Recently I spent a very enlightening evening in the pub chatting to a friend’s son. Fresh from his first term at University, studying for a business degree, I thought I would pick his brains for some fresh ideas and inspiration.
Sadly it turns out I wasn’t the first (and I quote) “Capitalist” was his response to my approach for ideas. Using an impressive enterprising spirit he has become, a Student Brand Manager, for several high profile companies operating on his campus.
A Student Brand Manager is basically the campuses “go to” guy or girl; they are being paid both in cash and freebies to promote a particular company’s brand or product. Companies as diverse as Microsoft, Red Bull and Wilkinson Sword employ hundreds of students across the UK. I can see the attraction.
For the brand, it’s a great foot into the market. Gaining new customers is never an easy task but having a living, breathing advocate passionately selling your brand or service to their peers certainly pays off.
Ask any student what their favourite energy drink is, and I bet Red Bull is top of the list. As marketers we can really learn from this. Red Bull targeted students as a potential market for growth; they had a strategy and have continued to invest time and effort into it. This really got me thinking about customer communities, and the impact brand advocates or influencers can have.
Influence is almost impossible to measure; the benefits are likely to take a long time to become established. However, it’s worth asking whether a brand ambassador could be the kick start your business needs to gain a foothold with a new or even existing group of customers. Could they get them involved and interested in your company?
As for my friend’s son, he’s hoping to carve out a long term career with one of the companies he represents on his campus. He’s not just an advocate, he’s a diehard fan and I haven’t seen any marketing campaign that can get close to his enthusiasm. Personally I would prefer to make up my own mind, and not be too influenced by someone who is effectively being paid for their views.