Ambassadors commit to your brand for the long term because they love your products and are passionate about seeing your brand succeed. They promote your brand on social media, at trade shows and other events, and via networking.
Brand ambassadors can be divided into several categories based on the brand and niche knowledge they possess, their positioning relative to your target audience, the authority they hold, and whether they’ve entered a formal agreement with a brand. What are the types of brand ambassadors? Which type is best for your business’ needs?
8 types of brand ambassadors
Let’s examine some of the most common types of brand ambassadors, so you are empowered to make the right decisions for your brand.
1. The peer advocate
Peer advocates are your existing customers, who share what they love about a product with people who occupy the same demographic (age, location, gender, marriage and family status, etc.) and/or who have similar interests or needs.
When making purchasing decisions, consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers more than any other source of information. Plus, peers are better able to relate to prospective customers. So, recruiting peer advocates is a great choice.
Here are some examples of peer advocates:
- A teen repeatedly recommends a teen brand to their same-age followers on social media
- A mom tells other new parents why she loves a certain baby product.
- Someone with textured hair frequently posts about using Shea Moisture products (made for people with curly or textured hair)
- A vegan shares how he uses a plant-based egg substitute in his recipes.
2. The student ambassador
Student ambassadors are a subcategory of peer advocate. Brands who target 18-25 year olds recruit student ambassadors to meet large groups of their target audience right where they are – on campus – through the voices of their peers.
These outgoing representatives know how to relate to their fellow students, and use their existing connections to raise awareness about their brand on campus, both in person and via their social accounts.
They’re also experts in guerilla marketing—promoting a brand in creative ways, like wearing branded outfits, handing out samples or branded swag at unexpected times, hosting promotional events, and chalking parking lots.
Marquette University student Melissa is a Bumble Honey: a student ambassador for Bumble.
3. The niche authority
Niche authorities are experts in their field who agree to serve as ambassadors. Their expertise makes prospective customers even more likely to trust their recommendations. Sometimes, their expertise comes as a result of their profession. Other times, they have a niche blog or social media account with a loyal following, and are seen as experts because of that.
Examples of niche authority ambassadors include:
- A fitness instructor who promotes Lululemon athletic wear
- An athlete who shares why they love Under Armour
- A dentist who promotes Sensodyne toothpaste
- An outdoor enthusiast who advocates for LL Bean on her social media account
- A photographer who serves as a Canon ambassador
4. The powerful audience authority
Similar to the niche authority, these ambassadors are seen as authorities among a given audience because of how easily their followers trust them.
Celebrities fall under the “audience authority” category of ambassador. So do people with a high number of loyal followers on social media. If you want to use one of these powerful audience authorities as your ambassador, make sure that their audience aligns with yours. Also, make sure that they genuinely love your products (and won’t be “salesy” in their recommendations), so the ambassadorship is genuine.
5. The experiential/event ambassador
Experiential ambassadors specialize in representing a brand at events, holding unscripted one-on-one conversations in person, and building relationships with people at events. They might also conduct guerrilla marketing campaigns in unexpected places.
They help to put a live, human face to the brand, embody brand values, and make it easy for people to connect with their brand. Many of them still use social media as part of their ambassadorship—events and experiences just happen to be their specialty. One prominent experiential ambassador program is the Red Bull Wings Team.
Luu (@laluuaroundtheworld), a member of the Red Bull Wings Team, shares a sample and a conversation with an event attendee.
6. The formal ambassador
Any ambassador who has entered into an agreement with your brand falls into this category. As part of a formal ambassador program, these ambassadors have been given insider info about your brand and its goals, and have agreed to abide by certain rules and standards for representing your brand.
Also, they have agreed to make a certain number of posts about your brand, advocate at a certain number of events, or both. They have signed a written contract (or verbally agreed to these terms).
7. The enthusiast
Every brand ambassador is enthusiastic about the brand they represent. After all, all brand ambassadors love your brand and want to see it succeed. But enthusiasts are those advocates who embody what your brand stands for, commit to your brand philosophy, and are willing to promote your brand for little to no compensation.
The best part? They often promote your brand without any prompting. These are the customers who have left glowing reviews of you, and who rave about your brand regularly on social media, as well as offline to their friends. They haven’t necessarily entered into a formal ambassador agreement with your brand. (And if they haven’t, they’re great people to recruit formally!)
8. The employee-ambassador
Sometimes, brands will use their employees as ambassadors. Employee-ambassadors already have insider info about the brand they represent, have already committed to brand goals, and have a deep understanding of why their target audience is interested in the brand.
Plus, their social media followers are their family, friends, and peers, who see their recommendations as especially reliable. But think hard before choosing an employee as an ambassador.
Recruiting your own employees as brand ambassadors can bring unique benefits, but it can cause issues, too. Weigh these pros and cons carefully if you’re contemplating whether to use your employees as brand ambassadors.
Benefits of using your own employees as brand ambassadors
Employee-ambassadors can be valuable assets to your company, in ways that distinguish them from other ambassadors.
Your employees’ social media followers are their friends, family, and peers. And people see direct product recommendations from their close colleagues as the most reliable. Nielsen reports that 84% of people trust recommendations from people they know more than any other form of advertising.
The trust employees’ followers give leads to conversions. According to G2, employees’ social followers are “seven times more likely to convert on the content that is shared” than other leads are. Employee ambassadors increase both the quantity and quality of your leads!
Know the inside scoop
On top of all this, employees already have insider info about your brand, so it’s especially easy for them to act as brand experts. They know exactly why certain audiences are interested in your product, and they already value your company goals and philosophy. And they’ll save you the legwork involved in finding and training external ambassadors.
As an added bonus, having knowledgeable employees who are dedicated to sharing your brand reflects positively on your brand—and thus helps your overall brand image. As an ambassador’s reputation rises, so does your company’s.
Issues using your own employees may cause
But recruiting employees as ambassadors has disadvantages, too.
Risk of being too “sales-y”
When an ambassador is an employee, the compensation for promoting your brand can easily become more of a motivator. Plus, they’re usually more exposed to the “sales language” of your brand. So, employee ambassadors must be extra careful to stay authentic in their recommendations, without becoming too “scripted” or too “salesy.”
Even if they’re committed to your company philosophy, it can be more difficult for employees to balance their personal brand (how they consistently portray themselves on social media) with your company’s brand. It may be easier to find an external ambassador whose personal brand naturally aligns with your core values and goals.
Can come off as less authentic
If certain audiences find out that a brand ambassador is employed full-time by the brand, the employee ambassador’s recommendations may not seem as authentic in their eyes (audiences may believe an ambassador is only sharing the product because they’re paid to do so).
Employees’ values can change
And there’s always a chance that employees will resign for personal gain. According to HRM, “as an employee’s status rises [among their audience], it can shift the brand equity from the [company] to an individual employee.” In other words, some people think highly of your brand because they think highly of your employee as an individual ambassador. And this can backfire. Even if they seem loyal to your brand, if a respected employee-ambassador receives a better job offer elsewhere, there’s a chance that they may leave you – or worse, leave you for a competitor. And then, all the respect an audience has for your former ambassador becomes respect for your competition.
If you recruit your own employees as ambassadors, you may reap several distinct rewards. On social media, people trust family, friends, and peers most, so employees’ networks will place even higher trust in the posts your employees make as ambassadors – and they’re more likely to become your customers. Plus, your employees are already brand experts.
But still, proceed with caution, as recruiting employee ambassadors could backfire – especially if an enticing job offer motivates them to leave your company for a competitor.
Now that you know the types of brand ambassadors, it’s time to choose the right type for you, recruit ambassadors, and start your ambassador program.