Valuing Brand Ambassadors

At the Digital Hollywood conference yesterday, there was a solid panel titled, Who’s Running Your Brand.  Of course, the main point of the panel was the fact that nowadays, much is left in the hands of fans.  Certainly, brands can do as much as possible to get their talking points and product information out, but the fans are gaining more and more control every day.  It doesn’t do a company any good to police what is being said and try to combat the bad press.  They should be doing whatever they can to enter the environment in a natural way.  The rules of “natural” differ slightly from vertical to vertical, but it should always be thought of as being an enabler, not a dictator or pusher.  In all ways, though, the natural thing is to be relevant and add value.

What many of the panelists talked about was the need to engage influential bloggers and social media trend-setters.  Each one had examples of how they had done it well or how others were doing it well.  There were also a couple of examples of how they were being done horribly – providing a reminder to not under-estimate influencers.

The biggest opportunity for brands to position their social is to engage or entice influencers (or even just active social participants) with opportunities to get something relevantly valuable in return.

For a time, there were incentives to engage that were sort of simple and dumb – “get this ticky-tacky item by participating” or “jump through these hoops for the chance to get something huge.”  Those things worked until there was too much of the same glutting the social market.  Influencers are smart AND have a lot to do in their lives, so they don’t just jump at any carrot that is put before them. But, in either case, they aren’t always simple, dumb or bad.  The determination of whether they are lame or not really relies on relevancy and the target user.  As a brand, you owe it to your fans to offer something of value if you want them to be ambassadors (and your actual product doesn’t lend itself to that all by itself.)

Some examples discussed were Fox Theatrical’s invitation of key X-Men bloggers to an event in Cannes where they were able to interview the cast and production team on the same level of the traditional outlets – leading to much more coverage and excitement than initially expected.  The same basic idea was used for the release of RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – where more types of influencers were invited to meet with filmmakers to find out more about the film’s emotional core.  In the APES example, the film opened extremely well because of the buzz surrounding the fact that it was not just a sci-fi movie.  The same ideas had been mentioned for the music industry as well as for tires and other CPG brands.

In all examples, there was a true value add for people to participate.  It was not just a lazy offering in the hopes that people would bite and blog or tweet about it. Engaging and honest interactions between brands and influencers will lead to much bigger returns.  (We’ve already covered this in the blog from September 7th.)

They also refered to the program that Lenovo just launched targeting teenagers in the hopes that it will drive brand identity for future consumers.  In their Spacelab program, they are generating community and content by offering the opportunity for students to present their ideas for experiments in space.  Not only do the 2 winners have their experiments completed in space, but there are other prizes such as training at the Cosmonaut training center or flights on the zero-gravity planes.  This just launched, so only time will tell if it works, but it seems that they’ve offered something of real value to their participants that will drive higher engagement.

There are other examples where all it took was a moment of clear thinking and not a “rush-to-market” on a program that led to absolutely cost-effective fan and ambassador engagement.  The lack of proper consideration and planning is just plain dumb.

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