September 28 2016

Brands Need Amplifiers, Deal Closers And Differentiators -- Not Celebrities

Thought Leadership, Media

Octagon First Call's David Schwab continued his regular contributions to Forbes with this piece about the evolving approach brands should take when finding the right influencer to partner with.

Fact: Brand and talent partnerships are rising. We know. We live it every day. Brands continue to use athletes, Instagram stars, comedians, small business entrepreneurs, nutritionists and others in their daily work.

Fact: Many brands and agencies are combing the internet for the celebrity names they like and the ones they know. Too often, decisions are being made by Wikipedia pages and screen grabs of social media follower pages.

This approach needs to evolve. We must improve the process.

Today, I challenge all brands and marketing agencies to consider making their hiring choice based on program needs and brand objectives.

I developed a breakdown of how brands should reframe their thinking – and what type of person they should be looking for.

Differentiator: Today’s consumers are constantly bombarded with images, ads, messages, emails and information – and brand marketers know it. I surveyed 200-plus marketing leaders and 42% said they hire talent to differentiate their brand and break through that clutter. If this is a brand challenge, then hiring the unexpected or atypical person in a category can differentiate your brand from the competition. When you hear a brand talk about an “X Factor,” this is where it comes from.

Deal Closer: Brand ambassadors are ideal for B2B scenarios and can often make a big impact with a targeted group. Some real world tactics that you should consider: a trip to Bentonville to visit Walmart HQ customers, fundraising activities, lobbying on Capitol Hill, schmoozing at a dinner with key customers, or even infomercials. These activities often occur with products where there is a need to influence customers and clients first, and the larger marketplace second.

Creator: This category has exploded in recent years and can take on varying meanings. It is frequently tied to the “new digital star,” but really pertains to anyone who has a vision and the ability to create materials and content on behalf of a brand. Partnering with creators gives brands the opportunity to maintain authenticity among the target consumer, while utilizing the creator’s name and likeness, along with their production team, social platforms and distribution channels.

Amplifier: Forty-seven percent of the marketers surveyed said they also hired brand ambassadors to amplify a campaign. Amplification can range from a simple name and likeness usage, to a few social posts, or a fully orchestrated media day. The amplifier is unique in the ambassador set in that they don’t necessarily need to do any creating, differentiating, or advocating – their burden as a brand partner can be minimal, yet impactful. However, the amplifier must have cache to create noise.

Advocate: An underutilized term in ambassador marketing, advocacy is extremely important. Advocates believe in a product or charity, and are truly passionate about the message. When lending support, advocates transfer a sense of trustworthiness to your brand through their association. If this direction is important, hone in on the key characteristics your brand needs. It could be someone with authority, or subject matter expertise, or a person who has overcome hardship. Bottom line, advocates have to truly believe in the effort.

Remember, a brand’s needs and objectives come first. The celebrity name comes next. Not the other way around.