Brand ambassador. What does it really mean?
If you go to that omnipotent source of all things webby, Wikipedia, and you type in “Brand Ambassador,” you’re redirected to a page defining “Promotional Models.” To Wikipedia, apparently, they are one and the same.
The definition of a promotional model, sayeth Wikipedia, is:
a person hired to drive consumer demand for a product, service, brand, or concept by directly interacting with potential consumers. A promotional model can be female or male, and typically is intended to be attractive in physical appearance. They serve to provide information about the product or service and make it appealing to consumers.
But in the context of the women’s blogosphere, does this really define what brand ambassadors do? Wikipedia’s definition suggests that physical attractiveness is as much a component in selecting brand ambassadors as perhaps the power of persuasion.
Yet in blogging, many women become brand ambassadors without a PR firm or company ever having seen their lovely faces.
The Online Slang Dictionary has a much simpler definition of brand ambassador:
a satisfied customer who tells others about his positive experience with products of a particular brand name.
But sometimes, a female blogger will accept a brand ambassadorship without ever having tried the product they’re representing.
Even within our own community, the definitions are not set in stone – nor are the perceptions or expectations that come with the term “brand ambassador.”
I talked with a few bloggers at different stages of blogging about what the term means to them.
Julie, from Sober Julie Doing Life, who has been blogging for less than 6 months, suggested that brand ambassadors must “fit” with the brand they represent:
a brand ambassador is someone who embodies the brand she is endorsing. She is employed to provide credible, trustworthy promotion and visibility to a brand.
There should be a give and take with her and the brand. Just like she represents the brand’s product, values, style and personality the brand must reflect the Ambassador’s character as well.
This often is an enthusiastic customer who is not hired by the brand but her positive reviews provide grassroots exposure.
Liz, from A Belle, A Bean and A Chicago Dog who has been blogging for not quite two years, defined it as more of a casual responsibility with little compensation:
When I hear the term, "brand ambassador," I think of bloggers who were
selected to promote a product or brand through occasional blog posts
and twitter chats. Typically, bloggers receive a product sample free
of charge as part of their ambassadorship, and quite often, that
product sample is the extent of compensation received.
Veteran blogger Jill Smokler, from Scary Mommy, had a different take that was infused with her views on why she has never accepted a brand ambassadorship:
I’ve never been a "brand ambassador," but I suppose, to me, it would be aligning myself with a company that I completely believed in and felt could well represent me. The reason why I’ve never been one is the same as why I haven’t allowed a company to sponsor me for conferences: At the end of the day, I only want to work for myself. If I’m going to sell someone hard, I want that person to be me. I’d really need to feel passionately about a company to maintain an ongoing relationship with them like that. And, yes, it would need to pay. In more than free paper towels, I mean.
PR reps tend to look at it as a more formal and structured relationship. Stephanie Azzarone of Child’s Play PR said:
I define a Brand Ambassador as one who represents a company on an ongoing basis and is compensated to do so. Her role might be to develop a series of posts about a brand on her blog, or to post on a regular basis on a company’s blog or to talk up a brand to others, among other options. There can of course be situations where someone is so excited about a product or program or organization that she decides to promote it regularly on her own, and she too would be a Brand Ambassador, but I most often associate the term with a compensated relationship. That compensation could be in the form of a significant amount or high value of products, a straightforward financial agreement, a combination of the above, or some other arrangement that recognizes the value of the Ambassador’s time.
One thing is clear: there’s no one definition of “brand ambassador” that fits the women’s blogosphere. The takeaway: make sure that your definition and expectations align with those of any company you work with.