The digital age has helped transform the typical event staff from warm bodies to tech-savvy, data-collecting machines. More and more, brand ambassadors are being asked to collect consumer information with a handheld device or to report back via web-based software. They’re also being trained to add subjective feedback to objective data captured, oftentimes reporting it back to the brand immediately so that it can tweak the program before the next day’s event. The bar has definitely been raised.
So, the question is, are these sophisticated brand ambassadors delivering the goods? New Balance says, yes. It learned a lot about its consumers last spring when it dispatched 275 of these qualitative and quantitative data-collecting machines (a.k.a. “Fit Specialists”) to 435 retailers across the country to educate consumers about its product and to drive sales.
“Within seconds after disengaging from the consumer the Fit Specialist reported that person’s level of engagement,” says Kevin Tripp, senior manager-channel marketing at New Balance. “We received a ton of metrics about how many engagements we had all the way through purchase.”
The brand ambassadors were picked from 2,200 applicants screened by an in-depth online questionnaire that weeded out folks that didn’t meet the brand’s criteria. Then, select applicants were screened by the New Berlin, WI-based handling agency GMR Marketing and then by the account team that works directly with New Balance, which was looking for representatives that lead a healthy lifestyle, owned a pair of its sneakers and had some sort of sales experience since they would have to intercept consumers as they entered the stores. “You need someone who is not a wall flower but at the same time doesn’t come across too strong and intimidates the consumers,” says Tripp.
Because of the cost of equipping a large staff with handheld computers, the brand ambassadors were provided with scorecards that helped measure the interaction with each consumer. At the end of each day, the fit specialists uploaded their figures onto a microsite to share with the New Balance team.
Tripp says the only regret he has with the program is how short it was. “It looks like it costs a lot of money to hire brand ambassadors, but you end up having greater efficiencies if you run the program longer than just a quick in and out the way we did it,” he says. “In retrospect, we spent a lot of time and money to find these fit specialists and train them, so we probably should have run the program longer.”
On the bright side, when New Balance is ready for another run, so are its brand ambassadors. EM