All over the world, brand ambassadors are employed by a company or organisation to amplify the word of their brand in order to leverage customer relations and entrust consumers to make a purchase. An accomplished individual who can speak positively about a product to bolster sales and create brand awareness is very important for any organisation, and this is why more and more are using this method to personify their brand.
A great brand ambassador can cut through the clutter and say things about a brand with more credibility. That credibility is important for both direct outreach such as advertising and indirect such as pitching stories to reporters. Having a good brand ambassador, or several of them, is a powerful and versatile tool to raise company or product awareness.
However, brand Ambassadorship, which was once a sure-fire strategy for brands seeking to capture the hearts (and pockets) of customers is in decline. Analysts believe that one of the reasons for the decline in brand ambassadorship is due to the advent of social media marketing.
While some agencies were still adjusting to the diminishing allure of brand ambassadors, others noticed a corresponding increase in demand for influencer marketers. Truth is, Influencer marketing has always been a part of the standard offering practitioners pitched to clients but in the cases, they decided to exploit the brand’s ambassadors rather than expend budget on social media influencers. While both the brand ambassadors and social media influencers commanded massive online following and it would have made sense to leverage on both, the increasing budget slash mandated that they pick one.
Speaking on this issue to NATIONAL ECONOMY, Henry Omafodezi; a top-end PR professional, whose perspective on consumer-focused brand management is instructive to stakeholders shared this insight; “three years ago, I was part of a team tasked with providing PR support to unveil brand ambassadors for a major client. About twenty of Nigeria’s A-list celebrities had already been signed on as flag bearers of the brand so you can understand that it was a significant event for the client. Back then, brand ambassadorship was the real deal. Brand Ambassadors, usually celebrities from Nigeria’s vibrant entertainment industry, were courted left, right and centre by brands seeking to ride on their ‘star power’ to push adoption and sales. Our client was no different. Expectedly, we went full throttle on PR, securing attendance from a full complement of prominent journalists and bloggers.”
According to him, “fast forward to a year later and the client’s strategy had changed significantly. Only four of the twenty ambassadors were retained and there was no accompanying fanfare or buzz around this. To the best of my knowledge, efforts at leveraging the announcement were limited to a couple of press releases which we pitched to journalists and bloggers. Well, they chose to focus on the whittled down list of ambassadors. There was nothing we could do about that, even though we would have preferred the narrative to be about the four ambassadors.
“By the third year, though we were aware that talks were ongoing between our client and one or two celebrities to fly the brand’s kite, we never got the go-ahead to do any PR razzmatazz. We didn’t even issue a press release afterwards.” He added
Further, he stressed that, while the world continues to fawn in response to influencer marketing’s seeming stranglehold on the marketing landscape, let’s consider a small caveat: the concept didn’t just begin today (or with the explosion of the internet either). Influencer Marketing has been around for as long as we can care to imagine. Think about the ICT reporter of your local newspaper that breaks the news about a revolutionary technology. How about the Automobile correspondent that reviewed the new BMW series, sparking your interest in the car? Or the stock market expert who you depend on his insights to take a decision on where to put your money? Not forgetting your favourite columnist and the TV talk-show host whose opinions have shaped or reinforced your perspective on issues.
They are influencers too and have built credibility and trust over the years to command a loyal audience who take their word as sacred truth. Of course, smart brands are also latching on their influence to push their products and services. However, it must be said that the coming and subsequent eruption of the online space gave new meaning to the concept of influencers. And presently, they are changing the dynamics of marketing as we know it.”
Also speaking on the slash in marketing budget as a factor, a brand and marketing analyst, Wale Okoya disclosed that; “I believe most marketing managers are faced with the same dilemma today. In the face of visceral budget cuts, should they expend the budget on brand ambassadors or recruit the services of influencers? The new reality is that brand managers will rather deploy resources to recruit influencers than co-opt brand ambassadors to push their brands. It makes more sense to them: why go the whole nine yards to sign celebrities that not only cost an arm and a leg and but are one scandal away from tainting your brand’s image when you can cut out all the drama by engaging influencers?” he queried.