Last Wednesday during #Rockstarchat we were joined by Paper.li’s Marketing Directory, Kelly Hungerford. Kelly was joining the chat to talk about Paper.li’s Brand Ambassador program, which the company launched a few months ago. Kelly talked about the program, how it was formed, and what the brand’s goals for the initiative were.
What struck me most from our chat was the focus of Paper.li’s brand ambassador program: The goal is to put the spotlight on the brand’s fans. This is an interesting disconnect from most brand ambassador programs, where the main goal is to create a way to organize some of the brand’s biggest fans so they can better promote the brand. Paper.li appears to have flipped this model, using the program to promote its fans, with the secondary goal being promotion of the brand itself.
Kelly told us that over the last couple of years, that Paper.li began to identify publishers that were independently helping others better use Paper.li. So Kelly decided that a brand ambassador program would be a good way to bring together and acknowledge some of its community members that were going out of their way to help others.
So basically Paper.li is rewarding the behavior it wants to encourage. As Paper.li promotes its brand ambassadors, that helps validate their love of the brand, and gives them more incentive to promote the brand to other people. So Paper.li’s brand ambassador program is driving additional promotion of the brand, even though that’s not the primary objective.
Another interesting aspect of Paper.li’s brand ambassador program is that members get early access to new product features and releases. Kelly said this was a perk that members specifically asked for. The benefit to the members is obvious and goes back to the idea of giving your fans ‘special access’ and helps them feel like the rock stars (because they are).
But giving brand ambassadors early access to new product features has two huge benefit for Paper.li. First, it allows Paper.li’s power users to give the brand valuable feedback on the features. This is done before being released to tbe public, so its possible the brand can still make changes based on feedback from its brand ambassadors.
The second key benefit for Paper.li is that when the new features are officially rolled out, the brand ambassadors will already be familiar with the features and how to use them. So the brand ambassadors can become teachers and help teach other Paper.li members how to use the new features! Again, this becomes a promotional tool for the brand, because when Paper.li rolls out new features, it immediately has its biggest fans telling other Paper.li users why these features are so awesome.
So ironically, by flipping the focus of its brand ambassador program to focus on spotlighting its fans, Paper.li has created a powerful promotional tool. I think this is a very brave move by a brand to give its fans so much control over the direction of such a program. But I think that willingness to embrace its fans came from how Kelly and team made great efforts to personally connect with its fans. This lead to them having a better understanding of its fans and what they wanted from their relationship with the brand. This is why many brands don’t launch a program such as this, because they don’t understand their fans and what motivates them. As such, they fear ceding control of a program such as this.
So by creating direct benefits for its biggest fans, this program is indirectly creating big benefits for Paper.li! If you want to view the transcript from last week’s #rockstarchat (which had a TON of key takeaways) then click here(click Transcript on the left).