At its core, ambassador marketing is the oldest known form of marketing, also referred to as ‘word of mouth.’ Ambassador marketing isn’t much more complicated than a coordinated effort to find people who like a thing so much they want to tell their friends about it.
Ambassador marketing enhances influencer strategy at every level. It engages brand advocates and transforms them into champions of your brand, empowered to build authentic community and promote business development.
Ambassador marketing and the power of word-of-mouth are not revolutionary, yet they are the often-ignored magic component of a successful marketing strategy.
Ambassador marketing is a form that we all instantly recognize at a gut level, and it’s also incredibly effective. In fact, if brands could pick one thing they relied on consistently to move more products, it would be word-of-mouth marketing.
In today’s digital world, all consumers have a platform. Recommendations from those trusted by consumers are one of the most effective tools in marketing. The best scenario for a brand is when consumers feel compelled to discuss or promote a product organically using their social platform. The future of advertising is not about the story brands tell; it’s about the ones consumers do.
The key is a brand story that’s curated rather than directed or produced. Ambassador marketing means telling real stories and telling them so well that they sell themselves.
Fohr was formed in 2013 as the first influencer marketing platform in the world. In the last decade, what has set Fohr apart from other influencer marketing companies is an unwavering mission to address inherent problems that plague influencer marketing for brands, along with the toxicity of influencer marketing’s transactional nature.
As Fohr continued to evolve alongside shifts and changes in the influencer industry, we realized that “influencer marketing” no longer accurately described the market niche we filled.
The shift from ‘influencer’ marketing to ‘ambassador’ marketing exposed the root of the industry that we know and love: passionate people with a unique point of view, talking about products they love honestly and authentically. Thus, Fohr’s Ambassador Mindset was born.
How we do it:
With the Fohr Ambassador Mindset established, we developed these 10 Rules to guide and govern successful ambassador marketing. We believe this ideology will carry the influencer marketing industry into a sustainable future for all stakeholders.
Good ambassador marketing is rooted in authenticity and requires trust to sell a product. 88% of consumers say authenticity from brands is important when deciding which brands they like and support, with 50% saying it’s very important. (Stackla)
Authenticity is about honesty and trust: honesty about why your product works and why an influencer’s followers should consider using it. This is why you need to have either love or a story to craft a successful, influential post. The chasm between what feels authentic and what IS authentic is where campaigns are won or lost.
When the influencer is excited and passionate about a product, it's much easier to transfer that excitement to other people.
The easiest way to ensure authenticity in your influencer partnerships is to find brand ambassadors with a pre-existing love of the brand or product. When the influencer is excited and passionate about a product, it's easier & more organic to transfer that excitement to other people.
If we can’t base a partnership on pre-existing brand love, we build them around pre-existing stories. At Fohr, we explain this as storytelling, not storyselling. Personal stories are the emotional connective tissue that makes product benefits come alive. Stories help a consumer visualize themselves in a scenario where they are willing to try (or buy) something new.
Once you’ve discovered that an ambassador has love or a story that aligns with your brand and would be a good fit for selling your product, you need to have an orientation, not just a briefing.
When onboarding a new employee at Fohr, our CEO James Nord presents the company’s history, values, failures, and successes. When we train new team members on our influencer marketing solutions, we aren’t just teaching them how we operate; we’re equipping them with the tools to succeed in our particular environment. We’re showing them how we see the world, aligning them with our company’s vision and values. We apply this same onboarding style to our influencer marketing strategy for brand and ambassador partnerships.
A brief tells an influencer what to do and say; a mood board tells an influencer how to light the photo or frame it; a proper orientation tells them why.
A brief tells an influencer what to do and say; a proper orientation tells them WHY.
An orientation gives ambassadors the context they need to work at maximum creative capacity and get the most out of the partnership. A brief may turn an influencer into a billboard, but an orientation turns them into an ambassador. This approach to influencer marketing strategy is not only more collaborative (and effective), it sets up a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.
Before you start the campaign, you need to let the influencer test & use the product ahead of time to give an accurate and honest testimonial, understand the product benefits, and review to their followers. If the influencer can weave the product into the fabric of their life, it helps bridge the authenticity gap.
As influencer marketing strategy and campaigns have become more complex, we’ve experienced first-hand cases where hitting a deadline meant skipping this part of the process. In this way, we lose what makes sponsored posts so compelling: the honesty and the personal stories. How can we expect someone to authentically tell us about something they haven’t used and experienced?
How can we expect someone to authentically tell us about something they haven’t used and experienced?
At Fohr, we call this “conversational conversion,” which means good sponsored content should feel like a friend recommending a product to another friend. To achieve this, we must ensure that influencers have the time and space to integrate that product into their lives.
Now, we briefed our ambassadors on the campaign, they’ve used the product, and we’re ready to start planning the actual content for the campaign.
We tell our clients that briefs are like bumpers in a bowling alley. They let the influencer know where to throw the ball without letting them throw a gutter ball.
Key messages are a vital part of all advertising, but influencers’ personal and unique experiences are what make influencer marketing for brands influential. At Fohr, we visualize this as windows vs. a mirror. We don’t want content that mirrors the brand back to us without an injection-of-self. We want creators to show brands to their audience through the window of their point of view.
An effective brief should include realistic creative expectations, a tonal framework, clarity on KPIs and measures of success, and creative prompts (over key message bloat). Let the brief act as a creative prompt, not a teleprompter.
Let the brief act as a creative prompt, not a teleprompter.
Let’s say there's a campaign where the key message for that product is that it makes you feel confident. The way to make an audience believe that isn’t to say, “this product made me feel more confident.” It’s showcasing confidence and taking them along on that journey—from someone who lacked the confidence to someone who built it—while weaving the brand or product into that story.
Since the Ambassador Mindset is about going Back to Basics, let’s bring up an old marketing rule: the Rule of 7, which says a consumer needs to ‘hear’ your brand message at least seven times before they take action.
No one likes a cold call or a knock on the door from a stranger. The first step to starting a conversation with consumers is introducing yourself and becoming acquainted. From here, this begins the process of the influencer taking the consumer from brand awareness to brand recognition through multiple posts.
The brand campaigns where we have seen real conversation, conversion, and success are those where the product becomes a fixture in that influencer's life, as we empower the influencer to tell their story over several posts.
The brand campaigns where we have seen real conversation, conversion, and success are when we allow the influencer to tell the story over several posts.
Running a campaign with 100 micro-influencers doing a single post can result in considerable content, reach, and engagement—but it doesn’t do much for the brand’s influencer marketing budget in the long run.
Rule 5 is not only about pushing products but also about the basics: ambassador marketing is a human-to-human business. Single post campaigns don’t allow brands to build relationships and long-term partnerships with ambassadors.
When we begin a new relationship with a client, we take time to understand the campaign's ingredients: brand identity, goals, and vision. We explain to our new partners that the first few campaigns are like the first pancake—there may be a few lumps in the batter; they take a bit longer to cook. But as the pan heats up and the batter gets mixed, we can create a more beautiful & consistent stack of pancakes the longer we work together.
Long-term partnerships are beneficial in a multitude of ways: it’s cost-efficient as the influencer can optimize over time to discover what works and what doesn’t; we can retarget to audiences via multiple posts; it breeds more authentic storytelling and increases positive audience sentiment, and it helps bridge the authenticity gap.
While the influencer or ambassador is the one with the following, we need to ensure that the product is the hero of the post, not the influencer. The point is to sell the product, not the person.
The point is to sell the product, not the person.
A good question to ask your ambassadors to consider before posting is: what do you think the comments will be about? The answer should be the product you’re paid to promote.
Your brand partners must understand that implementing this strategy doesn’t just mean posting a product shot or holding the bottle up to their face. The goal is to focus an audience's attention on the story. It’s about comments on how great their skin looks on a skincare campaign. It’s about thoughtful questions regarding a product. It’s about the audience DMing the brand ambassador to ask sizing questions or nuances before they order.
To measure the success of influencer marketing for a business utilizing product-focused posts, we prioritize persuasion over the post's performance. The post could be objectively lovely and get a million likes - but did you move any product? That’s what we want to see.
As an influencer marketing agency, our job is to create campaigns that make a difference in our client's business. While we will always strive for above-average engagement, yet it can never be at the cost of persuading the audience.
Focus on measuring intent to purchase rather than focusing on vanity metrics. This includes in-feed saves, clicks, sticker taps, quality engagement, and positive sentiment.
As an influencer marketing agency, one question we hear a lot from our clients looking to find brand ambassadors is whether they should work with macro or micro-influencers based on their influencer marketing budget. Our response? We don’t believe that macro or micro-influencers are inherently better than the other. Period.
Everyone has an opinion about what’s best—micro-influencers, macro-influencers, nano-influencers. But with a decade of influencer marketing agency work under our belt, and over 5,000+ campaigns run, we’ve found that there is the best fit for brand partnerships regardless of an influencer’s follower tier.
Every campaign we work on has a specific goal. A crucial part of our influencer marketing services includes finding the perfect people to achieve that goal, unbounded by preconceived notions of what influencer following size is en vogue.
We find the perfect people to achieve that goal, unbounded by preconceived notions of what influencer following size is en vogue.
Influencer selection involves a few criteria: the brand’s strategy we’re building out, the KPIs & metrics of success, the product they are launching, and the brand’s overall budget. Outside of their following size, we also consider an influencer’s content style, brand fit, engagement metrics, previous brand love, and rates.
We also don’t believe influencers should be categorized based on their following tier. When we post a Bulletin on our Discovery platform, essentially an open casting call for influencer campaigns, the prompts are considerations such as, “have you moved recently?” and “did you recently become a parent?”
We take a step back and look at the whole picture, considering the vertical or industry they post most often, their stage of life, their level of expertise, and their content creation skillset & strengths.
Here is the hard truth—having a following does not make you an influencer. It means you have an audience. To be an influencer, you have to be influential. And when executing influencer marketing for brands, you need to be able to influence someone’s purchasing decisions.
A brand ambassador has to have an audience actively listening to them, an audience that trusts them, and an audience who is likely to be persuaded when given a piece of advice or a recommendation. It’s a simple concept, but it's often forgotten in a world that values large follower counts and celebrity status.
Having a following does not make you an influencer. It means you have an audience.
Influencer marketing for brands inherently has more value than running ads through Instagram for a reason. Yes, because of the content creation and effort that goes into it, but more importantly, a recommendation from a trusted source is the most powerful thing in marketing.
Having an audience is great, but having real influence is powerful. That’s why we work to recruit ambassadors who can convert & persuade. We have run ambassador marketing campaigns where an influencer with 50,000 followers outperforms someone with 500,000 and campaigns where someone with a million followers has a more considerable impact than 20 people with 100,000 ever could. We call this Invisible Influence.
This rule is last and most important to us. Every post published under our name has to add value to the lives of the people who see it and should inspire, educate or entertain.
“Does this post benefit the audience?” That question should be asked by every brand, influencer marketing agency, and influencer before it’s published. The audience is the ultimate consumer of the content but is seldom considered when building a campaign. The best influencers we work with are incredibly protective of their audience and fanatic about ensuring every post they publish enriches their lives.
We also ensure we’re not de-prioritizing the brand message that an influencer is being paid to promote – the post has to be about the brand or product, of course. It’s a delicate balance to strike, but ultimately the best performing sponsored posts should inspire, educate or entertain the people who see them while also upholding the promoted message.
The best performing sponsored posts should inspire, educate or entertain the people who see them while also upholding the promoted message.
The challenge is to ask this simple question: “Does this post benefit the audience?” Make it a rule not to hit publish if you can’t emphatically say, “yes.”
Influencer and ambassador marketing is all we do, all day, every day.
Over the last decade, as we looked at the industry and other influencer marketing services, we identified a dissonance between what our influencer marketing agency and campaigns team was executing and what our influencer marketing platform was delivering compared to the norm.
With over 180k+ opted-in, on-platform influencers, $80M+ in influencer payout data, and over 5,000+ campaigns under our belts, we’re constantly learning and evolving in step with the industry.
We work tirelessly to solve industry-wide issues like fake followers, unverified reach, and vanity metrics with proprietary tools and innovative technology. Then, our Campaigns team uses these tools for every successful brand campaign.
A few times we think we got it right: