The art of the brand ambassador

Elyse Knowles and Myer; Jessica Gomes and David Jones; Liam Hemsworth and OPSM. The list of celebrities intertwined with some of Australia’s biggest brands goes on, with brands seeking to leverage the fame, trust and credibility that goes with some of Australia’s hottest properties. And this is a trend that isn’t going to change any time soon.

The question is: What will work for your brand? And how can you take advantage of this trend if you don’t have six or seven figures to spend in your marketing budget? And if you do, what should you be thinking about?

Here are a few key factors to consider when exploring how a celebrity can help take your brand to the next level.

What is your objective?

Reach, reach, reach. This is the #1 goal for many marketers. But it’s important to think beyond that. What do you actually want from your ambassador? What do you want them to communicate to your customer base? And what do you want them to do? For an ambassador to have maximum impact, it’s great for them to have a clear “reason for being” so consumers can understand what their role is and you can utilise their personality in the right way.

Getting a clear focus

Once you are clear on the objective of having a brand ambassador, this will help inform your strategic approach and having a greater clarity on how you use them. The hard and fast rule is: less is more.

Rather than having a long laundry list of deliverables and trying to cram everything in across all of your channels, consider doing fewer activities but with a greater depth. For example, having a greater presence in the retail environment and a good amount of PR exposure may be two areas you opt to focus on. This will ensure you deliver sufficient cut-through with your respective audience vs trying to do too many things and risk getting lost as you can only do so much based on time, resource and budget.

Consider what is essential and what is just “nice-to-have”. When you start separating them, you’ll be surprised at how you can fine tune your efforts to get the best bang for your buck and attract the attention of your valued (and prospective new) customer base.

The search for credibility

Reputation is particularly pertinent when it comes to working with a third party so it’s important to find a personality who shares your brand values and can be a living extension of them. Ultimately, this personality should be someone with the credibility to elevate purchase consideration among your target audience.

The key is understanding what your core audience and customer base think of your proposed personality right now. It often pays to do a solid comprehensive media analysis as well as a digital media analysis through social media and message boards to look at active conversations. This can be invaluable in aiding decision making and understanding what people think.

An additional theme of discussion that comes up when assessing prospective talent is if they have been up to “mischief” previously, does that automatically mean you can’t work with them? The answer is no. It is worth considering what actually happened, how serious it was, when this was and what the sentiment around it is or was – but don’t dismiss them immediately unless you absolutely have to. If the incident was a legal or criminal issue, for example, it would be different to being involved in a sporting controversy or making an outspoken comment which have the potential to be leveraged smartly.

Ultimately, do your research and ensure you are fully aware of their background and shared values.

Exclusivity vs non-exclusivity

Celebrities’ fame means they are consistently in demand. In a talent pool that is not as large as other markets, this can mean your desired talent is working with a number of brands and businesses already.

The key is understanding how many and how recently they have worked with other brands in your category or a similar category. In short, if a prospective talent has worked with a competitor or other like-minded brand in the past six months, it’s best to avoid them, as this will compromise brand recall and the ability for your brand to own the association outright.

If your desired talent is working with more than three brands simultaneously, it is also worth considering how much cut-through you can have if people are going to see this person elsewhere consistently.

To generate maximum impact from an ambassador, it’s often best to have some form of exclusivity in play to protect your brand’s interests and ensure you carve out sufficient white space to attract your target audience. You may have to pay more for that but it’ll be worth it when considering return on investment at the end of it.

Picking the talent

So finally, how do you choose the all-important figure – or figures? Three critical points to consider are: relevance, authenticity and personality. What story does your proposed talent have to share – or what are they already known for sharing? Does your brand DNA align with their personality and expertise? Do they have a “voice” that is known and people want to hear from? Unless the talent can tick all of those boxes – regardless of how famous they are and how big their reach might be – they are not the right fit for your brand.

Take a step back and think of yourself as a consumer and consider if the link feels natural or forced. If you find a personality that feels like the butter to your bread – particularly if your team or your agency has a strong PR nose for finding people on the cusp of fame (perhaps uncovering a rising star who has attracted speedy attention via social media) or finding people with unusual or untold stories – you may be on to your winning match…

It’s important to have your checklist in play before you proceed with any form of talent discussion, as without it, you’ll find yourself in one big minefield – and that could be costly in more ways than one. Follow the checklist carefully and your brand could certainly be reaping the rewards in next to no time.

Adam Freedman is head of consumer at Red Havas and has consulted numerous brands and retailers across Australia and the UK on their marketing and communications strategies.


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