Ambassador marketing is a strategy where brands transform their most loyal customers, followers, and fans into influential salespeople.
When researching social media marketing, you’ve probably come across the term ambassador marketing. Perhaps the idea piqued your interest (in fact, I’m almost sure it did or you wouldn’t be here). But if you don’t have a deep understanding of the topic, it’s difficult to understand how it could benefit your brand, or how you could get started.
Get an in-depth understanding with industry experts in our free, on-demand bootcamp webinar: Ambassador Marketing 101: What Is It & Why Should I Care?
Well, you’re in luck! We’re going to define ambassador marketing and uncover how you can use it to grow your brand. But to do that, we’ve got to go waaay back…
Everything You Need to Know About Ambassador Marketing
A Brief History
Word of mouth has existed ever since someone first recommended something to a friend. One of the earliest rough forms of using brand ambassadors can be traced back to Ancient Rome where it’s believed that gladiators endorsed products to the public.
Eventually, companies started realising how much easier it was to sell a product that was endorsed by a trusted figure - be it a celebrity, friend, family member, or peer. They worked this strategy intentionally into their sales process and word-of-mouth marketing was officially born.
From using prominent religious figures and celebrities to creating fictional ambassadors like Ronald McDonald and the Pillsbury Doughboy, companies had discovered the power of social recommendations.
Enter the internet age. As bloggers, video reviewers and social media grew, word-of-mouth marketing exploded. For a long time, influencer marketing was one of the top forms of online outreach marketing. But as high-profile influencers made mistakes that revealed inauthenticity, or began recommending tons of products they’d clearly never used simply because they were paid for the promotion, consumers lost trust in these social media stars. For more information on the differences, check out influencer marketing VS brand ambassadors.
In recent years, brands have shifted their efforts and collaborations to smaller creators who have more authentic connections with their followers. Consumers are demanding transparency and authenticity. So, brands are inviting their existing customers who already love and own their product or services to band together as a community. They then share their love for the brand in exchange for rewards. We call these brand ambassadors. Often brands use a combination of influencer, ambassador, and affiliate marketing in their overall strategy.
Ambassador Marketing - A Deeper Understanding
You know when your friend finds a new product and can’t stop talking about how much they love it? This is called brand advocacy. Now, if your friend loves a brand so much that they partner with them and agree to create content in exchange for rewards like gift cards, cash, points, or free products, your friend becomes a brand ambassador!
Working with brand ambassadors is about building relationships with people who already love and stand behind your products. This ensures the most genuine and authentic promotions possible. These relationships are built and nurtured through a partnership in which you reward your ambassadors for advocating for your brand on and offline through assigned marketing tasks.
But why is it so popular?
Ambassadors Make Authentic Connections
Brand ambassadors are not necessarily influencers, but they do have influence. Your ambassadors may have a large following on social media, but it’s usually because of their content and the relationships they’ve spent time building. They don’t promote hundreds of random products, but rather naturally highlight the products they truly love and use.
For example, an influencer in the fashion space may promote two or more different brands every week - some that they’ve never used outside of the promoted post. Brand ambassadors, however, may have created a social media channel to talk about their love of fashion and only mention products and brands that they’ve purchased on their own and truly stand behind.
Quality ambassador content is also generally more trusted than content created by brands. A study by Trinity and Ipsos showed that 69% of surveyed people reported distrusting traditional brand advertisements. Consumers don’t want you to talk about how great your brand is. They want to hear it from real people like themselves.
An Ambassador Community Can Increase ROI
Because consumers trust ambassador content more than brand content, many brands find that they gain a higher ROI with ambassador marketing than by traditional ads. This ROI is increased further when you account for the fact that you can reuse ambassador content in future marketing campaigns, cutting down on the time and money spent creating new content.
Ambassador Communities Build Relationships
Ambassador programs allow you to build unique relationships with your consumers. You interact with your community of ambassadors by assigning creative marketing tasks, rewarding their efforts, and sharing top ambassador content on your channels.
There’s no end to the creative marketing tasks you can give your ambassadors. Popular examples include showcasing your brand in a photo or a video, often with a theme or participating in a social media trend. But you can get as involved as you like! Maybe you want your ambassadors to upload a photo of them painting your brand’s logo in the snow, or sporting a t-shirt from your brand as they go skydiving! It’s completely up to you!
As your ambassadors create content that you reward fairly and highlight to the rest of your audience, relationships grow stronger and ambassadors are more likely to not only continue being loyal customers themselves but also to entice others to be lifelong customers and fans as well.
Ambassadors Increase Brand Awareness and Sales
Nothing quite amplifies brand awareness like a community of enthusiastic ambassadors who are regularly posting on your behalf. Paid ads often don’t have nearly the same reach as a large community of advocates (unless you have a large budget).
With various tech giants like Apple and Google cracking down on third-party tracking abilities and people using extensions like ad blockers, paid ads are sometimes unable to reach certain people within your target demographic. However, brand ambassadors can help get you in front of these people if they’re already following members of your community or if they follow similar content. And because of the trust factor mentioned earlier, ambassadors are an excellent way to increase conversion rates and drive sales.
For a thorough examination of the value of having brand ambassadors promote your products, download our free whitepaper: How Ambassadors Can Double Brand Engagement With Influence.
Who Are Brand Ambassadors?
Your brand ambassadors are everywhere. They’re those loyal customers, followers, and fans who absolutely love your brand and want to help you tell everyone they know.
Once you partner with these superfans, they become official ambassadors and are given marketing tasks to help guide the type of content they create and maximise their creativity. You reward them in the form of gift cards, points, freebies, or cash.
Brand ambassadors represent your brand on and offline. They create content such as videos, photos, and more that they share with their followers - your potential customers. The number of followers your brand ambassadors have is up to you. You can create requirements for being an ambassador of your brand, but many brand ambassadors may not have overly large followings. Instead, they are likely to have consistent engagement rates because they’ve built genuine connections with their followers.
Just make sure your ambassadors align with your values as a company and have the qualities of a great brand ambassador.
Types of Ambassador Programs
You have a few options on how you run your brand ambassador program. The most popular is an open program. This means that anyone can apply to be an ambassador. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean everyone has to be accepted. Sometimes you’ll run into people who don’t match your brand’s image or criteria. You can still ask your ambassadors to meet a certain set of requirements. It’s okay to be picky, but anyone can apply.
You can also choose to run a closed program where only people who are personally invited may apply to join. This can drive more hype through exclusivity and produce more consistently high-quality content. It also allows you to completely tailor your ambassadors to your brand, as you select only those who are a perfect fit.
Student programs are another choice if your ideal customers are college-aged. This is where you partner with post-secondary students and host many stunts and events on campuses. Finally, there are employee programs that ask your employees to become ambassadors and share how much they love working for your company, to encourage others to apply.
Types of Ambassador Marketing Campaigns
Online campaigns are very popular for all types of companies, but especially for eCommerce brands as all or many of their sales take place online. Building a successful ambassador campaign is an excellent way to create brand awareness, raise engagement rates, and drive sales as your audience interacts with ambassador content. Online campaigns also help you build a library of user-generated content that you can recycle in the future. They can include…
- Social media posts like
- Collaborations with other ambassadors
- Collaborations with other brands and their ambassadors
See some of these ideas in action in our article on successful online ambassador campaigns.
Offline campaigns are phenomenal for creating in-person buzz. They also tend to leak into the online world so they can also achieve the same benefits as online campaigns. Some ideas for offline campaigns are…
- Handing out freebies or samples in a public place such as having ambassadors give out small freebies from your brand on their college campus
- Live, in-person games and contests like a scavenger hunt hosted by select ambassadors
- Exclusive parties that your ambassadors can host for friends
- Public stunts, like when leisurewear company Onepiece sent their ambassadors to a major department store asking them to stock the brand
What Do I Need to Get Started?
The main thing you need in order to start an ambassador program is a passionate community of customers, followers, and fans who are ready and willing to promote your brand online. You’ll also need…
- A way to communicate with your ambassadors
- A detailed plan that outlines your goals and ambassador program budget
- A collection of creative and exciting marketing tasks
- A system that allows your ambassadors to submit proof that they’ve completed the tasks you assign
- A way to reward your ambassadors
- A way to track important metrics and measure your growth in real-time
- A dedicated Community Manager who can run the entire operation
Many brands find they need ambassador management software to help them scale their programs efficiently. The right platform can help you save time by automating manual tasks such as communicating with ambassadors, paying out rewards, tracking metrics, and creating reports.
Speaking of management platforms, it’s time for us to “toot our own horn”, so to speak. We are the leading ambassador marketing platform for eCommerce brands who want to scale their programs. In fact, skincare brand Byrokko used our platform to grow their community to over 30 000 ambassadors without increasing the time required to manage them!
UGC cover image: @kayahdontbesilly for NA-KD. Second image: @kaitlinradz for Zenni. Third image: @sohoney__ for Onepiece.