make for great ambassadors. Apple users will demand their favourite stores to accept apple pay, effectively making them sales reps for apple.
- Outreach to recruit ambassadors
The product itself has received massive news coverage and Apple’s name alone has sent them a wave of new customers. They have leveraged this to skip the outreach part, in this case. They do, however, make it very obvious on the apple card site the benefits of their cashback program, helping them recruit ambassadors.
- Pay ambassadors per acquisition and manage relationships
Because a user must use the card to get paid, they effectively pay per acquisition while driving massive WOM (word of mouth).
Coca Cola leverages masses of university student brand ambassadors.
Another one of the top global brands, Coca-cola, has spent an incredible amount of money on influencer marketing and brand ambassadors. Examples like their #thisonesfor and #thatsgold campaigns come to mind.
One massive effort they have undertaken is to be at nearly 30 university campuses all over the United States. With them, seemingly hundreds of the most popular students, who had been trained and worked as ambassadors online and offline.
The results have so far been hundreds of thousands of samples given out across the US, millions of social media impressions and hundreds of thousands of engagements.
All landing on a difficult to reach University aged audience who might be swayed to buy Coca-Cola for the next 50 years.
Mcdonalds send 300 kids to the Olympics in an epic brand ambassador program.
In 2008, Mcdonald’s did something incredible. They partnered with a world-class Olympian and prepared to send 300 children from the USA to China to experience the world’s premier sporting event.
After such a perspective-shifting life event, the children returned to their hometowns and appeared in local newspapers, television and other media publications. Mcdonald’s had given them the trip of a lifetime and millions of American’s would hear all about it.
According to Public Relations Cases (written by Jerry A Hendrix as well as several others), the result was outstanding. Over 200 Million media impressions were tracked and the story was published in over 700 print, broadcast and media stories by the top channels in America.
While these few examples are more unconventional and extremely creative (as well as costly) campaigns, simplicity is key. Obviously, Mcdonald’s didn’t pay each ambassador per-hamburger-sold. But Mcdonald’s has much different success metrics than most companies, as they have already become one of the most powerful brands in the world.
For most brands formulate their first brand ambassador programs, it makes sense to structure your campaign as written earlier in the article.
A brief History of brand ambassadors and their rise to the modern-day.
In the 1960s, companies began thinking heavily about the impact of brand on their business.
Advertisers began to differentiate individual brands by giving them a personality, such as Avis’ image campaign establishing it as the No. 2 car rental company that “tries harder.” No. 1 Hertz continued to generate the “How did they do that?” wizardry as it and its agency, Norman, Craig & Kummel, portrayed people flying through the air and into a moving convertible to the theme of “Hertz puts you in the driver’s seat.” Alka-Seltzer did Speedy one better in the 1960s to solve the country’s heartburn woes. The Doyle Dane Bernbach team of Roy Grace and Evan Stark bemoaned, “Mama, mia, atsa some spicy meatball.” And in one of the earliest TV examples of using s*x to sell, former Miss Sweden Gunilla Knutson cooed the double entendre, “Take it off, take it all off,” as the theme from “The Stripper” played. Red-blooded American males heeded her call for Noxzema shave cream. –
– Ad Age calls the 1960s and 70s a creative revolution and the introduction of differentiated story-telling by brands.
Although the 60s and 70s might have brought rise to the idea of brand as a valuable asset to every company, brand ambassadors appeared even before this time. As explained in a 2008 piece by the New York Times titled Nothing Sells like celebrity, In the 1940s film stars were ambassadors for tobacco companies, in the 50s stars like Bob hope pitched the good word of American express.
Brand ambassadors are a core piece of the advertising world for over 60 years. The difference is that today we can build highly performant, optimized campaigns.
Brand ambassadors could be the marketing game-changer you’re looking for.
Modern-day brand ambassadors are often known as influencers. The explosion of influencer marketing over the past 10 years has had marketing teams scrambling to find a way to capitalize on this incredible new era of social media creators dominating the internet.
With this piece, I offer you something of more substance than traditional influencer marketing. Brand ambassadors.
Marketers got it right, there is an incredible opportunity in partnering with social media brand ambassadors and having them spread the word. But what we got wrong is the execution.
The truly exceptional way to build, scale and maintain an influencer marketing program is to find influencers who speak to your audience, partner with them for the long term, measure & optimize their efforts and work in the affiliate model.
I am very willing to provide guidance in brief calls, please contact me via the chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen or write me at Avery@modash.io to discuss how a brand ambassador program might work for you.