We recently took a look at what happened when brands turn their back (or not) on celebrities caught up in scandal. This time round, we’re coming down from the stars to take a look at what happens when brands let the everyman/woman model their products. They might have used you already.
The ‘brand ambassador’ concept has been around for a long time – indeed if you buy into the ad legend about Santa Claus’ red outfit being created by Coca Cola marketers in the 1930s, he’s arguably the most long-lived and greatest of them all. But social brands have, in recent years, taken the concept to new levels, recruiting legions of fans and followers to spread the word in the real and virtual worlds.
Where once it was almost exclusively celebrities who endorsed brands by driving certain cars or lending their voices to television adverts (if you’re a brand, you can buy yourself a Chelsea football player, here) today the ‘normal’ consumer is proving a cheap and effective alternative. Jack Wills has a whole team of ‘Seasonnaires’ to wear its clothes on British, American and Chinese university campuses (and at Legoland) – good-looking students paid to be seen in the label’s new designs. Weetabix has likewise employed a team of British school children to wear clothing with its logo on, something that Charlie Brooker doesn’t care for.
Online, the opportunities for brands to use their own consumers as advertisers are wider still. It’s our nosey interest in the behaviour and business of others that gives Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites their unique pulling power. In turn, users control the image of themselves that they give to others. The clothing a person wears in their profile photo, the cars that they are pictured in and the brands that they refer to when they tweet all form an important aspect of that online persona.
Charlie Brooker is wrong on one count – consumers love to be associated with certain labels, and brands need to make the most of this (while remembering that there’s a value exchange – the brand ambassador, like Santa in the ads, will expect some ‘take’ when he ‘gives’).
Most brands will already have accounts on several social networking sites and work hard to create content that prompts their customers to actively and visibly engage with them, thereby generating online word of mouth. The best will encourage customers to be photographed using their products and posting those photos online, with their brand Twitter #tag attached. The free brand ambassador is born. Social networking sites have created a world of everyday celebrities – brand-savvy consumers, often in the form of influential bloggers and forum posters, who’ve carved out niche but loyal followings among their friends. These are the new stars that your brand should be seeking to work with.