Series: Is Branding on a New Highway?..The Ambassador Game

2.The Ambassador Game

Long ago the world of Marketing was introduced to the acronym AIDTEA. While the Marketing Tools and consumer profiles may have changed, the 6 stages of A to A, Awareness to Adoption have remained and will remain constant.
The Awareness, Interest, Deliberation, Trial, Evaluation and Adoption flow continues albeit with a minor difference. The transition from A to A has become hyperfast

Today as we drive past or sit glued to the television, a strange happening unfolds. We have an iconic, larger than life celebrity, who wouldn’t be caught dead in anything but a BMW or a Rolls happily authenticating a scooter which would cost less than his gas expense for the month. A desperate health freak celeb could be seen holding a junk drink each glass of which would have 16 spoons of sugar!!

This is the arrival of the Brand Ambassador, someone who may or may not have anything to do with either the usage or knowledge of that product but is willing to paste his/her mug shot for the huge bucks that come with it.

And what does this do to the Brand? Yes, lots of eyeballs..And probably the prettier the picture, the longer the duration..depending on the traffic situation of course!

Does this motivate the user to actually go and buy the product? Seriously? Think again. You have the answer. To say it does is to actually stifle the basic intelligence of the user.

What it has created is just Awareness, Awareness and more Awareness.

Once upon a time there was this term Endorsement, wherein an opinion leader who actually believed in the product, was seen using regularly and whose word meant total integrity thus delivering a sense of conviction and reliability to the product. A true definition of endorsement. Missing In Action these days? A tiny fraction probably is still alive on the horizon but insignificant enough to even create a ripple.

Today its no secret that the huge bucks that would adorn the celeb’s pockets may be the sole reason for his/her proximity to the brand. Like I mentioned earlier, there are of course exceptions but just a handful.

So what exactly has the brand done? Paid a humungous price for one single element of the Marketing mix, Awareness. This doesn’t and cannot stop here. Doubled up with huge media spend this cost runs into astronomical figures.
And results do come. People misinterpret this. They believe they have ‘built a brand’ So not true!. Not recognising that the sheer media exposure downpour could very well be the driving force if not other factors. Branding, as we all know, is actually creating a new neural pathway in the brain of the customer which stirs an emotive response for him/her to actually go ahead and buy the product. Again and again.Sheer awareness is like a passing cloud which ruffles up a few neurons temporarily only to fade away soon.

Instead, if this whole cost was actually spread in a more structured pattern across the 6 stages, through accent on creativity and innovation, I believe the results would be far superior, measurable, have a high vfm and most importantly far longer lasting.

Case in point is Airtel 4G’s latest commercial. No celeb. Simple believable model spruced with a believable campaign, creative appeal and media spend. .. No prizes for guessing the success score for this brand.

But that’s the more difficult route. Requires far more deep incisive understanding of the customer and relating to him/her in a manner that’s creative, convincing and memorable.
The easier route for the brand manager, the ad agency and the people who actually get a thrill of reflected glory with the celeb is: going the Brand Ambassador way.
So today we are probably paying 10x for the first ‘A’, Awareness and maybe less than 1x for the next 5 stages. And Awareness continues to be mistaken for Brand Building!!
Only a few with courage and conviction will be able to go beyond this easy route and smoothen the spend pattern and till then anything goes.

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