Case Studies - Brand Ambassador Programs: Part Three
Two CPG brands, Lululemon and Fiskars, along with one non-D2C brand, Hootsuite provide great examples of brand ambassador programs. These programs are discussed in more detail below.
Lululemon Ambassador Program.
The program was launched when Lululemon decided to take a different approach from its competitors.
While brands such as Nike and Puma focused on endorsing world-famous sporting icons, Lululemon's strategy was to invest time and money to create the now-famous ambassador program.
The brand's ambassadors consist of a team of elite athletes, local influencers, and expert yoga instructors who work round the clock to build a community of loyal consumers, provide feedback on products and also involve in Lululemon on social impact programs.
The idea behind the Lululemon brand ambassadors was conceived during the company's founding in 1998. The initial store concept was more about tie ins with local health and wellness experts in Canada.
In 2017 when the company's revenue soared to $2.65 billion, it decided to take a somewhat unconventional approach of going to the grassroots to establish long-lasting relationships with the communities.
According to the company's CEO Laurent Potdevin, the goal behind the grass-root model "is to foster more flexible and authentic relationships."
Two years later, the program is considered successful, with almost 415 stores that are hubs of activity in various communities around the globe that engage customers and drive sales.
Hootsuite Ambassador Program
The program was launched "to take Hootsuite's existing passionate users and empower them to promote the service to others better and educate them on how to get started using Hootsuite."
According to Stephanie Wiriahardja, Hootsuite's Community Manager, the company's strategy involved identifying and motivating enthusiastic Hootsuite experts and taring them to be certified on the platform. The empowered experts would then evangelize Hootsuite, propose new ideas on how to introduce products in their region,
They would also be able to host events known as "HootUps," where users get together to assert their experiences, propose ideas and best practices.
In launching the program, Hootsuite was keen to put fans first, choose ambassadors wisely, and balance the quality and quantity of content put out by their ambassadors.
Wiriahardja says that the company picked on ambassadors that could engage with each other, and share content and contribute to online discussions.
Hootsuite Ambassadors Program was launched in 2012 but took about two years to take off on the right footing. It was then relaunched in 2014.
After one year of relaunching, Hootsuite won the Best Social Engagement Award. In 2015, it received achieved 9,000 content shares across social media channels and 81 million social impressions.
Fiskateers Brand Ambassador program
In launching the program, Fiskars intended to "build a community of Fiskars supporters who could spread the word that authentic Fiskars products are worth not only their price but also any special effort to obtain them. And target younger consumers, who are more active online".
The program was launched as a response to the declining sales in the crafts division of Fiskars Brands (majorly scissors), and significant loss of market share the cheaper knockoff versions of its products. The company aimed to restore customers' emotional connection with its crafting products.
According to the company's CEO, "the team's strategy was to find and train four active, influential crafters to be ambassadors or Fiskateers, and then recruit and train 200 volunteer ambassadors. It aimed to increase lead ambassador store sales, online conversations, awareness, and credibility".
The company identified and recruited some of the most vocal people ('Fiskateers') to start a group blog, which led to the launching of an ambassador program under taglines such as "Born to scrap!"
The program was designed in such a way that allowed "Fiskateer" ambassadors to attend exclusive meetup-style events and invitations to private online communities to be able to interact and share with individuals with a passion for scrapbooking and Fiskars shears.
The campaign was launched in 2006 and only took two years to start achieving results. By 2008, members of the Fiskateers community had grown from 1200 to over 5000.
Barely two years after its launch, the company's website was receiving over 1.5 million visits with escalating unique visits each month.
Insights - Brand Ambassador Awareness Practices
Some insights good execution practices that brands have used to raise brand ambassador awareness are an organic campaign, emotional connection, exclusivity, and the reward system. A company is used as an example for each good execution practice insight to annotate hard facts surrounding good execution practices that brands have used to raise brand ambassador awareness.
While sportswear industry giants like Nike and Puma endorsed "world-famous sporting icons to be part of their advertising strategy," Lululemon built local communities and created "their famous brand ambassador program."
Having invented athleisure fashion with their chic yoga pants, Lululemon leveraged on local communities to recruit brand ambassadors for their products. The brand ambassadors are products of these communities, and it is, therefore, easy for people to relate with and trust them
The Lululemon message, "to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness," is spread by the ambassadors, and the community sees this as a trusted source of information.
Acting as a bridge to the communities, the ambassadors host free yoga classes in stores, which in turn integrates "the stores into the fabric of the community." The ambassadors also share the ups and downs of their communities with the company, enabling the sense of love that is spread organically.
The company's 415 stores have become hubs of activity in "communities around the world that engage customers and drive sales. " They rely heavily on their ambassadors to make this work.
Lululemon's mission and style piloted the company's revenue to $2.65 billion in 2017.
The good execution of this organic campaign is Lululemon created a social ambassador program that not only engages their target communities but also connects "each brand ambassador with other like-minded ambassadors."
In addition, brand ambassadors are in a positive position to use their initiatives and take advantage of their community created by the company. This is because the program uses brand ambassadors as community pilots in a "gentle yet forceful way to drive traffic into the store and online," and this works well because there is a mutual relationship between consumers and the local ambassadors.
A good execution practice to raise brand ambassador awareness can focus on the experience of using a brand instead of the actual brand. This is what Red Bull did.
Red Bull didn't focus on the consumption of its product. Instead, it sold the experience that its drink can inspire energetic and exciting activities. Knowing its target consumer base is every energetic and tech-savvy, Red Bull created an ambassador program (tagged the Wing Team) to create the kind of content its target consumers are always excited about.
The brand ambassadors recruited are known for lifestyle activities that are active and sometimes extreme. They embody the "high energy aura of the brand and relay this to their community, acting as a network of marketing bodies."
Red Bull hijacks the "emotional connection that The Wings Team makes with their peers," and this has been shown to influence the increased purchase of the product by simply communicating how cool it is. The pictures and records of these extreme lifestyle activities are used as "high-quality advertising materials by Red Bull on various channels they own."
This fantastic content on the company's channels attracts lots of viewership from people who may not even be interested in the brand's drink, and the ambassadors are responsible for this traffic.
Because this high-quality content showcases extraordinary things of Red Bull's ambassadors, people flock to watch them, and the company needed no more incentives to run after their customers; they come to them.
There are no monetary rewards for members of The Wings Team, but it is a "highly sought-after program to join, with people often queuing up to join." The traffic to join is not just limited to "the value in terms of exclusivity, but also to the secondary rewards of the incredible publicity they receive from being part of the program."
The emotional connection established by Red Bull with the fantastic videos through its brand ambassadors induces consumers into the thought that the drink is itself extraordinary.
'No bikey, no likey' is the message of Harley Davidson bikes, which is one of the most costly bikes on the market, but certainly not the fastest or the most fuel-efficient. Yet, many people are desirous of owning one.
The company's image logo has been branded to perfection to create "the sense of exclusivity and mythology behind the bikes." This image logo resonates freedom, fun, and belonging, and the manufacturer ó Harley Owners Group (HOG), embodies these features and creates a brand ambassador program out of it.
HOG's brand ambassador program boasts of 325,000 members. To qualify as a member of this program, either the person or any of his/her nuclear family member must own the brand's bike. In short, no bikey, no likey.
The program drives "advocacy organically, allowing owners to exchange Harley Davidson memories and advice on how to maintain their bike. " This group of ambassadors creates a marketing sense for the brand that resonates with its heritage and luxury; hence, they are the vehicle to connect with target consumers.
This nature of the exclusive ambassador program is primarily for consumers who share the same views, which allows a sense of belonging. The company's program is enhanced by the company through the hosting of legendary events for members, which creates "a desire for those who are not involved in joining."
Through this good execution practice to raise brand ambassador awareness, HOG creates a stronger affinity with her customers. It naturally encourages others who want these exclusive perks to buying the brand's bike. The good thing about it is that it is done organically, and serves as a win-win strategy for the company.
The Reward System
The Xbox Insider Program is a brand awareness project launched by the company to compete with PlayStation and Nintendo, its biggest rivals in the gaming industry.
The program creates the Xbox community for people passionate about gaming, lures them into it, and encourages participation in 'ambassador actions' to become the company's perfect ambassador.
Xbox's mission is "to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more," and this goal aligns with its ambassador program. The program is "an optional space that Xbox users can sign up to." There they engage with Xbox owners and other users towards blossoming an ambassador relationship.
In this optional space, users get to answer questions of other users, which helps to build the desired community of the company on the planet. The more actions completed by a user, the more opportunities (rewards) they unlock. The rewards could include "new hidden game levels, entrance into an exclusive competition, involvement in new product development, software upgrades, or new game releases."
Through the good execution practice of this ambassador program, users are willingly enamored to become brand ambassadors based on the reward system of the program. Furthermore, the company can use "invaluable opinions of its most loyal users to perfect their products before release."
Some 'actions' for ambassadors in the Xbox community include "friending different gamers worldwide, spreading positivism across Xbox live, making Xbox the best place to play, and making gaming fun for everyone." The ambassadors are "leaders in the community," and they communicate with the target audience through the activities mentioned above.
Personal Representation and Long Loyalty Strategy
When Makerís Mark ó the smooth bourbons makers from Kentucky ó launched its ambassador program, they wanted customers to "show their commitment to the brand by pledging to share their preference of Maker's with friends and families."
The program advocates that the ambassadors represent the brand through every aspect of their lives.
For example, members were given branded items such as golf balls, business cards, and other selected picks to spread the goodwill and message of the brand. The rationale behind this strategy was anchored by "92% of consumers trusting recommendations from their peers over advertising."
In return, brand ambassadors are rewarded handsomely with incentives such as exclusive invites to events and an ambassador-named bourbon barrel. The latter is done using an engraved placard, and the ambassadors are then "regularly contacted with updates on its maturation progress." After seven years, "the ambassadors can taste their whiskey" as a reward for their hard work.
With the maturation period being seven years, ambassadors of Makerís Mark are expected to promote and nurture the brand for that long period. This is a good execution practice to raise brand ambassador awareness.
A Strong Social Media Strategy
Social media is a good execution practice to raise brand ambassador awareness. A good place to start is by engaging employees as brand ambassadors because they know the product better than others.
Employees should be encouraged to post the product on their social media accounts at least once a week. The effect is that this process will strengthen the bond between employees and the product, while "simultaneously introducing it to a broader audience."
Social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are "great for keeping people connected, but are even better for attracting potential new customers to your brand."
After introducing a product to a broader audience through employees on social media, the next thing is to look outside the company's team and capitalize on social media brand ambassadors who have a strong connection with the brand. Also, such brand ambassadors should have a well-established social media presence.
The mattress company, Casper, made good use of this good execution practice in March 2015 when it used Kylie Jenner, unwrapping "her new Casper mattress on Instagram." The company's website was overwhelmed with her followers after her Instagram page got over 870,000 likes for the singular post.
Casper's association with Kylie as a social media brand ambassador played a "monumental role in harnessing Casper as the millennial mattress, doing wonders for its brand image and visibility."