In many ways, millennials are ideal for most Brand Ambassador Programs given who they are, how they communicate, and where their passions lie. The starting point for the group defined as millennials is generally considered to be anyone born in ‘the early 1980s’, and most sources put the end-point for this age group as being 18-20 years later. So for the purposes of this article, I’ll call millennials anyone between the ages of 15-35 in 2017.
Before we talk about how to incorporate millennials into your Brand Ambassador Program, let’s look at some of the key qualities and characteristics that define this group of people:
Millennials are digitally savvy: Millennials have used computers and digital devices for most of, if not their entire lives. Additionally, millennials are the first generation to grow up with a robust internet available to them. Millennials are quite comfortable with and even expect digital experiences in many if not all forms of communication.
Millennials thrive off connecting with others: Millennials as a group are definitely extroverted, they seek out communication with others, especially within their same age group. This is slightly in contrast to their older siblings who are members of Generation X (who may also be their bosses), as that group tends to be more self-reflective and values solitude more than millennials. Keep this in mind if there are no millennials involved in the planning of your brand ambassador efforts if you want to attract millennials to your program.
Millennials have a highly-tuned bullshit sensor when it comes to advertising: Having grown up with the internet and social media, they’ve also grown up with a lot of bad advertising. They are naturally weary of anything the ‘smells’ like advertising. On the flipside, they prize authenticity. They view open and honest communication as a show of respect for them, and this improves brand loyalty and attraction for millennials.
Millennials support causes that benefit their communities and the planet on local, national and global levels: One thing that I think is quite impressive about millennials is that they are passionate about problems they view within their communities, but they are also more than willing to play an active role in working to solve those problems. They are very giving of their time to help support causes that they believe in, and that speaks to their credit. Keep this in mind when you move to fleshing out how millennials will be compensated within the structure of your Brand Ambassador Program.
So when you are fleshing out how millennials can be a part of your Brand Ambassador Program, you want to factor in the above qualities that define this group. Let’s look at the role you should ask millennials to perform as Brand Ambassadors, how you can best engage them, and finally, discuss the best ways to compensate them.
How Should You Ask Millennials to Act As Brand Ambassadors? When a brand launches an ambassador program, one of the first strategies is to attempt to leverage the Brand Ambassador Program as a vehicle to drive new sales. There are many other ways to leverage a Brand Ambassador Program (as a way to drive customer feedback, as a way to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, to help with product design), but driving sales is often a logical starting point, since budgets for Brand Ambassador Programs are often justified by the promise of new sales generated.
Yet when we consider working with millennials as our Brand Ambassadors, we need to factor in the unique qualities that define this group when deciding on the type of relationship we want and expect of them. In short, we need to remember that:
- Millennials are very wary of advertising messages
- Millennials prize authenticity
- Millennials are very engaging, especially with other millennials
- Millennials are quite comfortable with the internet and digital tools
So for example, if you want millennials to work to drive sales as part of your Brand Ambassador Program, you need to tailor your efforts to incorporate the qualities that define millennials. Case in point, we know that millennials are very wary of advertising messages and that they prize authenticity. Using these together, if you ask your Brand Ambassadors who are millennials to sell to other millennials, you have to be willing to let them do so in a way that will make sense to them as millennial Brand Ambassadors, but also to the other millennials they will be talking to. For example, since millennials prize authenticity, you have to give your millennial Brand Ambassadors the freedom to openly discuss what they like AND dislike about your brand. It might seem scary to have your Brand Ambassadors out there openly discussing what they dislike about your brand, but if they are speaking to millennials (and many other age groups, for that manner), this will actually improve their ability to sell to those millennials. In short, regardless of how you want your Brand Ambassadors to act on your brand’s behalf, you have to consider how they can most comfortably help your brand reach its goals.
How Should You Engage Millennial Brand Ambassadors? Two of the defining qualities of millennials is that they thrive off open communication, and they prize authenticity. So this means when engaging your millennial Brand Ambassadors, you want to give them as much honest communication and information as possible about your Brand Ambassador Program and how you want to work with them. Give them a thorough knowledge of what your Brand Ambassador Program is, what you are hoping to accomplish, and talk to them about how you want to work with them. If millennials have a sense that their opinions are valued and respected, and they feel as if they have a sense of ownership over the Brand Ambassador Program, they will be more invested in seeing it succeed. This willingness to honestly engage the millennials you are working with also speaks to their love of authenticity, which will appeal to them and help them become more invested in your efforts.
Also, keep in mind that millennials are also very comfortable with digital and social media tools. So another option could be to create an online portal, forum or group where Brand Ambassadors could connect with each other and share tips and ideas. Also, you could have the brand’s management be involved with this group, so that the Brand Ambassador’s best ideas could be pitched directly to the brand, and quickly incorporated into the program. This incorporating of ideas from millennial members also helps them become more invested in the Brand Ambassador Program itself, as it send the strong message to the millennial ambassadors that their opinions are valued, and will be acted upon.
How Do Your Millennial Brand Ambassadors Want to Be Compensated? I’ve always said that your Brand Ambassadors should absolutely be compensated for their efforts. There’s a big time commitment involved, and everyone deserves to be compensated for their time. However, money is not the only way to compensate Brand Ambassadors, and only compensating with money has ramifications. I see many Brand Ambassador Programs that only focus on leveraging Brand Ambassadors as salespeople, and they are compensated with commissions on their sales. The potential problem with this approach is that it frames every customer interaction a Brand Ambassador has a sales-interaction only. The Brand Ambassador is typically only interested in completing a sale, and isn’t as interested in any customer feedback that might be collected, and which is often far more valuable than completing an individual sale.
Now that I’m off that soapbox, let’s look at how to compensate your millennial Brand Ambassadors. Having said all the above, I still think it’s fine to compensate millennial Brand Ambassadors with cash, but I also think other forms of compensation should be considered. For example, we know that millennials thrive on open communication, and they love authenticity. Keeping this in mind, you could adopt the rock star mentality and give your millennial Brand Ambassadors special access ‘behind the scenes’ at their favorite brand. Give them special access to the marketing team, or to product development. Let them know about upcoming products or initiatives that the general public doesn’t know about or that won’t know about for months.
Also, feel free to tap into their natural love of being active in their communities. For example, if a brand like North Face launched a Brand Ambassador Program with millennials as members, it might want to have a special Beach Cleanup Day just for its Brand Ambassadors. An initiative such as this would be a way to not only reward millennial Brand Ambassadors, but also give them a way to improve their local community, which taps into their desire to be invested in helping locally. Perhaps this event could be made open to the public and even used as a sort of membership drive as a way for the existing millennial Brand Ambassadors to meet other millennials who would want to help clean the beach, but who may also become interested in learning more about joining North Face’s Brand Ambassador Program.
So there’s some ideas for how you can work with millennials in your Brand Ambassador Program. Since this group has already become the largest generation, working with them is no longer an option, it’s now reality. As with any solid Brand Ambassador Program, think about how your brand benefits from the program, and think about how your ambassadors (in this case millennials) will benefit.
Find a win-win situation for both your brand and your ambassadors, and your Brand Ambassador Program will be a success.
BONUS: Here’s this post in video form to make it even easier to share with your team: