Written by: Claus Reitzschel
The focus and the use of social media, e.g. Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, increases constantly for customer and companies. Being provided with the possibility of easy internet access via a constantly improved communication network in the western society countries support a use of social media. Since 2005 the social media usage increased from 7% up to 65% (2015) of all American adults that is using at least one social media website (Perrin, 2015). Due to the society turning towards engaging constantly more within social media, companies realized the necessity of being represented there as well. As the social media user has the upper hand by creating their own social media ‘universe’ in form of ‘liking’, ‘following’ or ‘subscribing’ someone/ something it is a difficult task for companies to get the users attention when they are outside of their target groups ‘radar’.
While social media can be a perfect tool for companies to interact with interested users it is even harder to become engaged with new potential customers. Companies are aware of the fact that by simply being presented on social media will not lead to any significant success. If there is no direct interaction with the target group, the company almost does not exist in the customer’s mind. To point out the future importance of social media, Armelini & Villanueva (2011) go even further by underlining that social network marketing changes the whole way of doing marketing. They believe it makes traditional advertising antiquated. According to eMarketer there is an expected growth of digital advertisement by 12% in 2015. They also estimated that almost 57% of all advertisement in the UK will be on digital in 2018 (Sweney, 2015), which further underlines the trend towards ‘the new way’ of advertisement.
Being actively present on social media comes with a high pressure for companies and will turn even more competitive. By acting in such a highly aggressive environment companies have to fulfil more than just the fundamental qualities such as provide, communicate and live up to the customer promise. They also have to continually improve and innovate beyond the familiar promise (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). By doing so, companies can choose between many strategies. Companies have to pay attention to the constant balance between a direct and indirect online promotion. By utilizing direct promotion, in terms of working with the provided social media platform advertisements, e.g. Facebook or YouTube ads, the company might end up with high expenses and not the desired goal by having the loyal target group´s attention (Conner, 2013). Choosing the option of utilizing a more indirect way of advertisement, e.g. via an electronic word of mouth (eWoM) strategy, should create a unique content that people want to see and share. Nevertheless, it can be likely that the advertisement will be disappear in the daily big data traffic on social platforms and not reach any recognition at all.
So the question remains, how can companies accomplish to create, first a brand awareness and second a brand loyalty to new potential customers? Despite many other possibilities to attract their target group and engage brand awareness this blog post is going to focus on the promotion strategy of using celebrities as a brand ambassador. In this a way companies can trigger their consumer towards an emotional connection, endorse the humanization and develop a specific identity with certain values to a brand or product (Ambroise, Pantin-Sohier, Valette-Florence & Albert, 2014) or as Corrigan (1998, p. 77) underlines it:
put two objects together, and the lesser one, in terms of prestige and value, will take from the great one. So put your product next to a famous person or thing and it will steal value from them.
It is to point out that this strategy is not a new idea but opened up to a whole new dimension by combing the social media. It increases the level promotion possibilities in a more recent, interacting and sometimes in a better indirect way whereas the target person is not aware of wanting to see the advertisement.
This blog post reflects on the phenomenon of using a brand ambassador to advertise a brand or product in a conscious and unconscious way on social media.
By pointing that out the first step is to have a deeper understanding of credibility or in this case credibility and motivations for using social networks. Whereas Johnson & Kaye (2015) are pointing out that social media (blogs, Facebook & Twitter) in general receive still less credibility than the traditional media, in terms of up-to-date, expertise and verified information source, since it is primarily used for entertainment and social reason. Metzger & Flanagin (2013) underline that online credibility depends also mostly on the user´s online greater experience as well as the information publisher´s reputation, the consistency and the information context.
Having this in mind, a company should cooperate with a brand ambassador via social media which is already receiving high amount of credibility within the target group. Working together with a brand ambassador who s well known, fancied and present the social media user´s own or desired values can make it easier for the company to engage with their target group in an indirect way. Within in the field of a brand ambassador there is a strategy to promote the brand or product in a conscious, unconscious or in a mixed strategy way. Many companies already use such a strategy, which will be elaborated in more detail by the example of the German football player Bastian Schweinsteiger, the company Beat by Dre and their promotion via Facebook. It is to point out that the main motivations of using Facebook are receiving information, guidance/judgement, anti-traditional media, social and personal fulfilment (Johnson & Kaye, 2015).
The electronic music device company Beat by Dre used the guidance role of their brand ambassador Schweinsteiger in a very clever way. Since football is one of the most popular sports in the world many people were following up the World Cup in June 2015 in Brazil. Schweinsteiger, the current captain of the German national football team, is highly respected in Germany for his engagement during the World Cup which contributed to come off as the winner of the tournament. To satisfy the curiosity many people followed Schweinsteiger on his Facebook account to have the feeling on being more involved what is happening in Brazil during the tournament. Beats by Dre used this opportunity to benefit from the World Cup hype for their own good. By letting Schweinsteiger posting pictures with a short text where people could think it is mainly about him and the World Cup, Beats by Dre promoted their products in an unconsciously way.
Figure 1. Facebook post “Game day! Regards from Fortaleza” June 2015 (Schweinsteiger, 2015)
Another successful example of the cooperation with Beats by Dre and Schweinsteiger was recently after the tournament when Schweinsteiger announced this transfer in Summer 2015 to the English football club Manchester United. Leaving his former Club Bayer Munich after 17 (Richards, 2015) had huge impact in the Germany news. Beats by Dre took advantage of his emotional shift via social media by releasing a sentimental video clip at the same day of his announcement. Even this time it was a conscious promotion, it went immediately viral with over 6,3 million views, mainly driven to satisfying the peoples need of curiosity and entertainment. Another example can be found when Schweinsteiger was playing back in Germany in November 2015 with his new English club, by him continuing with proportioning Beat by Dre in an unconscious way.
Figure 2. Facebook post “Tomorrow #FCBTSG it is good to be back! #Comeback #FCBayern” November 2015 (Schweinsteiger, 2015)
It is to point out that Schweinsteiger uses his Facebook account not only to promote but also to update the interested people with none commercial facts. This can be seen as a clever strategy to make it even harder for the social media users to detect and differentiate the promotion and getting updated by their favoured football player. An example of such a described ‘updated’ is shown by the following picture.
Figure 3. Facebook post “the most important is the team behind the team! #GERARG #WM2014 #WorldCup2014 #DFB” July 2015 (Schweinsteiger, 2015)
Schweinsteiger ‘only’ thanks his staff without doing any further company promotion but rather working on his reputation of being a reliable and grateful person. This make him even more beloved by his followers and in the same time more attractive for companies as a brand ambassador.
Engaging advertising through a brand ambassador is not a new phenomenon. Nevertheless, combing the strategy with social media opens up a new level of interacting with a companies preferred target group. By letting the social media user believe they have the control over their own social medial ‘universe’ they intent to be less bias and alert against advertisement. Even if the social media user is aware to receive promotion from the person they ‘liked’ or ‘follow’ it still can happen that the ‘lines’ are getting blurry when they are also getting news without promotion. Receiving different updates, the social media user might level up the celebrity unconscious to a ‘friend’ or ‘I believe him/her’ status. This can lead the follower to a point, where they believe the eWoM from the brand ambassador and connect the brand or product recommendation as positive and connect them with the values of the ambassador and it´s promoted item.
As in the given example of the German football player Bastian Schweinsteiger, recent emotional event can be perfectly used for a company´s promotion by satisfying the social media user´s curiosity. Using social media like Facebook or YouTube can help the company to cross promote their brand or products in different channels and give the suggestion of having a stronger presence online. This can increase the brand awareness and customer loyalty. If a promotion is set up in a clever and up-to-date way social media user might engage to share the post unsolicited, which can lead to an outstanding promotion success for a company, e.g. eWoM by talking about the promotion post. The example of Schweinsteiger by mixing the product promotion between a conscious and unconscious way can be seen as a solid strategy. Using a more indirect promotion can help to transfer and remain a positive image about the company’s brand or product within the preferred target group without consciously noticing it.
Nevertheless, if the company or brand ambassador pushing it too far or too late it can easily lead to a negative outcome by people getting bored or even annoyed. Furthermore, if the company is not living up to any given promise social media can also backfire by sharing the disappointment and anger with others online which also goes viral. The real challenge for a company online is to constantly live up to the present news, create an interesting output and engage the social media user with a positive feeling (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). Companies should be aware of the fact if they cannot provide it, someone else will.
Seeing the trend of people spending more time on social media can lead to situations where social media and its content will become increasingly more present in people’s everyday life. So having a strong online reputation as well as a conscious and unconscious presence combined with a clever promotion strategy to interacting with the aimed target group can be a key success factor for a big competitive advantage in the online environment.
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