This is the article every marketer should read about the truth behind brand ambassadors, and the article every brand ambassador should read before they commit to a brand.
You may have heard this term used and wondered whether it referred to a proper job title or just a description of a marketing activity. It may surprise you to know that it’s usually a fully defined marketing employment role.
What is a brand ambassador?
Brand ambassadors (sometimes called brand representatives, brand advocates, or corporate ambassadors) are individuals whose job it is to personally promote a company, brand, or product. Their primary aims are to increase brand awareness and attract new customers. There are two main types of brand ambassadors:
- People of influence, who are hired by a brand to help promote its values OR
- Enthusiastic individuals trained and nurtured to become brand ambassadors and build a following.
The former is more commonly the case, since brands have the confidence that the individuals they choose to represent their businesses already have a following, and the right kind of experience to be able to engage in active promotion.
Why use a brand ambassador?
The Importance of social media marketing has soared in the last decade and a half, creating a sea change in the way consumers encounter, try out and become fans of brands.
According to Statista, in the second quarter of 2021, Fortune 500 companies’ social media marketing activities increased by a phenomenal margin. Instagram saw a doubling in posts, YouTube had 77% more posts from these companies and Facebook’s video platform saw a 133% increase. Twitter saw the biggest rise, however, with an incredible 263% rise in engagement.
In part, this is due to the global lockdowns provoked by the “sickness” driving social media users to their devices in ever-greater numbers. However, the pandemic merely accelerated a trend which had long been developing. The old routes for brand marketing strategy — print, television, cinema, and billboard marketing — have all declined as the unifying power of big tech has made the internet the dominant marketplace.
Social media-savvy consumers have become adept at avoiding traditional advertising messages too. Whereas print advertising and billboards were ambient media you simply encountered, pop-up ads or interstitials interrupt the flow of entertainment, and unlike broadcast television, users are often able to skip them manually or automatically using ad blockers.
Many viewers of video content on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook find overt advertising intrusive and irritating. Although it's difficult to get accurate data, for obvious reasons, CNBC summarized IPG Mediabrand’s 2017 report which revealed that 65% of viewers skip video ads. The percentage is likely to have increased, with the use of ad blockers on the rise (by 2019, 763 million consumers had invested in this solution).
By contrast, people like having brands explained to them by likeable influencers they trust. Trust is key — the best brand ambassadors only extoll the virtues of new products and brands they believe in, and this allows them to engage directly with their audience. Word-of-mouth marketing is as successful a strategy in 2022 as it’s ever been.
Let’s look at why brand ambassadors are so influential.
The benefits of using brand ambassadors to market your brand
There are several reasons why a business might adopt brand ambassadors to promote their products or services. These include:
Brand ambassadors usually come with their own social media fanbase. They may have built up a following on any (or several) of the following social media platforms:
- LinkedIn (for B2B products)
There is also the vast ocean of audio podcasters to draw upon, with a reported 120 million listeners in the US in 2021, and a forecast of 160 million podcast followers by 2023.
These social media influencers are commonly individuals who create and broadcast content which attracts a loyal and returning audience. The top 10 YouTubers boast millions of subscribers and regularly score upwards of 10 million views for individual videos, making that platform alone a huge canvas upon which to broadcast a brand message.
The personal touch
Instead of slick ads made by corporations, brand ambassadors deliver personal messages about the brands they represent. Sometimes this will take the form of a product demonstration, “unboxing” or “haul.” The ambassador’s enthusiasm and appealing personality will gently reinforce the brand’s values and the products’ benefits.
As well as new product reviews and demonstrations, some YouTubers and podcasters perform ad reads which they write themselves. These often prove more popular than pre-prepared messages written by a brand’s marketing department. Once more, what brands benefit from is the direct connection between the personality onscreen (or on audio) and their listeners/viewers.
Over and above their content creation and active promotion, there may be sponsorship tie-ins, event marketing and branded personal appearances for the most popular ambassadors.
Inherent in this personal connection is the notion that the ambassador can be trusted because they only represent brands that they themselves enjoy and use. It’s important therefore that brand ambassadors are vetted before being engaged to ensure they have a reputation for honesty and are considered trustworthy.
Brand advocates actively increase the reach of a brand by creating content which may travel beyond geographical and demographic boundaries that the brand’s other marketing campaigns can’t overcome. The right influencer can make a brand which has perhaps faded from view leap into public consciousness once more. They can help pivot brands in new directions.
Under Armour’s partnership with The Rock and other sports personalities has transformed their brand from niche outdoors fashion label to popular stylish apparel and accessories choice.
Some brands build a network of local ambassadors to help open flagship stores and run grassroots marketing campaigns. In short, consumers love associating a face with a brand name.
What does a brand ambassador do?
There’s more to being a good brand ambassador than saying nice things about a brand. Some of the tasks that might be expected of someone in this role might include:
- Taking part in new branding efforts and launches
- Creating supportive social media content.
- Attending in-person product launches and demonstrations.
- Keeping on top of brand messaging and product lines.
- Generating word of mouth through subtle product advocacy.
- Communicating with consumers, accepting feedback, and communicating helpful suggestions back to brand HQ.
One thing that may also prove important is maintaining a standard of conduct and an attitude in keeping with brand image and values, and representing it in a positive light. Brand ambassadors lose their contracts when they engage in insalubrious behavior, get involved in social media infighting or otherwise endanger the brand’s reputation.
Often these firings are reported by the world’s news media, creating negative PR for the brand. Brand ambassadors must be careful how they conduct themselves in public and must consider whether certain career moves might affect their ongoing relationship with their corporate paymasters.
Examples of leading brand ambassador programs
The following brands have been especially good at engaging the services of brand ambassadors and using them to expand their potential customer reach. These are just three examples from many.
Lululemon’s brand ambassador program
The Canadian fitness apparel brand, Lululemon, employs a small army of successful brand ambassadors in two categories – global ambassadors and store ambassadors. The former come from all across the health and fitness sphere – yoga instructors, surfers, athletes, pro Basketball players and so forth.
These ambassadors are all profiled on Lululemon’s site and held up as exemplars of the brand’s values of self-improvement through physical training. Store ambassadors motivate local people to support their local Lululemon store, creating a network of communities.
H&M’s brand ambassador program
The affordable yet stylish Swedish fashion outlet, H&M, developed their sub-brand Nyden by creating a network of Instagram influencers to post images and polls which would gather customer feedback on new looks and seasons whilst building a following.
Red Bull’s brand ambassador program
Synonymous with high octane excitement, Red Bull adorns race cars, wingsuits, and mountain bikes. The brand has found a way to combine event sponsorship with YouTube dominance by creating its Wings Team, an elite cohort of extreme sports people who engage in exciting challenges, stunts, and world record breaking attempts, all heavily branded.
Of course, not all brands are looking for a commitment as extreme (and potentially life-threatening) as Red Bull. What then do brands require of all their ambassadors?
What qualifications and qualities should a brand ambassador have?
Skills not degrees
Although it's important that a brand ambassador be articulate and intelligent, they don’t have to have any specific academic qualifications. It’s much more important that they have certain key skills, including:
- Being great communicators, with a positive attitude.
- Showing an aptitude for social media content creation.
- And a restless energy with which to promote the brand,
- Including face-to-face meetings at product launches and demonstrations.
- If they demonstrate understanding of marketing strategy, that’s a plus.
Often companies have brand ambassador training schemes, so that influencers who lack the experience in brand ambassadorship can learn the ropes.
Social networks of followers
For obvious reasons, it helps to have already built a fanbase online, although this may not prove essential if on-the-job training in building a social media following is given. Brands do prefer to hire individuals who come with their own readymade audiences, however.
The kinds of people who might have appropriate followings would include:
- Fashion, sport, music, and media personalities.
- YouTubers and other social media influencers.
- Podcasters and digital content presenters.
- Leading bloggers and vloggers.
- Business thought leaders and successful entrepreneurs (B2B).
- Other noteworthy celebrities and opinion leaders.
However, potentially anyone with a charismatic personality whose audience fits with the brand could potentially become a brand ambassador.
The right personality
Charisma is a rare and unpredictable commodity. Not everyone who is likeable in real life comes across well on social media, or develops a following, so there is a “mystery ingredient” to the perfect brand ambassador recipe.
However, certain qualities are a given. These might include:
- A warm and engaging personality.
- A reputation for honesty and trustworthiness.
- The ability to quickly explain key brand selling points.
- A naturalness and spontaneity (nothing they do seems rote).
- Extroversion: they enjoy talking to strangers.
- The ability to make fascinating content.
While this might seem quite an extensive shopping list, most successful social media influencers already possess these qualities, making them an easy choice for potential ambassadorships.
However, it’s not all about celebrities — anyone with the above personality traits and interests could potentially succeed as a brand ambassador with the right guidance.
Next, we’ll look at the realities of becoming a brand ambassador. What sort of remuneration might you expect and what training and resources are out there?
How are brand ambassadors paid?
Because there are a host of different ways in which brand ambassadors can be engaged, there are a commensurate range of ways of being paid. The main methods are:
If you’re put on the payroll by a company as a full-time or part-time brand ambassador there’s a wide range of income potential, depending on the level of influence you have, the marketing budget of the brand and the amount of time you can devote to brand-related activities.
The US national average brand ambassador salary on Glassdoor is currently (2022) $36,414. Comparably gives a median of $24,940 with the range extending from $18,000 to $115,000. The lower end of the scale is appropriate to young, first-time job entrants while the higher potential salary might be payable to those with a proven track record and established following.
As with any salaried position, your remuneration may include increments for long service, performance-related bonuses, healthcare, and other incentives.
Some brand ambassadors are employed on an ad hoc or part-time basis. These ambassadors typically have other income streams and report the hours they spend on brand-related activities, which may change from month to month. Many of these brand ambassadors will set their own hours which may include weekend, holiday, or non-office hours work.
Currently, online rates seem to range between $18 and $27 per hour, with Indeed reporting an average of $18.65 per hour.
Where brand ambassadors are working on a sales or referral basis, they may be paid primarily on commission. In other words, where their word-of-mouth recommendation drives a sale (and this can be proven) they receive a fee. This can be worthwhile if the ambassador has a primary source of income, and their ambassadorship is an added bonus, supplementing their regular earnings.
Sometimes a popular YouTuber or other online personality might earn a percentage of sales or conversions made through their platform, which is often identified using a coupon code.
Clearly, none of the above applies to the kind of bespoke deals someone like The Rock will attract as ambassador for a major brand. These deals can be worth millions but are not really what we’re talking about there. Brands are now developing mass ambassador programs, where they leverage the efforts of hundreds, sometimes thousands of ambassadors, to spread the word throughout a host of online networks.
How do I become a brand ambassador?
The good news is that you don’t have to achieve superstardom on YouTube or Instagram with an audience of millions to become attractive to brands looking for ambassadors.
In fact, many brands have opened ambassadorship programs and training courses in recent years. I ran a quick Glassdoor search for “brand ambassador” in Los Angeles, for instance, and found 187 vacancies for brands including Polar Beverages, Van Cleef & Arpels and Ralph Lauren.
It’s important to look carefully at each advertisement since some companies’ unscrupulous HR departments use “brand ambassador” as a synonym for sales executive, an entirely different role and skill set.
There are online agencies, directories and even apps which offer to link would be brand ambassadors to suitable brands.
Ainfluencer is one such, listing more than 100 brands currently looking to connect with influencers with whom to form partnerships.
BeAmbassador offers a platform for brands to incentivize their own employees to become ambassadors.
Influencer Marketing Hub provides a host of useful articles, platforms, and agencies to help brands find influencers.
What most of the online resources have in common is they are brand-centric. The perception is that brands will approach potential influencers based upon their fame and following, rather than the other way round. There are many agencies specializing in this field, particularly when it comes to approaching millennials and Gen-Z influencers with popular social media accounts. Some of the big-name agencies include Viral Nation, HypeFactory and the UK’s Fanbytes.
However, if you are a top podcaster, social media influencer, sportsperson or YouTuber with a following in the tens of thousands (at least) there’s no harm in reaching out. Why not try your favorite brands’ marketing divisions to see if there are any opportunities, or check the jobs listings of their websites?
One thing that’s vital to stress, both from the perspective of the brand and the ambassador is that there must be a genuine love of the brand for the relationship to work. If you already love a product and find yourself inspired to tell the world how good it is, you already possess two of the key components of any brand ambassador: trustworthiness and enthusiasm.
Brand ambassadors — A growing army
As we’ve seen, brands are increasingly turning to ambassadors and influencers to get the word out in a crowded, competitive online marketplace. The process is becoming more and more sophisticated and organized and there are opportunities for all parties to forge profitable relationships.
As with all relationships, there may be a little trial and error involved, but when a match is made, and true love blossoms, everyone’s a winner!
For more on digital content marketing, a key component of the brand ambassador process, check out our article playlist here.
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