I have not been a fan of 'paid' for brand ambassadors or any form of paid for endorsements. Worse if the 'ambassador' contracted is a celebrity of some sort. I am sure that many marketers will frown at my stance when it comes to this form of marketing, considering that it's one of the tried and tested marketing gimmicks. I am sure many products owe their success to some brand association or endorsement, but at what price?
Brands that ride on some celebrity or well-known ambassador often find themselves having to manage this or that crisis when the contracted ambassador gets involved in a scandal of sorts. This often leads to huge losses, not only on the day to day revenue but also investor confidence. Again how confident are the contracted ambassadors about the product they are endorsing. Do they use the product at all? Do they share the values that your business shares? Do they believe in your brand promise? The case of Alicia Keys sending a tweet with an iPhone whilst being BlackBerry's Creative Director is an interesting one to note when it comes to ambassador buy-in.
Meet Joe Public
So what's the alternative when marketing without a celebrity endorsement seems like sailing against a tidal wave?
In my line of work with online communities I have come to understand that there's no better ambassador for your brand than Joe Public, the unknown user who interacts with your brand every day. He gets peeved or happy about development of your brand. This individual has internalised your brand. Granted, Joe Public does not have the mass appeal of that celebrity sports star; movie star or radio personality BUT he has something which they don't have, and that is brand loyalty. He is not INTO your brand because he gets paid for it or it allows him certain freebies. In fact he is just about the one person who is REALLY INTO your brand for what it is. Yes again Joe Public is not 'manageable' like paid endorsers. He can easily rant, and you don't want that as a marketer, but still his rant is less damaging than your celebrity's national scandal. In fact Joe's rant can be an advantage as his only wish is to see his beloved brand improve. Think of how Simon Camerer used every cellphone users' rant brilliantly with the "CEO" experience at Cell C. Well the only difference is that he used popular comedian Trevor Noah (who had initially made the joke about Cell C's network), I would have used the clichéd farmer.
Recently my company was launching some products into its platform and as part of the invite list we sampled a group of customers from our online community and invited them to the launch. These were individuals who were highly involved in our chat space, they would not hesitate to tell us what they think about our brand or service and at the same time they really believed in our brand. Together with the media they got to be the first of our customers to hear about the latest development with our brand and they took to social media about it. They came back to our online platform and started talking about the coming changes to the brand. They actually became the ones answering questions posed by other customers. On top of the invite to the launch event we opened our doors to them and arranged tours of the business for them to see how our business works. These customers have actually become the best ambassadors money can't buy. This all happened because we saw how they loved our brand and how involved with it they were. Through giving them a view and insight into our world, they would start to see that we are not uncaring and simply after their hard earned money.
So before spending millions getting that celebrity to endorse your brand, think about an unprecedented campaign of using Joe Public. Remember him? The guy who actually believes in your brand, uses it, and will go to great lengths to promote and defend it.
Thamsanqa Malinga is a communications specialist. His industry career spans 8 years focusing on internal communications, media relations, strategy development and implementation, as well as campaign management. Contact him on .
I agree with Thamsanqa. I have on many occasions sent complementary e-mails to group companies of a brand that I enjoy, without any response. Is it because I am not a Celebrity? The brand management and influence of Joe Public is completely ignored. I am of the opinion that the consumer have more power to make a brand sucessfull than highly paid Celebrities. I am also willing to be involved with any initiative to promote this view, Posted on 5 Mar 2013 07:34
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