Brand Ambassadors: Evaluating the Real Cost of Using Cheap Promoters| #eBizMarketing | Andreas Smit


How do you measure cost per contact? If like so many in the marketing game – you compare the cost of a “like” on Facebook with the cost of a promoter directly engaging with a consumer – then let me offer you an alternative view on measuring this cost per contact. I specifically want to review the value of a well-trained, informed promoter who engages your consumer on the ground – at the point of purchase.

If you are a brand or marketing manager, in procurement or in a communications agency, I’m sure you’ve had occasion to ask questions like: “Why are promoters so expensive?” And “How do we lower the cost of activations?” In a contracting economy and a marketing and advertising environment where budgets are under continuous pressure – there’s no doubt about the relevance of these questions. To be fair, I have asked them throughout my career while serving in the role of client. And you may be interested to know that, as a business partner at an activations agency, I still deliberate this now.

Making the Point

Let me give you an analogy to help illustrate my point. In a previous life, an employer asked me to flight a basic scamp of the proposed TV ad that we were about to shoot. He believed the R15 000, four-page hand drawing that moved ever so slightly, accompanied by some free online background music, would be sufficient to position the brand clearly against competitors, as well build brand salience. The company could potentially have saved a few hundred thousand flighting the animatic, but the more salient question was at what cost in brand equity and positioning. A lot was my assessment, and fortuitously, they listened.

You might wonder where I am going with this story, but all too often I see this same scenario playing out in the below-the-line environment and more specifically, the promotional space. Companies are either unwilling to pay equitable fees for promoters – and opting for the cheapest available rates – or they’re attempting to establish their own in-house promotion departments.isilumko logo

I have yet to see either of these models work in the long-term. The brand or company might get a short-term return on reduced promotional expenditure… but at what cost?

Assessments must take into account the actual cost of an untrained, unskilled brand promoter engaging with consumers at the point of purchase? More than that – consider the true cost of a negative encounter which the consumer goes on to recount to friends – often ranting about it on social media platforms where they rally support for their complaint. When you do the maths, the “low” cost of the promoter might not be that low after all.

With this as the backdrop to a debate that hinges on the economics of reputation cost, these tips highlight how to make the best use of your promoter agency:

Promoters Not Robots

This sentiment might seem odd… but here’s why I believe it’s important. Promoters are employees, just like you – just like me. They’re human (believe it or not) which means they have good, bad and in-between days. While I am not making excuses for mediocre promoters, as an industry we must recognise that even well trained promoters have days where they are less efficient and not as faultless as we want them to be.

The reality is though – with the rise of pop-up promotional agencies that lack proper systems, industry knowledge and don’t offer training – along with companies moving their promotions in-house, the promotions space is fast getting a bad rap. The quality of the promoters being offered by these agencies is sadly lacking and they are unable to act as equity building brand assets; all they really are is coupon generating machines that smile occasionally and create indifferent or even negative brand engagements.

Leaving a Lasting Impression

I am fortunate enough to have experience as a consumer engagement specialist; time which allowed me to direct my focus on how promoters engage and build brands in trade environments. I learnt an invaluable lesson during this period: treat your promoters and activations like you would treat your TV, radio and print advertising. Leave no stone unturned in the selection and training of your promoters.

You don’t get a more intimate brand experience than when you connect with a brand promoter. In that moment of connection – your brand is personified. It’s no longer a logo or a slogan; it becomes a living, breathing entity with human qualities. If you don’t have a good experience, it will leave a lasting and negative impression – just the same way a rude call centre agent or an unaccommodating sales representative would.

Invest in Training

I strongly recommend taking a focused and mindful approach to training and developing your promoters and for good reason. I ran tests in my previous position which validated the premise that promoters who work consistently on a brand – over an extended period – become better sales people and stronger brand ambassadors. This makes absolute sense. Promoters who have been through outstanding training programmes, and notched up significant experience in the market through one-on-one engagements with consumers, naturally become more valuable. They are more intuitive about consumer behaviour, feedback, hesitance and what the key selling messages should be in that environment. Just like a new brand manager becomes more knowledgeable and informed about their very own brand over time.

Obviously, there are things to consider. Firstly, as an agency or client you must commit fully to your promoter programme. This includes appointing the right partner agency, inducting them into your brand and your business, and working with them to develop an optimised training programme for your promoters. Just like you would define an online brand personality, you must define a promoter profile that aligns with your brand. You want consistency across all promoters; from how they engage, look and portray your brand.

This is also an opportunity to settle on some distinguishing characteristics that your promoters must have. Let me explain. A premium beer brand made a decision not to actively pursue their consumers through an active sell. Rather they wanted promoters to be stationed statically – allowing them to only engage consumers who wanted to engage with the brand. The thinking was: “Our brand doesn’t chase consumers, consumers must choose us.”  Naturally the promoters embodied this ethos.isilumko logo

Set Realistic Budgets

I have yet to work with an organisation that states: “We want to recruit and retain the most intelligent, best looking and engaging talent in the country, but we want to pay them as little as possible”. I probably haven’t come across this because it doesn’t make business sense! So why apply this thinking to promoters and brand ambassadors; the very people who are at the coal face supporting and building brands?

Imagine what it would cost to develop, produce, sell in and place 1 000 electronic billboards in an aisle, in a store where you want to promote and sell your product. This billboard doesn’t only push messages, but also receives, understands and responds appropriately securing conversions, sales, and at the very least a brand engagement. That’s essentially what a promoter does.


Andreas Smit  in conversation with eBizRadio’s Nick von Stein



Podcast | Click HERE to listen


About Andreas Smit:

Andreas Smit is a Business Partner at Isilumko Activate – a position he assumed in 2017. A strategic, tactical thinker with a passion for connecting brands and people through meaningful activations that attract and engage the audience – he is well suited for the business of experiential. With seven years at SAB, during which time he worked on the SAB Carling Black Label Champion Cup [one of the world’s biggest through the line marketing campaigns], he mastered the art and science of activations [and alcohol brands]. Today he is responsible for growing the Isilumko Activate business and spends a great deal of his day pitching and pulling in new campaigns and clients for the agency.

About Isilumko Activate:

Isilumko Activate (powered by Studentwise) is a company focused on facilitating creative, integrated one-on-one interactions between a brand and the consumer. With impressive credentials built up over 24 years in the in the industry, this level 1 BBBEE accredited company has a rock-solid reputation that attracts and retains staff that are as passionate about activations as the company’s original founder members.

About eBizRadio

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    eBizRadio is a live multi- platformed social media service providing an online forum to the business community for holding conversations on the key issues related to specific businesses as well as availing a space for cross-business collaboration in response to key issues affecting the world of business. The place to go if you want to know about business and lifestyle

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