Carina Filek, Global COO, Elevate, shares her brand ambassador expertise with Field Marketing and Brand Experience Magazine
The year 2016 was a record year for auto sales in many places around the world. In the U.S. and the U.K., for example, a respective 17.6 million and 2.7 million cars and trucks left their dealerships for the open road. Consumer confidence played a significant factor in both countries. The Los Angeles Times cites “the allure of new technology,” and BBC News – “the launch of several new models,” as other reasons. Yet, it was also the year a new position opened in dealerships across the globe. And that was the role of product specialist.
These in-demand professionals began to replace the typical car salesperson. The change, as with other new buying processes, was driven by this new millennial-led reality. Per a Fortune article, millennials are demanding fixed list prices and doing research via an average of 25 websites. And, this is all before they step foot in a dealership. The article also captures the perspective of an automotive group VP. She says, “These buyers aren’t looking for a salesman; they’re looking for a customer advocate.” And, the change isn’t only at the dealership level. Automobile manufacturers are mindful of the demand, too, and tailoring event staff roles to appeal to today’s car buyers.
For instance, at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show, many brands, such as Nissan, replaced classic “booth babes” with product specialists. And a custom car and parts company, that before relied on models to drive traffic, traded in for event staff that were skilled to work its new coffee bar. But, not all car companies did away with typical tactics. Volkswagen Group brand, Skoda, used female brand ambassadors dressed in cocktail dresses. And they accompanied a sharp-dressed man.
The varied activations of auto companies amid changes to age-old industry practices show event staff roles are no longer cut and dry. Stakeholders must carefully evaluate their needs to find the right people to help them reach their goals.
Two Event Staff Roles You May Need
The auto industry, like others, has always understood the need for the right people to personify their brands. But, as consumer demands for transparency and authenticity increase, other factors come into play. Event staff roles have expanded, prompting brands to take a good look at their objectives and what they need to achieve them. Here are the two primary types of event staff that you will want to consider:
Brand ambassadors have more than the right façade. They have the personality and people skills to engage consumers and convey key messages in the seconds or minutes that they have. And, they do so in an authentic way, which Forbes has deemed the “secret sauce.” It’s what allows brands to turn “buyers into brand disciples.” In addition, these individuals will be able to easily tailor the brand message to speak to each unique consumer while handling extra tasks. This may be serving drinks, hosting games, or gathering lead data.
As mentioned, transparency is another quality successful brands possess. To be deemed so, an Adweek article says transparent brands are trustworthy and defined by what they share on their products. In fact, Inc.com reports 73% of consumers find transparency more important than price. And, this puts a lot of pressure on event staff to know the ins and outs of what the brand they represent offers – and even those competing. That’s where product specialists shine.
Product specialists are friendly and engaging. Yet, the biggest differentiator is their amount of knowledge. Your product specialists will be able to go head-to-head with the two-thirds of consumers who do online research. They will understand the nuances of each product and be able to answer questions related to its history, function, and capabilities. They will provide an elevated level of transparency and service specific to the product.
It’s important to note that, although transparency is important, all brand activations won’t call for the extensive knowledge that product specialists bring. Ask yourself a few questions to help determine who’s necessary to fill these critical positions.
How to Know if Product Specialists or Brand Ambassadors are Right for Your Activation
Answers to the following questions can provide clarity on whether product specialists, brand ambassadors or both are best for your brand activation.
- What is your goal?
An EventTrack report from the Event Marketing Institute names the top goals of event and experiential marketing activations. Like its survey base, your goal may be to create or increase brand awareness (81%) or “influence deeper customer involvement” (57%). And, for goals such as these, brand ambassadors are ideal. When using professional BAs, brands can effectively share key messages and engage in meaningful conversations that grow or strengthen consumer relationships.
But, when the aim is to “enhance product knowledge and understanding” (62%), product specialists should be on-site to provide in-depth information and answer highly-detailed questions. They may be useful in combination with brand ambassadors and in other instances, too. This may be for goals such as increase sales (79%) or launch products (55%). You will need to look at other factors, like those below, to determine if both are necessary.
- What tactics will you use to engage consumers?
Some brand activations allow limited time to engage consumers, making it difficult for product specialists to do their jobs. These include street teams in high-traffic areas, where mere seconds may only allow a greeting, key message, handout and call to action. These settings are just right for brand ambassadors, who know how to make the most of these fleeting, but valuable, moments.
On the other hand, in-store demos, trade show exhibits and other stationary setups are perfect environments for product specialists. They have the space and time to share why your coffeemaker makes mornings easier or your latest phone release tops all others. Yet, for large, populated events, consider brand ambassadors to draw audiences over to the product specialists to maximize ROI.
- Who is your core consumer?
Even when goals are as simple as to boost brand awareness, the strengths of product specialists shouldn’t be ignored. A fun mobile marketing tour for a new craft beer is a great example. This is because craft beer enthusiasts tend to be a detailed bunch and may have questions about the brewing process. Product specialists will have the answers to quench their interest.
Also, make it a regular practice to consider demographics when choosing event staff roles. As mentioned, millennials are doing their research. So, targeting this age group means product specialists are a must in some circumstances. The same is true for Gen Z, who Forbes reports spends their “free time online.” Yet, at the same time, they place high value on “participation and engagement” in a “long-term brand relationship.” The conversations they have with brands is important in getting a piece of their $44 billion in buying power.
Times are changing. We must evolve our event staff roles to meet new challenges and reap the rewards.
At Elevate, we have the right people for success in event and experiential marketing. Contact us to discuss the best event staff roles for your needs.