Role of Brand Ambassadors in Recession

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 5536 , Published on 21 February 2011
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Brand Ambassador‟ is one of the most commonly misunderstood and loosely used terms in the world of Branding. It is more commonly thought of as a celebrity endorser. Another common notion is the association of “brand ambassador‟ only to celebrities, while it can include employees of a company and, most importantly, the customers of a brand. If you remember MDH, its owner has been the brand ambassador for years.

 

brand ambassdors

It is true that there exist certain similarities between celebrity endorsement and brand ambassadorship:

Both brand ambassadors and celebrity endorsers are responsible for creation of archetypal images in the minds of the consumers which relate to a primary function in their life. For e.g. Harley-Davidson creates an image of an “Outlaw” and aims at helping the consumers to “break the rules”.

Both help the process of brand reinforcement in the minds of the consumers. However, the differences between the two are massive:

Celebrity endorsements are episodic and thus short term relationships between the brand and the personality whereas ambassadors have a long lasting association with the brand. Indian master blaster Sachin Tendulkar’s association with MRF is reminiscent of the latter.

Brand Ambassadors are chosen based on their fit with the brand. It is based on the premise that if the brand comes alive as a human being then it should be like the brand ambassador herself/himself. This may or may not be the case with celebrity endorsements.

The quote - “A company spends on a celebrity endorsement but it invests in the brand ambassador” summarizes it all.

Marketing during Recession

Recession is a time when consumers are highly concerned about their “pockets”. Consumers go into a “savings” mode and think twice before spending even a penny of their hard earned money; their involvement in a purchase decision increases manifold and they intensely evaluate products before making the final purchase.

Is it possible for a business to strive during a recession?

Though the picture may not look so lustrous, recessions are still a great opportunity in adversity for companies to strengthen their brands. Risk adverse conditions make consumers stick to their favorite brands more than pre-recession periods. Consumers‟ high level of involvement in the purchase process makes them look out for some kind of motivation that will justify their purchase decision. All these premises signify the importance of “clear brand proposition” as consumers look for the best utilization of their expenses.

During recession, when advertising “noise” decreases, the voice of those still talking sounds much louder. As the competition stops or cuts their advertising efforts, it’s a prime opportunity for your brand’s message to be heard and your message is one of the few messages reaching customers, the odds of success are multiplied.

During recession, companies have two options to manage their brands :

1) To cut back on marketing costs and wait for the recession to subside

2) To aggressively promote the brand and create a strong brand identity while the competition is sparse.

BRAND AMBASSADORS AND RECESSION COMBATING

Past studies have shown that the second option has proved effective and the urge to opt for the first option has been the nemesis for many brands. But it is important to remember that aggressive promotion doesn’t mean slashing prices or spicing up of the marketing communication. Such steps could confuse the consumers and cause irreparable damage to the brand equity. It is always considered better to invest in a steady but sure approach. This is where Brand Ambassadors come into the picture. Brand Ambassadors are a major source of confidence to the consumers. They are opinion leaders who guide the consumers towards making the “right” purchase decision. They are the “larger than life” figures who stand tall even in the toughest time and thus create an environment of trust and integrity in the minds of the customer. They also help the consumers in forming brand association which ultimately culminates into the brand loyalty.

BRAND AMBASSADORS – SUCCESS STORIES

The importance and effect of brand ambassadors in the troubled times can be illustrated with the following success stories.

Nike’s Éclat

The U.S footwear market had stagnated. Footfalls at retail outlets and malls had plummeted. Nike‟s two major competitors namely Adidas and Reebok, three years after their merger were determined to be a very tough competitor. Add to all this - the recession! But surprisingly Nike‟s performance exceeded all expectations with Nike reaching at an all time high market share of 50%, beating all its competitors across most of the product categories. One of major reasons for success of Nike was its brand ambassadors who had continued the aura created by the legendary Michael Jordan – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. The Wimbledon Tennis Finals of 2008 was in essence a five hour long Nike commercial. Strength of Nike lies in its ability to identify and sign athletes  who transcend their sports to such great effect which in turn becomes the pillars of  strength of their brand and a source of competitive advantage.

General Motors and Saif Ali Khan

General Motors was reeling under the pressures of the competitive automobile markets of the U.S.A. But in a great contrast, General Motors India was reveling under the strong performance of its Chevrolet Aveo & U-VA range of cars. One has to give credit to GM India who chose, in the form of Saif Ali Khan, a brand ambassador who can effortlessly embody the dimensions of performance, aesthetics, substance and style with class and exuberance that are in sync with the inherent qualities of the brand Chevrolet.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Recession has also brought to the limelight a new age of brand ambassadors – the consumers themselves. As per Nielsen‟s Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries about which are the most trusted forms of advertising, the percentage of shoppers who seek information from friends and relatives during a vehicle selection process had increased from 70 per cent in 2007 to 74 per cent in 2009. Also, recommendations by personal acquaintances were the most trusted form of advertising by Indian respondents garnering 93 percent votes. These facts prove that now even the consumers have the power to make or break the brand. Adapting to the changes in the environment brings out the ability to display character and focus on value which in turn provides the difference between success and failure


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