Global companies have long understood the power and impact of associating popular personalities with their brand name and products. Most will agree that a successful brand ambassador can make or break a new product launch, or even catapult a company into a new era of exponential revenues after a long drought of fading brand clout.
But these days choosing a brand ambassador isn’t what it used to be. Now, with the rapid diffusion of information made possible through the Internet, companies are seeing the dangers of making hasty decisions to link their products to public figures. In the past, reputations were not etched in stone, but were relatively stable and slow to change. Conversely, these days what goes around still comes around, only now this happens at the speed of light and travels to the ends of the world.
More than just a pretty face
In the watch industry, brand ambassadors have proven themselves a weighty yet worthy investment. Whether on the playing field, in the arts or simply in the world of beautiful people, brand ambassadors have measurable positive impact on a company’s bottom line.
But their influence can be short-lived, and being in the public eye makes them the perfect target for increased scrutiny and attacks on their reputation. Traditional popularity life cycles have been distorted by the global reach of the Internet. What’s more, country variances in consumer opinion, rumours and scandals can be exposed and spread at a phenomenal rate.
Too many variables, too little time
So, given the investment, vulnerability and revenue-generating potential riding on the decision, how do watchmakers choose? Surprisingly, most brands admit to a selection process that combines a mix of networking, personal contacts and traditional market research, with a dab of ‘CEO’ feeling to finalize the decision. While this approach has produced some highly recognized success stories, companies have little information to address some tough issues: how long will this sports star’s winning streak last? What specific consumer groups emulate this model? What are this actor’s political affiliations? What stereotypes surround this individual?
Selection, validation and reporting - minimizing risk and maximizing return By gathering insights on proposed ambassadors in key markets in the online arena, some visionary companies are now making more informed and successful choices. Upstream, using online strategic insights in the initial selection process generates higher quality short-lists, minimizes risk, and makes the selection process and media planning more efficient and successful. Further downstream popularity, reach, brand recall and campaign timing are confirmed through country-specific monitoring of an ambassador’s impact and reputation.
Moreover, having access to a measure of a potential ambassador’s reach and clout in key markets can serve as an excellent negotiating tool. And making the right choice from the start will protect a company from the costly legal fees involved in prematurely ending a contract.
Proactively influencing the conversion process
The primary role of the brand ambassador is to personify the values intrinsic to the brand and evoke the dreams associated with owning the product. As such, he or she must demonstrate a trend of increasing popularity and notoriety in the markets where the advertising and promotion will be visible in order to reach the projected target groups effectively.
In the pre-Internet era, the notoriety of the ambassador would be the magnet to attract a qualified target group to appropriate the brand. The conversion process would start with a prospect’s desire to purchase a certain type of product. The consumer’s ultimate choice of brand and model would then be influenced to some degree by identification with the brand ambassador.
Now, the advent of online technologies has added another dimension to the equation. Whereas in the past the brand ambassador’s impact was more to confirm a specific brand or model, now it can serve to evoke awareness of the existence of a product, stimulate desire to purchase, then convert.
Online, a well-chosen brand ambassador can awaken desire for a product in previously ‘uninterested’ consumers through generic searches on the ambassador’s name or associated activities. In this way, not only direct keyword searches on the brand or product lead to conversions, but non-product-related searches as well.
Online, it is the ambassador’s ‘aura’ that acts as the magnet to attract a target group to desire and appropriate the product. The Internet creates propitious ‘product placement’ opportunities to build on the emotion and psychological impulse associated with emulation of the brand ambassador. By means of an innocent forum search, an overzealous fan can be diverted onto the company website and transformed into a passionate consumer with just a few clicks of the mouse.
The right choice and the right management
Adopting a brand ambassador in the watch industry has become more than an accepted practice. Now with mounting competition and global distribution, it’s time for proactive watchmakers to move beyond name-dropping and capitalize on their investments. By integrating online insights into the selection and validation process, marketers can advance to the next level of campaign optimization, seizing every opportunity to promote the ambassador-product association for maximum return.
And with the current trend of asking the Internet public for marketing and innovative product ideas, we can expect the next generation of brand ambassadors to be chosen and promoted by online communities themselves. New game, new rules…
How one visionary watchmaker stays on target – Raymond Weil and Charlize Theron In collaboration with IC-Agency, a Geneva-based Internet specialist, independent watchmaker Raymond Weil is monitoring the impact of its ambassador campaigns in key markets.
The agency’s proprietary technologies, IC-DemandTracker and IC-Insights, are allowing its clients to evaluate and optimize campaign effectiveness: has the product been successfully linked to the ambassador? How have popularity ratings evolved since the onset of the collaboration? Which countries are best responding to the campaign and when? For IC-Agency, this proactive management is the wave of the future for companies to fully exploit endorsement opportunities and get the best return on investment. (P.M.)
Exploiting the popularity life cycle online
Online communities could help companies promote new products through a type of ‘viral marketing’. By capitalizing on interest-led online searches, entire online consumer communities can be moved to federate around an ambassador-associated product. In turn, these communities propagate the dream via their own online ‘hype’ and spread their influence via privileged personal networks. Targeting audiences already devoted to their chosen ambassador means that companies can maximize their return on investment and more quickly amortize media production costs and ambassador fees. Depending on the demographics of the target audience, marketers can use online channels such as ethnic, music, or sports communities to get their message to the most influential consumers at the most opportune time.