<#023> Does your brand need Ambassadors, Salespeople, a new approach to On-trade, or all 3?

<#023> Does your brand need Ambassadors, Salespeople, a new approach to On-trade, or all 3?
Photo by Hermes Rivera / Unsplash

In today's issue, I will talk about a massively debated topic in our industry: brand ambassadors. There is a lot of confusion about their role, what they should do and why a brand should need one.

Big brands started the trend of Brand Ambassadors, but they are now popular among small craft players, too.

After the rise of craft brands, big brands created the role to get closer to bars and personify the brand in the market as they had no founder. Ironically, small brands would not need one but use it as a recognized appealing term when putting out a job advert to attract talent.

The issue is that most (of the smaller) brands would probably need a salesperson instead, but they are too afraid to mention the word "sales" not to scare people off. They sugar-coat it as "building the brand," but it is not the brand ambassador's job to build the brand. Marketing departments should be the ones who create demand. People in the field should capture that demand, regardless of how fancy their job title is. Ā 

The name probably comes from the fact that they are "Ambassadors" for a brand's (Country of the) marketing department to the (Country of the) Bar. This is ironic, considering that drinks brands belong in bars and no Embassy should be needed.

Don't they both speak the same language? There are a few main reasons for this. Many brands:

  • have forgotten about their country of origin: bars
  • have failed the bar language and learned corporate office slang
  • mainstream sales teams were not suitable for selling premium/craft brands

I've analyzed beer and spirits brands across many markets. I studied job descriptions and hired many. I've concluded that these roles come and go in waves, depending on the company trend of the moment.

The same company may put an ambassador program in place for five years to dismantle it and put it back in business in another five years. Why? Because this role is often misunderstood. It's created by management teams that have lost contact with bars. It's used as a tactic instead of being part of a long-term strategy.

Rather than (re)learning how to work with bars, most brands have delegated it to people who (they think) "get it."

Ambassadors are often seen as the sniper that will make the brand succeed with a magic silver bullet. For this reason, they are left with vague rules of engagement, such as building the brand, driving advocacy, brand love, and many more things that cannot be KPI: ed. Managers try to KPI them but, once again, are afraid to put sales volume indicators.

This is because the management usually fails to understand the dynamics of working with bars. They end up judging the job of ambassadors as a gut feeling and vague vanity brand metrics rather than with a structured approach. Some are considered Rock stars, and others are considered renegades based on subjective KPIs.

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