Influencer Marketing and working with Brand Ambassadors are two of the hottest areas in marketing today, but they are completely different tactics often aimed at completely different audiences. So what’s the difference?
A Brand Ambassador program is where the company and its customers (fans) have a sort of informal and ongoing relationship. Typically, the participants in a Brand Ambassador program have signed up with the company, so they are raising their hands and telling the brand that they want to work directly with them. Most Brand Ambassadors are compensated for their involvement. That compensation could be in the form of cash, or products, or discounts on products, or greater access to the brand, or possibly all of the above. The benefit to the brand is that it gives them a way to stay connected with its most passionate fans, so they can work with those fans to help them better promote the brand’s products to others, but also the brand can get valuable feedback from its ambassadors and apply that feedback to the business and product cycle. The Brand Ambassador benefits by having a closer connection to a brand it loves and supports. Often, Brand Ambassadors will get advance access to upcoming products or projects, and get to go ‘behind the scenes’ at the brand, and are given a level of access that the average customer could never gain. If the Brand Ambassador program is organized and executed properly, there are clear and obvious benefits to both the brand and its Brand Ambassadors.
For example, Chick-Fil-A has a program where it works with moms, #ChickFilAMoms. It will send them coupons for certain items and also promote certain items to them (especially new menu items). CFA tries to get the moms to try the items, but they also want the moms to tell other moms about the products so they’ll give them coupons but also instructions on messaging, how to promote the items to other people, etc. The customers will also give feedback on the items and brand experience, and Chick Fil-A can then leverage that feedback for change (see Chick Fil-A launching a Mom’s Valet service for moms that bring kids to Chick Fil-A). Customers opt-in to be a part of the program, it’s all about having an ongoing relationship with fans that have raised their hands and told the brand that they want to help them.
Got my welcome packet today. Lucky mom = me! So blessed to be a #chickfilamom #chickfilamompanel #eatmorechicken pic.twitter.com/rQ3lvIOSAr
— Heidi (@matchmom) December 22, 2015
Outreach programs are a bit different. Typically, these inititiatives are designed to raise awareness among a particular group, often a group of influencers. For example, if Chick-Fil-A wanted to work with influencers, what they might do was identify say 25 moms that were also ‘influencers’, and fly them into Atlanta and let them spend the day with their chefs, see how the food is prepared, maybe learn more about how CFA works with moms, etc. As Janice Person explained in a recent MarketingSmarts podcast with Kerry Gorgone (Click to listen), Monsanto brings in foodie bloggers to its partner farms to give them a complete look at the process in bringing food from the field to the table, and along the way they also learn more about Monsanto’s role in helping to facilitate that process. In both examples, the idea of the outreach is to educate the influencers with the hopes that they will then go and tell others about their experience.
And in that regard, both a Brand Ambassador program and an Outreach program are tactics to drive Word of Mouth. The tactics are simply aimed at different audiences. With a Brand Ambassador program, you’re working with an audience (your existing customers) that loves your brand and who is already spreading Word of Mouth about your brand. You want to work with these customers to help them do a better job of this as well as working with them to gain better product feedback from customers they interact with. With an Outreach program, you’re dealing with an Influencer that has often built a large and (ideally) engaged online following, and you want to expose them to your brand so that they can share their experiences with their networks. So the Outreach program is a brand awareness tool as well.
Another way to think of the difference is, an Outreach program is a good way to build awareness for a new product line or initiative, whereas a Brand Ambassador program is a good way to increase the marketing efforts of your customers around an established brand.
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Kerry O'Shea Gorgone says
Thanks for the shout-out, Mack! Great post, as always. I wish more companies had formal brand ambassador programs. There’s so much for smart brands to gain by building a closer relationship with fans!
Mack Collier says
Thanks, Kerry! Brand Ambassador programs are a bit of a ‘slow burn’ for most companies, it takes a while to see real and measurable results in many cases. That’s why it’s always important to have an internal champion for such a program to keep fighting for getting it off the ground and giving it the support and runaway it needs to really take flight.