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  • Patricia Neuray

Brand Ambassadors: To Pay or Not to Pay


Brand ambassadors are nothing new. They have existed in one form or another for as long as the science and art of marketing has been around. In the simplest terms — a brand ambassador is basically anyone who says good things about your product or service —hopefully influencing others to buy as a result. So the question is whether it is better to focus on a paid ambassador program or to put your energy into finding non-paid ambassadors.

Here are three reasons I believe paid programs are not as effective:

1. It’s not completely genuine

In my humble opinion, paid brand ambassadors can be a contradiction. Why? Because as a paid ambassador, they are supposed to be an evangelist for your company and as soon as you pay them to say good things, they are going to have a hard time being objective. Not everyone will see through it, but a lot of people will.In an age where advertising is mistrusted, especially by Millennials, it is important to be as authentic as possible and a paid ambassador program does not come across as authentic. A paid program is not that different from hiring an actor as a spokesperson or employing someone to stand on a street corner and twirl a sign.

2. They may not be true believers

The beauty of an effective brand ambassador is that they really believe in the product or service. They are the people who say good things in a review simply because they genuinely like or believe in it. They will post a new product or service on social media because they think it’s worth their friends knowing about it. You may have hired a brand ambassador who genuinely did like one of your products but what about the next five products you introduce?Do they still believe in it or are they simply going through the motions because they’re paid to? Would you know the difference? More importantly, would your audience?

3. They may negatively impact your brand

Unless you have an extremely well-coordinated program with very strict rules of engagement you could have people that are not representing your brand in a professional and positive way. That could be true of a non-paid ambassador as well but people might not blame the brand for a misstep if the person is promoting something they believe in versus getting paid to endorse it. Once they are being paid, they are representatives of your company in every regard.

So what does a successful brand ambassador look like?

Well, some of the most successful brand ambassador programs are from socially conscious companies. They get people behind them not only because they have great products but because they have a mission as well.

For example, Loveyourmelon.com is a company that sells hats online and for every one they sell, they give a free hat to a child suffering from cancer. Their brand ambassadors not only love the product — they love the mission. They also distribute hats to pediatric cancer wards and get to experience first-hand how they are making a difference. What could be more powerful than that?

Another example is an apparel company called Sandcloud.com. Their mission is to protect marine life and give 10% of profits back to non-profits supporting the same vision. Their ambassadors also care about the same cause and are passionate about it.

Just read what Amanda Serra, a Sand Cloud brand ambassador, said about her role, “My favorite part of being a brand ambassador is teaching others the simple things they can do to support marine life and ocean preservation themselves through Sand Cloud.” What a great way for someone to support an amazing cause and raise awareness about their brand in the process!

In summary, I use the examples of Love Your Melon and Sand Cloud because I personally think the most successful brand ambassador programs are the ones that come from the heart. There are so many great examples of other companies that are making a difference like Darn Good Yarn and the Land Grant Brewing Company. The key is to attract brand ambassadors that will rally around your cause or mission because they will be supporters for life.