brand ambassadors vs influencers - what’s the difference?
ambassadors vs. influencers
what’s the difference?
Brand ambassadors and influencers can be cornerstones to your brand’s storytelling; but, how do you differentiate between the two seemingly interchangeable terms? Both types of brand partnerships will feed your marketing strategy so understanding the nuances of both influencers and ambassadors is essential. Differentiating influencers vs ambassadors will help you determine who to call on when you’re looking to promote or grow your brand and how to structure the partnership with the people you choose.
So let’s get to it.
Who and what are brand ambassadors?
A brand ambassador is a brand enthusiast who knows and loves your brand, represents what your brand stands for and aligns with your values. An ambassador is someone your team would trust to represent your brand at a trade show, industry event, out on the web and beyond. Ambassadors can be looked to for writing blog content, hosting a Facebook live, product testing and development, writing product reviews or making word-of-mouth recommendations, as well as being featured in your marketing materials. They are essentially a real-life extension of your brand, and as a happy bonus, may get coverage in media publications as earned media.
Ambassador relationships are typically long-term and are mutually beneficial for the ambassador and the brand. The interaction is less of a transaction and more of an ongoing relationship where a brand and ambassador help each other accomplish common goals. Brand association is important to ambassadors. By supporting an ambassador’s adventures and lifestyle, you are helping increase exposure not only for your brand, but for the sport and activity - hopefully increasing participation and awareness. Often brands can re-purpose and re-share content from ambassadors.
Ambassadors are also a great resource for brands to take a stance on an issue. A brand can choose to align with activists in specific communities to elevate an issue or purpose and reinforce a brand’s stance. Activists who choose to serve as ambassadors won’t partner with brands that don’t represent a cause authentically.
Who and what are influencers?
In the broadest sense, influencers are folks that capture and influence an audience online and/or in person. Influencers range from Instagram personalities with millions of followers to lesser-known bloggers with super niche audiences. Now, it’s important to note, all influencers you work with may not be perfect representations of your brand, but they can potentially reach a specific audience that aligns with your customer profile, as well as grow awareness of your brand. Influencers can be thought of more as a transactional customer acquisition channel. In some cases, influencers can crossover and be both an influencer and a brand ambassador.
Here’s an example of how you can leverage an influencer to grow awareness: If your brand is solely focused on high-intensity core athletes, you may want to work with an influencer in the adjacent space whom caters to a more everyday athlete to grow awareness and builds a tool for a new customer acquisition channel. More specifically, say you are a bike brand who is laser-focused on high-performing, the type that are Leadville 100 finishers (shoutout to Kristin Carpenter, our CEO/Founder, for finishing the Leadville Trail 100 MTB), but you are looking to expand to a larger audience without alienating your current customers and followers, finding influencers in the broader biking space would be a good tactic to entertain.
As with brand ambassadors, an exchange for content can come in the form of monetary payment, gear discounts/gifts, affiliate links, all inclusive trips, or other agreed upon options. However, we consider this as more of a transactional relationship - these engagements can be valuable for quickly tapping into a new audience or market, but be intentional with those you engage…having Kanye pitch your skis might not be the best idea.
Something else to be aware of is that your brand might be one of many brands working with one influencer. When considering a partnership, scroll through the influencer’s channels and find out who else they might be working with. Be on the lookout for misaligning brands and competitors.
Alright, let’s look at a few examples. In this example, Honda teamed up with a group of outdoor influencers including Sasha Digiulian, Chris Burkard, Joey Schusler and Rafa Ortiz to take part in the #300ftchallenge campaign. The campaign hinges on the factoid: “Did you know that the average person scrolls 300 feet of social media content on their smartphones every day?” It was labeled as sponsored, indicated by the hashtags attached to each influencers post; #HondaPartner and #300ftchallenge. Do these athletes own and drive Hondas? Probably not. Did they build a contract and agreement that made it impossible to say no? Most likely yes.
Other examples include current celebrity partnerships like Megan Rapinoe’s cheeky ad with Hulu during the World Cup finals. If you’re a Stranger Things fan, you’ll also appreciate the partnership between Caleb Mclaughlin and Planet Fitness, advertising a summer campaign that invites teens to join Planet Fitness for free.
What’s the benefit of having one or the other?
Influencers are important for brands looking to grow in a specific market and reach a targeted audience. If you need to create a very controlled and tailored message it can be easier to find someone to partner with and pay for their work. Influencer relationships (mostly) guarantee a certain outcome and don’t require months of courting. You can pick influencers up and run with them for specific campaigns or contract periods during peak season for your brand. However, as influencer engagement rates hit all-time lows, make sure you do your due diligence when vetting ones to work with.
Ambassadors are a key part of your brand persona. You rely on these people like you rely on your employees to keep the brand ethos running. Think of them as a pillar to your brand that can provide deep insight into your product and target audience. Ambassador relationships take time to nurture and will pay off in the long run with quality representation and content.
While both ambassadors and influencers will cultivate brand awareness in a more organic way, it’s important to keep in mind the overall goal of your activation so that you can best determine which type of partnership makes sense for any given marketing strategy.