All Hail the Brand Ambassador by Michael “Mancini” McConnell @TeamMancini
All Hail the Brand Ambassador! So, what is a Brand Ambassador? Brand Ambassadors are the face and fingers of the brand, everything they touch, the brand is touching. Brand Ambassadors form the public image of brands and are the humans, company’s use to get their message to the public. (According to Wikipedia). This is pretty much accurate and in recent years it has become popular for companies to hire celebrities or athletes to be the face of their brands. It’s even been cool for brands such as Subway to build an entire campaign around popular consumers like Jared who lost a gazillion pounds and holds up a pair of size 52 pants to show how much weight he has lost just by eating Subway sandwiches.
You're neither a celebrity or athlete but someone who has been hired to break a brand into a specific market segment. In my journey as a brand professional I’ve met many Brand Ambassadors and look for a few attributes when speaking with them.
Energy: Does this person posses the right energy for the particular brand? Obviously, if you're representing a high-end wine brand you're not going to be overly animated but rather have a sophistication, knowledge and coolness that represents the lifestyle of a vino connoisseur. If your aura is negative than that will manifest during your course of promotion. Nobody likes a negative Nancy…even if you're selling guns! There are just some people that give off such an amazing energy that you’re delighted to support anything that they’re apart of. This energy transfers to any project or brand that you’re working with. You are giving an inanimate product a personality and identity.
Art of Persuasion without selling: The art of selling without selling should look effortless. The Brand Ambassador should make me want to buy into the brand through sufficient product knowledge, brand history and charm. I despise being over sold and under educated when it comes to new products or features. Why is it the best? I appreciate a Brand Ambassador letting me experience it on my own while walking me through the process. The salesman rap should be left for Canal Street bootleggers and people selling comedy show tickets in Times Square. I also really hate gimmicks and desperate attention grabbing tactics. People like to discover these days and not be over sold to.
Network: What kind of network does this person have? Can this person throw an event and bring out tastemakers? Recruit new consumers who will be loyal to the brand? The tastemakers will spread the word to the consumer hopefully resulting in a direct sale. You should be constantly networking and building your base.
Dream Makers: Can the Brand Ambassador provide memorable experiences that will emotionally tie me to the brand? so, every time I think about your brand I automatically teleport back to the time I had while using your brand. This is where event marketing and personal touch combine forces. You should work with your marketing team to help create dream like experiences that will create a lifestyle around the brand or some sort of memorable benchmark.
Product Placement: Let the product go, but make sure it falls into the right group of hands. I’ve done product placement for the last five years and have put goods into the hands of superstars like Neyo, Lebron James, Ving Rhames to mention a few. I have two rules when servicing people who want product GET A PICTURE or VIDEO of person interacting with your brand. I remember when my company facilitated providing shoes and belts for a national Lebron James commercial from one of my past clients, Mezlan Shoes. We gave thousands of dollars in product to him to keep but only required from his stylist that he at least take a picture wearing our product. Luckily, the shoot was in Beverly Hills not too far from Mezlan headquarters and we personally dropped the product off making the process easy and smooth for all parties. We were able to obtain an image of Lebron wearing the shoes and used the image to send to our key accounts and blogs. A celebrity endorsement can translate into huge dollars for the brand as re-purposing those photos online via social networks, websites, etc.
Social Media Savvy: Social media has given brands a huge advantage by using multiple online channels to promote/cross-promote to very specific online communities. If your a brand ambassador and don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account by now then you need a good hazing. Following certain people or friending them online allows you to feel closer to their daily activities and personal taste, which ultimately can influence your lifestyle choices. Wow, you were at a party with Ashton Kutcher last night? I suggest filtering yourself or creating a separate account for super personal and opinionated subjects like Religion, Sex and Politics. People get the opportunity to live vicariously through you and with the drop of a hat thousands of people can read your messages, share content, view pictures and or watch videos. Use Wisely!!
Sponsorship: When you become affiliated with a brand EVERYONE and their mother wants you to sponsor their hair brained event concept. I once had someone ask me to sponsor their kids after party for a christening and mind you I was representing a well known spirits brand. You have to make sure that you work with your entire team to figure out what the (KPI’s) Key Performance Indicators are and what matters the most to the overall bottom line. That could mean Social Media impressions, Digital content, Media attention, Account activations or more. Seeking out opportunities that work best for the brand and getting sponsorship decks will be constant and you develop a sixth sense for what works and what doesn’t. One tip is to always request a one-sheeter from people trying to solicit product or monetary means from you. The one-sheeter is basically the 5W’s about the event and it’s purpose.
Vision & Mission: What is your vision for your brand? Is there a clear vision that everyone on the marketing/promotions/PR team gets? It’s your job to convey Vision & Mission so that your team is collectively working towards the same goals. I’ve met various reps from brands and they all tell me a different strategy on breaking into new markets and or what their brand represents. This is an example of not having a shared vision and mission, as I honestly believe in pounding V&M in my colleagues heads like the mantra in Full Metal Jacket “This is my gun, there are many like it but this one is mine...”.
The Brand Ambassador may have a tough job and many variables to consider on their journey, but it’s like raising a human being from infancy to adulthood. I honestly would like to call child services on a lot of BA’s and not return their children back until they have fully digested the above attributes. There will be stages and growing pains but its all apart of the process….reminds you of parenthood huh? You cannot treat your position like a regular 9 to 5 as your hard work and effort ultimately dictates the careers of the rest of your colleagues in the company. There is a certain responsibility with having that much control, as you will sometimes clash with sales, accounting and production who don’t quite understand why we’re doing a celebrity swag suite or sponsoring certain events. Stay on the right track and develop a keen sense for “The Bullsh*t” while becoming a master at your craft. When you’re developing a brand people watch your every move. Ultimately all your hard work should result to increasing sales and brand loyalty amongst consumers.
Michael “Mancini” McConnell is a Marketing and Brand Consultant based out of NYC. @TeamMancini