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Customers as brand ambassadors

The IMM Graduate School |Customers as brand ambassadorsSocial media helps brands to connect and become more engaged with its target audience. Of course, there is a difference between customers who (out of love for it or habit) use a product without promoting it, and customers who promote and post about their favourite brands and products on social media. A major goal for businesses is to turn their regular customers into loyal super-fans.

The way consumers talk about their user experiences has changed over time. With the presence of social media, consumers are able to instantly share their positive experiences with their potentially large social media following. Since modern consumers rely heavily on online product reviews before making a purchase, passionate recommendations from a fellow customer will be considered more valuable and taken more seriously than a message from the brand itself.

A brand ambassador is someone who “visibly flaunts the adoption, use, and presence of a certain brand”. Simply put, brand ambassadors use and talk to (preferably) large audiences about their favourite brands. Traditionally, brand ambassadors were celebrities with their own large social media following, however, now with ‘average’ consumers gaining online popularity, anyone can assume this position. 

Finding brand ambassadors

The best place for a business to start looking for brand ambassadors is within the organisation. Employees are often good candidates since they already know the finer details of the products and services on offer. Another option is to analyse the existing customer base and pinpoint who the most loyal individuals are, then ask them whether they would like to become an advocate for the brand.

Brand ambassadors must have these key characteristics:

  • Professionalism
  • A good knowledge of the brand, its products and history
  • A basic understanding of marketing principles
  • An established online presence
  • A large social media following
  • A passion for the product or brand
  • A team player

How brand ambassadors are made

Converting the ‘average’ customer into a super fan requires time and effort. These seven strategies can help turn loyal customers into brand ambassadors.

  1. Maintain good customer relationships. If a customer has a pleasant experience with a brand, they are likely to remain loyal and refer their friends.
  2. Show interest. Ask customers for their feedback, they can offer a unique perspective on the brand. Also, asking customers for their opinion will make them feel heard.
  3. Make use of User Generated Content (UGC). Asking customers to produce content for the business will not only provide fresh content such as videos, photos and written text, but the brand will also earn customer loyalty.
  4. Encourage user creativity. Businesses can hold contests to encourage its audience to create content for the brand. This will increase user engagement and encourage word-of-mouth recommendations.
  5. Build a community. Create an online community centred around the brand to encourage brand to user interaction and promote loyalty.
  6. Appreciate your customers. When customers provide a business with user generated content or refer a friend, be sure to show your public appreciation.
  7. Reward advocates. Provide existing brand ambassadors with special offers like discounts or free shipping and post online about the benefits of being a brand ambassador.

How your business can benefit

Having a brand ambassador on your side can greatly benefit your business. One obvious benefit is that ambassadors are often unpaid. Brand ambassadors can also:

  • Increase brand visibility and awareness
  • Use social media to hype up the brand
  • Help to make the brand more ‘human’
  • Help to protect a brand’s online reputation
  • Drive traffic to the brand’s website

Once a brand has gained ambassadors, the final task is to maintain these relationships – this requires ongoing effort on the business’ part. The best ways to keep ambassadors interested and engaged is to constantly provide them with an exclusive sneak peak of new products, special deals or any future changes. This will give them something new to talk about with their audience.

Lastly, having brand ambassadors who create content for the brand would be of no use if the business doesn’t use their content. Publicly posting their content and showing appreciation for it will show followers that their efforts don’t go unnoticed.

These shoes were made for walking the road to success

The IMM Graduate School | These shoes were made for walking the road to success webWatching IMM Graduate School’s Pearls of Wisdom video, one can’t help but feel a stirring sense of the opportunity, excellence and success of the institution’s brand. Michael Bratt takes a look at the campaign.

There’s a reason shoes are a recurring motif in the latest IMM Graduate School’s marketing campaign. And it’s not just because having an IMM qualification gives you a foot in the door…

Shoes were used to creatively convey the key message that walking in the steps of successful IMM Graduate School alumni gives a students a sense of what can be achieved, while also being a symbol of the journey the alumni have already taken.

The promotional video ends with the tagline, ‘Can you fill their shoes?’, a challenge to students to follow in the footsteps of the successful IMM Graduate School alumni, while at the same time encouraging them to chart their own career paths.

Aiming to increase awareness of and around the IMM brand, and tying it in with the school’s intake/registrations drive, the campaign is the brainchild of the educational institution in partnership with creative agency, Bain & Bunkell, and was created by Snippet Video.

The concept is a simple one to follow, with alumni relaying their experiences and stories of studying through the IMM Graduate School.

“Our biggest advantage, or strength, is our reputation, and word of mouth has always been the IMM’s most powerful marketing tool,” explains Charmaine du Plessis, IMM Graduate School’s chief marketing officer. “Our alumni are all ambassadors, so it seemed appropriate to use them as brand ambassadors to spread the word about the IMM Graduate School.”

As Vicky Moodley, business unit director at Bain & Bunkell, says, it was a “no brainer to use them as part of the campaign, since they have succeeded in their careers through studying with the university”. The messaging, she says, underscores the heights someone can reach when backed by an IMM Graduate School qualification.

Hot list of alumni

A shortlist of alumni was drawn up of who could potentially feature in the campaign before the selection process took place. Some of those included were Sandrine Prinsloo, head of marketing at Nedbank Business Banking; DJ Twasa from Lesedi FM; Tracy Porter, marketing and communications specialist at Wings Travel Management; and Cleo Zwane, senior marketing manager at Standard Bank.

The provocative behind-the-scenes video was not in the original campaign plan. “We planned on only producing seven short alumni ambassador videos showcasing people that excelled in the workplace,” Du Plessis explains. “We then decided to ask Bain & Bunkell to also include a pearls of wisdom video which we can keep in our archives but also use to show at student events. Students like it as it is informal while at the same time being informational.”

If the video is anything to go by, the alumni and behind-the-scenes team had a blast during the shoot. The alumni were photographed in a fun way,  showing off their shoes and the props that linked them to their jobs. Some behind-the-scenes shots of agency and IMM Graduate School team members engaging with the ambassadors are also included.

Getting it out there

When it came time to showcase the campaign, it was distributed across multiple media channels with the aim of maximising its reach. These included radio, with DJ Twasa doing a voice-over; print, through newspaper and magazine adverts; television, through a MTV promotion; and posters and pull-up banners, which will be used at schools, exhibitions and support centres.

Out of home advertising platforms also played a big part in the campaign’s distribution via a number of outdoor outlets including a billboard in Sandton,  mobile billboard/trailer in Gauteng, the back of a bus in Cape Town and street poles nationally.

Digital was also factored in, with posts across various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, on IMM’s accounts. The IMM Graduate School website also posted information about the campaign, and there was a PPC campaign across all the social media platforms.

This campaign, and its attention-grabbing Pearls of Wisdom video, demonstrate the value of education and learning. In a country whose standard of education is constantly being questioned, it is inspiring to see the success stories.