At the coalface: Mark Pickering on the continued relevance of brand ambassadors

As experiential marketing continues to grow and expand in new and innovative ways in the 2010s – with digital, mobile and photo technologies changing the way we interact and communicate brands to consumers – it’s refreshing to see that the humble ‘brand ambassador’ (BA) is still one of the most effective tools for the experiential industry to utilise in the field.

To these experienced eyes, that human element to activations is key in delivering the face, personality and messages of the brand to consumers. These guys are at the coalface of marketing activations and as such are critical to any campaign.

Uniquely, the power of experiential lies in the fact that—unlike other forms of marketing—it involves an interaction between physical human beings. As ever, the success of an activation lives and dies by the quality of the BA team. Choosing BAs with genuine enthusiasm for the brand will allow your messaging to connect on an emotional level. Trained BAs will also be able to engage with consumers in a manner that builds trust and inspires confidence.

Brand activation will only work if a real connection is made and like any good conversation, the ice-breaking moment can set the tone for the whole exchange. An eye-catching activity, imaginative branding and amazing site build can all attract the attention of consumers. But without an arresting brand proposition, an obvious and clear call to action or feel good factor, people won’t stay engaged. BAs can connect with consumers via a combination of genuine enthusiasm and their experience in using skills such as body language control and active listening to really engage with and enthuse the audience.

To get the most from a face-to-face interaction, a BA should be both talking and listening, and gathering vital brand IP for the client on products, services and competitors. Without the consumer input, the dialogue is a monologue. Consumers must feel free to ask questions, state preferences, and verbalise everything that makes their situation unique. The BA can then respond in a bespoke way with suggestions that provide the consumer with genuine value and brand insights.

Brand experience is now one of the most measurable mediums available to marketers. From equity measures and affinity scores to sales data directly attributable to specific elements of the campaign, determining your KPIs and ROI simply requires a commitment on the client or brand’s part. BAs provide the ideal survey teams to help gather quantitative metrics on your activations, receive qualitative feedback on the brands and gather consumer feedback on the event, the activation and the brand – measuring against the campaign KPIs.

Finding an agency with a team of highly trained and experienced BAs is critical. EMANZ members invest significant time and money in training programmes to deliver BAs who not only understand the principles of marketing and advertising, but are also fully rehearsed and briefed in the specific needs of communicating brand propositions to consumers in the field. They’re also well trained to keep an eye on any issues with OSH, councils and site demands, ensuring you have a risk-free campaign in the field. The days of ringing your local model agency or putting an ad on student job search to source your talent are over.

The teams at EMANZ and CAANZ’s PRESCom are currently working on a brand ambassador endorsement programme that would encourage New Zealand’s thousand or so BAs to register online and undergo a series of written tests to receive an EMANZ endorsed ambassador qualification. This will help to ensure consistency in the quality of our staff and will also help brands and their agencies to select the best ambassadors for their campaigns from the EMANZ pool.

Experiential campaigns that create word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer recommendations are powerful marketing tools. They translate into sales and behavior change because they come from a trusted source. Well-trained BAs build rapport quickly and understand a person’s needs in order to give information that will be valuable to them. A quality brand ambassador team will help make a campaign a real success – from message delivery and engaging the consumer, right  through to helping manage and survey the activation itself.

Winning consumer trust is a key battleground for today’s brands. Companies that simply tell and sell are shortsighted. Today’s consumers are far more likely to choose brands they can really relate to – brands with a human face.    

  • Mark Pickering is chair of EMANZ (The Experiential Marketing Association of NZ), a founding member of the CAANZ PREScom (PR, Experiential and Social Media Committee) and founder and creative strategist at experiential agency Fluxx.

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