How have brands such as Glossier and Telfar cultivated communities of brand ambassadors to build brand loyalty? Reena Rai, Pinterest’s creator lead explains.
Influencer marketing is one of the most innovative facets of the digital marketing mix. It has evolved at a phenomenal pace over the last decade and is expected to grow to be worth $9.7bn in 2020. The latest evolution, ambassador marketing, sees brands engaging customers to create content, provide reviews and suggest future product lines, all while putting the spotlight on authenticity.
The need for authenticity and relatability is reminiscent of the early days of blogging over a decade ago. The majority of bloggers started their foray into digital publishing as a passion project on Blogger or WordPress, before expanding to social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
Marketers saw an opportunity to enhance their traditional marketing strategies by working with influencers. Engaging real people with a social following adds a layer of authenticity, while also helping to reach new audiences. One-off collaborations have led to long-term partnerships, turning influencers into ambassadors.
Super-influencer Lorna Luxe has been working with fast fashion e-tailer ‘In The Style’ since February 2019. Her first collection was the most successful launch in the brand’s history, with 5,000 units sold out in under an hour.
Paid influencer collaborations have proven to be a very successful marketing tactic, but fans and followers have become sceptical of how authentic these partnerships and influencer reviews really are. In 2018, the industry faced a further crisis in confidence after several leading influencers were caught buying followers and using bots to overinflate their engagement metrics.
This is why I believe ambassador marketing is a necessary evolution. Influencers undoubtedly play an important role in digital marketing, but brands can benefit from engaging grassroots fans to create a 360° approach. Consumer purchase decisions are heavily influenced by peers and relatable micro-influencers: engagement rates are much higher for micro-influencers and a recent study stated that 70% of millennials are influenced by social content from their peers.
Here are two compelling examples that illustrate the importance of engaging superfans as both a source of inspiration and to help build grassroots buzz.
Case Study: Glossier
Beauty brand Glossier is estimated to be worth a cool $1.2bn and much of the company’s success is attributable to Ambassador Marketing. Interestingly, Glossier was founded by Emily Weiss in 2014 and, before launching her brand, Emily was a blogger at ‘Into The Gloss’ which launched four years prior.
From the beginning, Glossier has placed customers at the heart of their brand strategy, with early customers engaged as brand ambassadors. Not only were customers encouraged to share social media posts with their products and signature pink bubble wrap pouches, but Glossier also relied on their brand ambassadors to share product reviews and tips.
By treating each customer as an influencer, Glossier has amassed an impressive amount of user generated content (UGC). This social amplification has earned the brand a huge following across their channels, with their largest audiences being on Pinterest (over 10m monthly unique views) and Instagram (2.8m followers).
Taking the concept of ambassador marketing a step further, Glossier also has an exclusive Slack group with 100 'superfans' who are happy to provide feedback on the existing line and share ideas for new products.
Case Study: Telfar
Launched in 2005 by Telfar Clemens in New York, Telfar is one of the most exciting luxury fashion brands in the zeitgeist. Steadily building a buzz within the Brooklyn party subculture, Clemens has been collaborating with brand ambassadors since the brand’s inception.
While large fashion brands scramble to prove that they value diversity, Telfar's founding motto is "It's not for you, it's for everyone". As a black-owned luxury fashion brand which is unisex and affordable, Telfar is effortlessly inclusive. Clemens dresses friends such as Kelela and Dev Hynes, who in turn become brand ambassadors, wearing Telfar pieces and performing at the brand's shows.
Telfar's first handbag was a runaway success and the limited monthly drops have resulted in a cult-like following. Dubbed the "Bushwick Birkin", the handbag is a prized possession which unofficial brand ambassadors share across social media in high-quality, editorially-led shoots.
By engaging superfans and high-profile cool kids spanning the art, fashion and music worlds, Telfar is able to reinforce their brand values, extend their social reach, lean on their community for content creation and create a grassroots buzz.
As brands and agencies look for new opportunities to extend their digital presence and build brand loyalty, the most innovative strategy they can adopt is cultivating a community of brand ambassadors. Engaging with influencers as thought leaders in their niche only goes halfway. The most powerful advocates for any organisation are existing customers and fans. Genuine advocacy from an ecosystem of influencers and fans will help you to engage customers, build loyalty, and drive incremental brand visibility.
This article is part of IAB UK’s Guide to Digital Innovation. Drawing on contributions from IAB members, the guide spans six chapters across a range of sectors to explore emerging trends and areas of digital innovation. It is being released on a rolling weekly basis over the next 3 months - don't forget to check back regularly for more insights into the latest advertising innovations.
Reena Rai, creator lead, Pinterest