We examine the role of brand ambassadors for carmakers, are these women of influence?
Who are they?
High profile women from the worlds of entertainment, fashion and sport – Victoria Beckham for the Land Rover Evoque, Maria Sharapova for Porsche, Claudia Schiffer for Opel. In Ireland, some carmakers use female brand ambassadors as part of their marketing activities – for example Rachel Allen and Kathryn Thomas for Audi, Lorraine Keane for the Renault Captur and Amy Huberman for the Range Rover Evoque. In the UK, Olympians Nicola Adams and Katarina Johnson-Thompson represent Hyundai and Nissan respectively.
Why use brand ambassadors?
It’s about promoting brand awareness and reaching out to your target market.
According to Richard Molloy of Audi Ireland, feedback from customers towards Audi brand ambassadors is always very positive. “We find that all our ambassadors resonate well with our customers, both male and female,” says Molloy. Audi Ireland use ambassadors to help them to promote the brand, with them appearing at Audi promotional and customer events and new product launches.
At Opel the philosophy is that a brand ambassador helps bring attention to a brand and give the brand a more positive image.
“Choosing Claudia Schiffer as a brand ambassador is a good example of fitting a face to fully illustrate and enhance the brand’s values. It comes at a time when Opel wants to remind the public that they are a German brand,” says Phil Dykewicz, Market Research Director at Opel.
Schiffer is one of the world’s most famous women, gracing the covers of over 1000 magazines over her 25 year modelling career. Her face is instantly recognisable.
“Claudia Schiffer is well known and liked based on research,” says Dykewicz. “In addition, the majority of people we asked know that she is German. Opel also wants to reinforce that it is a quality German brand and selecting an ambassador who is German helps reinforce that message.”
Dykewicz touches on an important characteristic of the brand ambassador – likability. “The target audience needs to positively relate to the ambassador, so personalities tend to be chosen who are well known and liked,” he says.
For Land Rover Ireland, the arrival of the Evoque in 2011 was an opportunity to appeal to a new market, and actress and author Amy Huberman was suitably chosen to promote the car here in Ireland.
“The arrival of the Range Rover Evoque marked a significant step for Land Rover in reaching out to a younger, more metropolitan audience,” says Melanie McCourt of Land Rover Ireland. “Amy has been a terrific ambassador for the car in that it complements her persona very well. She possesses an inner strength and confidence which is perfectly in tune with Land Rover’s spirit.”
Huberman also has the all-important likability factor which has not gone unnoticed. “Of course the use of female brand ambassadors is typically targeted at female buyers, but I think Amy’s appeal extends beyond females. I’d like to think that our partnership with her has had a positive effect on the brand in reaching out to males and females alike,“ says McCourt.
According to Dykewicz, for Opel the association between brand and celebrity needs to be credible for it to work.
Female ambassadors are well matched to the cars they represent and reflect the target market. Lorraine Keane, Rachel Allen, Kathryn Thomas and Amy Huberman drive cars suited to their lifestyle and image. As a mum, Claudia Schiffer can see the benefits of the rear-hinged rear door of the Opel Meriva.
A quick poll amongst friends on the effectiveness of female brand ambassadors and the name Victoria Beckham and the Evoque keeps cropping up. A famous woman driving a certain car opens up the market to a different type of buyer who otherwise may have little interest or awareness of a particular brand.
But motor industry be warned. Women expect the ambassador to have a genuine interest in the car and show some enthusiasm for the car’s attributes or special features. Most women will know when there is a lack of authenticity on behalf of the brand ambassador.
Before we get too cynical on the motor industry’s attempts to market towards women, finally consider this comment left by one of our readers on Wheelsforwomen about female brand ambassadors:
“I think it’s a wonderful idea. What’s really happening is women are promoting the car in a professional and equal manner, as opposed to years ago when women would be half dressed draped across the bonnet of a car.”