Brand Ambassadors and their role in Brand Management

Brand Ambassadors and their role in Brand Management

The word ‘brand’ derives from the practice of branding. The definition of the brand has changed quite dramatically over the course of time. As per the American Marketing Association (AMA) ‘brands are a name, sign, symbol, design or a combination of them that are intended to identify products or services of one seller and to differentiate them from those of another seller’. This definition includes many traditional elements of brands such as the factors related to visual identity and clear external elements associated to organizations and brands.

In the present day environment, a brand is no longer comprised of just the elements included in the definition of the AMA. Today brands are not only tangible representations of a product, service or the organization, but they hold within them many intangible elements which are more difficult to measure. As per the new thinking and the more holistic definition of a brand, brands are no longer a marketing-driven and advertising driven concept, but a more comprehensive concept which incorporates everything the organization does.

Brands are somewhat associated with the organization, organization leadership, employees and all identifiable attributes of the organization. The concept of brand is highly dynamic and prone to change by nature. A brand is not only something which incorporates the product, name, or logo. It is a concept which drives the whole organization and thought processes associated with it. It combines communication and action. It is a very valuable asset of the organization.

A brand is a combination of the corporate behaviour and the values, the technical functionality and the quality of the products as well as the intangible promise the organization instills in the products for the customers. It is a combination of tangible and intangible attributes and seeks to create a positive connection with the customer in order to create incentive for the customers to use the products of the organization in the present as well as in the future. An effective brand is a tool for the organization to communicate with the environment. A properly managed brand improves the image of the organization.

A brand is something which the people recognize and immediately associate certain values to it. However, the concept of brand is much more complex. The process of brand management has evolved during the twentieth century. Past definitions of the brand are centered on the product and the product positioning. This view has been rooted in the idea that brands are all about marketing and advertising. This former view of brands is still alive and kicking in some of the organizations.

However, brands are no longer solely about the product. They are a matter of all aspects related to it, though the product and its positioning do play a very important role. A brand promise contains various levels of benefits to the user or the customer through the product or service. As an example, the benefits to the user can be functional benefits as well as the technical qualities. The product positioning is a significant element of a brand but it is not the most important element. A product brand is a successful brand when all the benefits being promised to the user or customer are in line with the promise made.

The present day customers are ever more confident and outspoken about their views regarding the products that they buy. They want their voices to be ‘heard’ by those who own and control the brands they use.

Brand ambassadors are basically those persons who represent or promote the organization by endorsing its products and services as well as acting as an embodiment of the organization’s corporate identity through their words and actions. The key element of brand ambassadors lies in their ability to use promotional strategies which strengthen the customer-product/service relationship and influence a large audience to buy and consume more. Selection of the right brand ambassador by the organization is an essential requirement to have a useful impact in the targeted market for the brand. A brand ambassador can be selected (i) from celebrities and public figures, (ii) from present or ex- employees of the organization, (iii) from the satisfied consumer/user of the product, and (iv) a common man or woman who is relevant to the organization and its products.

Principally, a brand ambassador is known as a positive spokesperson appointed as an internal or external agent to boost the sales of the product/service and to create brand awareness amongst the targeted audience. Good brand ambassadors are those who know the product, who know the competition, and who know the market. These are the people who are constantly present and building up the reputation of the organization and stirring up the interest of the general public for the organization.

Today, brand ambassador as a term has expanded beyond celebrity branding to self-branding or personal brand management. There is no fixed categorization of the brand ambassadors. They can be employed by the organization, or they can even be working as freelancers. It is also possible that they are volunteers, not getting monetary compensations for promoting the products and services of the organization. More often than not, their efforts are borne out of genuine appreciation for the organization or for the brand.

Brand ambassadors are expected to be useful in providing and increasing the visibility of a brand, boosting its market awareness and, thus, increasing its sales for the benefit of the organization. The role of the brand ambassador is to strengthen and solidify the relationship between the organizational products or services and the customer as well as the user.

Brand ambassadors are often being considered a marketing communication vehicle for the brand which is endorsed by them. This can be achieved in multiple ways. Examples can be (i) by having a logo of the endorsed product on the wear of the brand ambassador, (ii) by participating as a performing guest at events organized for the brand promotion  by the organization, (iii) by branding in some exclusive way on the social networking sites with the sponsoring brand, (iv) by promoting specific publications, events or other relevant information for the endorsed product, (v) by creating a series of video clips/ advertisements which showcase best effective uses and applications for the sponsoring brand product/service, and (vi) by physically branding objects and tools typically used by the brand ambassador.

Brand ambassadors are expected to provide the following benefits to the organization.

To lend a human touch for the brand – Brand ambassadors are required to make the brand more appealing to the target audience. Brand normally gets a boost in popularity when the target audience notices that the brand ambassador has a human touch for the brand.

To add strength to the marketing team of the organization – Brand ambassadors are virtual sales representatives and the marketing team members of the organization.  Word of mouth remains to be one of the best forms of advertising, and that is where much of the brand ambassador’s power lies. By providing positive reviews or telling good things about the brand or the product, they can change public perception of the product or service. They are expected to convince non-customers by converting into the buying customers.

To be a great aide for the organizational social presence – Brand ambassadors are to help in improving the social reach of the brand as well as the organization. They are expected to act as ‘influencers’ for popularizing of the brand, the products and services of the organization in the public.

To be a handy troubleshooter – Brand ambassadors are expected to overturn any bad reviews of the brand, the products and services in the public. They are required to put out the fires well in time and much before the bad reviews get assimilated in the minds of the public.

To improve the market of the endorsed product – Organizations use the service of brand ambassadors for tapping new markets. The organizations utilize the wider reach of the brand ambassador in those new markets where the organization has limited reach.

Public look for honesty in brand ambassador – Today public is very intelligent and knowledgeable. It expects brand ambassadors to promote a product or service only when they truly like the product and when they have got some experience with regards to the use of the product. Public have respect for the endorsement of a brand by the brand ambassador only when it knows that the brand ambassador is really a knowledgeable person and knows all the aspects of the product. Public wants honesty from the brand ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors are a form of providing customer service – Generally the public is apprehensive about trying a new product, or an old product which it has not tried yet. Public normally do have lot of questions about the product or the service before they decide to give it a shot. That’s why it seeks opinion first before it decides to try the product. The brand ambassador provides this opinion and thus helps in educating the public about the product or service.

Profile of brand ambassador

The brand ambassador is to be trustworthy. The person is to be the flag bearer for the organization or the product which he/she personally endorses, uses, and likes. The person is to be an active and enthusiastic user of the products of the organization.

The brand ambassador acts as a direct communication channel between the organization and the target audience. The person delivers the informative, marketing or promotional messages of the organization and hence he/she needs to have lots of affinity with the audience in order to have effective marketing communications with the audience. The person is to be the perfect marketing communication vehicle for a marketplace made up of many highly different niche groups, characterized by very different traits, aspirations, and habits. Also, it is necessary that the brand ambassador endorses only one brand at a time, and he/she does not promote, talk and tell interesting things about similar products of other organization.

Characteristic qualities of a brand ambassador

The characteristic qualities which are expected in a brand ambassador are given in Fig 1 and described below.

Fig 1 Characteristic qualities of a brand ambassador

A brand ambassador is to be relevant – Brand ambassador is to have a substantial reach to of the target audience. The brand ambassador can have a big following in the field of his/her normal activity, bur that following may not be relevant to the organization or the product he/she is to endorse. Further, the popularity of the brand ambassador is relevant when it is in the region where the target audience for the brand/product lives.

Knowledgeable and Innovative in marketing – This is a very important characteristic of a brand ambassador, since the brand ambassador is a person who is also a marketing representative of the organization. The person is to have sufficient knowledge of the product he is endorsing as well as to understand the market besides possessing a brief idea of the role he is to play for the popularizing of the product.

Also, the brand ambassador is required to know the use of the marketing tools of the organization for the brand identity. The person is to know what is needed to properly market the brand and be familiar with everything which is needed to properly carry the brand at all the places.

Furthermore, the brand ambassador is to be innovative. The person is to be able to identify the issues and trends which people embraces. The person is to be able to make useful suggestions and improvements for the benefit of the brand and consumer engagement.

Professional speaker – The brand ambassador is to proactively initiate conversation with others in promoting the brand and the product whether it is goods or services. The person is to be comfortable in engaging healthy discussions and be warm in dealing with difficult people. As the brand ambassador, the person is required to participate in a number of marketing communications as well as promotional programmes and activities of the organization for the branded product. Hence, the brand ambassador is expected to be dynamic in dealing with people. The person is to be well informed with the product being promoted. A good level of awareness of the person about the industry is also very critical, since everything that is said by the brand ambassador reflects the stand of the organization on the issues. So the need for a diplomatic but at the same time engaging speaker cannot be discounted.

A product’s quality and image is being carried by the brand ambassador since he/she is representing it. Hence, the brand ambassador is not only to just speak for it, but he/she needs to be the voice of the brand itself. Whenever the brand ambassador speaks, people clearly see the connection between him/her and the brand. A few moments where a speaker cannot introduce the product properly, can mean a lifetime humiliation for the brand. In such case, the audience not only just loses its interest towards the product but also remember for a long period of time the embarrassment which has happened. The presentation of the product and brand is being placed on the hands of the brand ambassador. As such, his/her purpose is to build a connection between the products and the audience through his/her image. No matter how great the product is, if it is not been delivered properly to the public, it becomes useless since the public does not spend time or pay attention into trying it.

Leadership – The main purpose of a brand ambassador is to embody the values, the character and the overall image inherent to the brand. The person is required to stir up thoughts associated with owning the product. This way, he/she leads the customers not only in buying of the product but also to their self- fulfillment associated with possessing it.  Brand ambassador is required to be expert in speaking for and on behalf of the product. It is natural for the brand ambassador to emphasize the benefits in a persuading manner. As an example, a sports person can be a good brand ambassador for an energy drink or for sports shoes since the person is able to exert a considerable impact on the customers. . On the other hand, the sports person is a misfit if being asked to endorsed a steel product such as reinforcement bars and  the person is not been able to exert any influence on the public since the public is  aware that the knowledge of the sports person is not more than the knowledge which the public has.

Credibility – Credibility of the brand ambassador is very important. Brand ambassador is required to have a clean image. The person cannot be with bad record, malicious life style and disgraceful personality. Normally, customers tend to give a lot of trust to the people with clean record. In this respect, the views of the employees or ex-employees for the branded product find more acceptances with the public than views of the expensive brand ambassadors who are required to be further supported by the extremely costly advertising campaigns.

Relationship builder – The brand ambassador’s face-to-face encounters with the target audience are very significant as these create the opportunity to build a relationship between the customer and the brand.

The best brand ambassadors are those who have actually experienced the product. The brand ambassador is not just a display of the organization’s events. He/she needs to experience the product for adding value to his/her job. He/she needs to ensure that the customers are happy and are positively impacted in every event arranged for promotion of the product. If a celebrity is selected as a brand ambassador to promote a product and he/she has very limited knowledge of the product, then the customer/user of the product gives very little importance to the message of the brand ambassador. This leads to loss of credibility. On the other hand if the selected brand ambassador is associated with the product for a sufficient long time then then he/she develops a relationship with the customer/user and this factor leads to the credibility and thus endorser’s personality gets transferred to the brand.

Team player – Brand ambassadors are required to be a high-caliber person. But more than this, they are to see themselves as part of the team. Being a celebrity, they are not to have the misconception that their visibility as a celebrity can improve the popularity of the product and hence its sales.

Adequate technology knowledge – Brand ambassador needs to have adequate knowledge of the latest trends in the technology which are recognized by the people. While promoting a brand or an organization, the brand ambassador is to understand the technologies employed. This is necessary for the brand ambassador for developing brand popularity in the public.

Limitations associated with brand ambassadors

There are several limitations which are associated with the endorsement of the product/organization by brand ambassadors. Some of these limitations are (i) brand ambassadors are expensive, (ii) Brand ambassadors have limited shelf life which means that the brand ambassadors are useful till they remain successful in their own field of activity, (iii)  the first priority for the time and energy of the brand ambassador is in his/her area of professional activity which means promotion of the brand is a side activity for him/her, (iv) organization has practically no control on the brand ambassador, (v) brand  ambassador can be endorsing several products at the same time which means lower effectiveness of the endorsement, and (vi) the competing product/organization can also have brand ambassadors which means reduced effectiveness of the brand ambassador.

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