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“The Face and The Brand”: How Brands Utilize College Ambassadors

Published on March 28, 2022, at 11:40 p.m. 
by Sydney Miner.

In order to connect with different publics, brands use numerous communication tactics such as e-mailing, social media and ambassador marketing. These different tactics work together to create strong brand identities and grow relationships with key publics.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

For many years, brands have trusted ambassadors to market their products and create connections with specific publics. Through the use of ambassador partnerships, companies are able to establish more authentic and personal relationships to the people with whom they are trying to connect.

Eighty-nine percent of marketers believe influencer relations to be effective. Because of the success brand ambassadors have had, many companies are turning to college students to be ambassadors on campus. Brand ambassadors work on university campuses around the country, connecting with their peers to develop relationships with a brand.

Companies select students who will uphold their same values and facilitate relationships with other students on campus. Through this partnership, student ambassadors obtain real-world experience, while brands directly target the college-aged demographic.

The importance of the college demographic
Brands like Curtsy, Kendra Scott and Dispo understand the importance of the college demographic. These brands have created their own college ambassador programs in order to directly target and create relationships with this student-based public.

As many students are very active on social media, brands are able connect with their ambassadors’ audiences through social networks. The ambassadors use their own platforms to increase brand identity of the company with which they are working. According to research, 63% of consumers age 18-34 reported that they trust an influencer’s opinion on a brand more than a brand’s advertisement.

Kendra Scott’s Gem program has allowed the brand to connect with the college demographic. On college campuses around the United States, the company utilizes its Gems to strengthen Kendra Scott’s campus identity. Although its main demographic are millennials, Kendra Scott is growing a relationship with Generation Z.

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Haley Kaliszewski, collegiate marketing lead at Kendra Scott, explained that “as companies grow and time progresses, you have to adapt to potential new customers including those that are coming out of school.” Through the creation of its Gem program, the jewelry brand has grown and strengthened connections with this generation.

Curtsy, an app used to buy and sell clothes, originally started on a college campus, so it understands the influence that college students can have. Sam Atherley, head of influencer partnerships at Curtsy, explained that college students are very important for the brand. She stated that “we started as a rental service on campuses, so for us, college is a huge market.”

Atherley also mentioned that college students are very impactful and influential on their campuses. She noted that these students are “really shaping what’s trending and what’s going on right now.”

For Dispo, college ambassadors are an integral part of its product roadmap, according to Marketing Coordinator Emily Van Orman. She explained that “since college students are our target market, we truly value and take into account their feedback when deciding what features to build out next.”

Van Orman furthered this idea by stating, “College students around the world are innovators, creatives and trendsetters.” She believes that “high schoolers look up to college students and millennials look down to them to see what is new and cool.” The college demographic has the ability to not only connect to their peers, but also to other generations.

Selecting the “perfect” ambassador
To ensure an authentic and meaningful partnership, it’s important that brands select students who align with their values and will uphold their ambassador duties.

Kaliszewski revealed that, in order to ensure a positive brand image of Kendra Scott, her team chooses students who have similar values to the brand. Through checking a candidate’s social medias, they are able to select ambassadors who will promote the brand in a positive way.

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

During the fairly rigorous interview process, Kaliszewski said that “we do require applicants to link their social media handles.” By checking the students’ social media posts, Kendra Scott is able to “make sure that what they’re posting on their personal TikTok or Instagram aligns with who we are as well,” she added.

In addition to maintaining a clean social media, Atherley explained that Curtsy also selects ambassadors based on their aesthetic on their platforms. She noted that “when we work with creators and influencers, first we look at them as a creator, their aesthetic, their content and if it matches up with Curtsy’s values and what we represent as a brand.”

Responsibilities of a campus ambassador and maintaining the demographic
In order to develop a relationship with students on campus, ambassadors do a variety of projects to create a strong brand identity.

At Dispo, its “DCDs” (Dispo campus developers) are an “integral part of bringing Dispo to life on their college campuses,” according to Van Orman. As ambassadors, the students “spearhead different OTG (on the ground) marketing activations, social postings and ambassador-run Dispo U Instagram accounts.”

She said that it is the responsibility of the ambassadors to “plan activations, events and partnerships with different organizations on campus” with their provided budget.

Through the creation of brand ambassador programs, companies are able to create long-lasting relationships with Generation Z. Presenting students with brands during their college years can produce a lifelong bond with a company.

According to Kaliszewski, “when you can capture customers at an earlier age and have them as fans of the brand, whether they’re buying or not, it’s easier to transition them into returning customers when they have full-time jobs.”

When brands develop their own student-run brand ambassador programs, they are able to build new relationships to this demographic. Curtsy, Kendra Scott and Dispo have been able to directly target this public and maintain personal relationships with students among campuses. As Generation Z begins to become more and more popular consumers, many brands may start to create college ambassador programs of their own.

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