Affiliate vs. Ambassador: Which is Right for Your Brand and Why?

Manana Papiashvili
Manana Papiashvili
Head of Growth at Insense
brand ambassador discusses products

Affiliates and ambassadors can both promote your brand, products, and services but they do it for different reasons.

Still, both of these marketing strategies are highly effective at boosting brand awareness, engagement rates, conversions, and sales, when used right.

Thus, we wanna help you better understand the differences between affiliate and ambassador marketing, including their pros and cons, so you can decide which is best for your brand.

Let’s delve right in!

What are Brand Ambassadors?

Brand ambassadors are people who represent and advocate for a brand’s products or services.

Usually, brand ambassadors start out as customers who fall in love with a product or service and start promoting it free of charge by word of mouth and on social media.

Due to their genuine affinity for the product/service, companies engage them to represent their brand’s image and values and to promote their products.

As a result of these partnerships, brand ambassadors can receive free products, discounts, cash, or other perks.

A brand ambassador can be:

  • A regular customer
  • A brand employee
  • A celebrity
  • A social media influencer
  • Any other online user with a genuine passion for the brand’s products

Now, let’s take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of ambassador marketing.

Advantages of brand ambassadors:

  • They bring authenticity. Given that these people are loyal customers who share their own experiences with the brand’s products, they are perceived as genuine and credible.
  • They boost engagement rates. Brand ambassadors know your products inside and out so they can answer all of their followers’ questions honestly. That, in turn, engages the audience on a more personal level.
  • They increase conversion rates and drive sales. Since brand ambassadors are considered trustworthy, they have the power to shape consumers’ behavior and persuade them to buy your products.

Disadvantages of brand ambassadors:

  • They may lack marketing skills. Even if a customer loves your product, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll know how to promote it.
  • They may not align with your brand’s image. If the person you choose for the job doesn’t have a stellar online reputation and contradicts your brand’s values, this will hurt your brand image.
  • They reach a limited target audience in the long term. Brand ambassador programs focus on building long-term relationships between the brand and the ambassador. As such, it’s hard to reach new audiences in the long term.

Now, let’s see what brand affiliates do. 

What is a Brand Affiliate?

Brand affiliates are people who promote a brand’s products or services in exchange for a percentage of each sale.

Video source: Instagram

So, how does affiliate marketing work?

You create unique promo codes, discount codes, or coupons for your products or services and send them to a brand affiliate.

Then, the affiliate creates social media posts promoting your products or services and refers your online store or website to their followers.

Ultimately, for every purchase made using the referral code, the affiliate is paid a commission.

A brand affiliate can be:

  • A social media influencer
  • A content creator
  • A blogger
  • A podcaster
  • A website owner
  • Any other online promoter

Now, let’s see some of the pros and cons of affiliate marketing.

Pros of working with affiliates:

  • They boost your reach and brand awareness. Since affiliate marketing programs usually involve working with multiple affiliates, they can expose your brand to a wide range of potential customers.
  • They drive sales. Since affiliate marketing is commission-based, you’re offering an incentive to the affiliates themselves to help sell your products.

But you're also offering an incentive to the consumers to buy your products. Because who doesn’t love discounts and promotions?

  • They offer flexibility. You can partner up with multiple brand affiliates short-term or long-term to reach diverse audiences on various social media platforms. As they promote your brand but may not directly represent it, it’s not necessary to find affiliates who align with your brand image.

Cons of working with affiliates: 

  • It can be risky. Unfortunately, there are affiliates out there who use spamming techniques to generate leads, which can damage your brand’s reputation.

You should also be wary of affiliate fraud, like click fraud or stolen data, because you can end up paying commissions to undeserving people.

  • It decreases your profit. If the affiliate’s commission is very high, this will put a big dent in your overall profit. 

However, if it’s too low, it might not motivate affiliates to collaborate with you. 

  • It’s hard to predict results. Since brand affiliates can work with multiple companies, the quality and quantity of the content they will generate for your brand is uncertain.

So, it’s hard to tell beforehand if a collaboration will prove fruitful or not.

To make things clearer, let’s check out the key differences between brand affiliates and ambassadors.

Affiliate vs. Ambassador: What’s the Difference?

While both affiliate and ambassador programs are a form of marketing, they are very different.

Let’s explore this in more detail.

1. Roles

Brand ambassadors genuinely advocate for a brand’s products and embody its values, which enhances brand image, audience trust, and conversions.

On the other hand, brand affiliates promote a brand’s products to attract new customers, drive sales, and get paid for their work.

2. Media

Both ambassadors and affiliates promote your brand online, on social media, blogs, and websites.

However, brand ambassadors also promote it offline, in person, at store openings, new product launches, trade shows, networking events, and more.

3. Brand and product connection

Brand ambassadors actually love and use the products they promote and believe in the brand. 

Thus, they develop a deep, long-term relationship with the brand.

Alternatively, brand affiliates don’t even have to like the products they promote, because for them this is just a job.

So, instead of deep connections, they develop short-term or long-term partnerships.

4. Compensations and rewards

Brand affiliates use tracking links that make it very easy to measure how many sales they generate.

Then, based on the number of sales, you pay them in cash, either a fixed sum for each sale or a percentage of each sale

Since brand ambassadors don’t use tracking links and promote your brand both online and offline, it’s hard to quantify their work and measure their effectiveness.

As such, you should sign a contract up-front with them and agree on the form of compensation.

You can agree on a fixed salary per month or per promotional task, free products, or other perks based on their involvement and your budget.

5. Motivation

Brand ambassadors genuinely want your brand to thrive, which is why they focus more on creating a strong connection between your brand and consumers than on driving sales.

Alternatively, brand affiliates want to make money out of these partnerships. And since their work is commission-based, they focus solely on driving sales.

Still, these two marketing strategies do have some similarities, which is what we’ll tackle next.

Affiliates and Brand Ambassadors: Similarities

Despite all the differences between brand affiliates and ambassadors, there are also plenty of similarities.

Here are some of them:

  • Both can be influencers. Out of all online users, influencers hold the most power over consumer behavior. 

That’s why you should consider using influencer ambassador and influencer affiliate marketing programs.

And the good news is that you won’t have to pay them up-front like you would with influencer marketing campaigns.

  • Both are cost-effective. Essentially, neither of these marketing strategies involves any up-front costs. 

Plus, some ambassadors might even agree to receive only free products and other perks as compensation for their efforts.

And even though affiliates do require cash payments, they only get the money after generating sales.

  • Both increase brand reach and awareness. Both affiliates and ambassadors usually have already established communities.

Plus, if they are also influencers, they can have a huge following. 

So, they can help you reach new audiences and different demographics.

  • Both drive conversions and sales. Since their followers trust them, they can easily convince them to buy your products, thus increasing your customer base and driving sales.
  • Both create user-generated content. Both of them create content to promote your products and it doesn’t matter if they are professional content creators or not.

Still, this comes with the risk of low-quality content, so you should keep an eye on what they publish.

There you have it; all the definitions and comparisons you need.

But how do you find affiliates and ambassadors?

Find out next.

How to Find an Ambassador for Your Brand

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to identify people who genuinely love your products for your brand ambassador programs.

Here are some of them:

  1. Invite users to apply. Creating a brand ambassador application form and sharing it on social media and your website is the easiest way to find brand ambassadors.
  2. Use social media listening. By monitoring online conversations and comments about your brand, you can identify users who rave about your products.

Still, doing this manually is very time-consuming, which is why we suggest using a social listening tool, like Brandwatch or Sprout Social.

  1. Ask your employees. Let’s face it: your employees know more about your brand and products than any loyal customer.

So, they can easily advocate for your brand.

Still, you should make sure they wanna do it and have the necessary marketing skills.

  1. Use branded hashtags. Search for your branded hashtags using Instagram and TikTok’s search feature.

As such, you’ll identify users who use them frequently.

  1. Turn influencers into ambassadors. Use a micro-influencer marketing platform like Insense to find top influencers in your niche whose audiences match your brand’s.

This is quite easy because the Insense Creator Marketplace allows you to search through a large database of influencers by industry, audience demographics, and pricing.

Once you find influencers who match your criteria, reach out to them and propose product seeding or influencer gifting.

If they don’t agree to this up-front, you can simply engage them for an influencer marketing campaign and go from there.

Then, if they fall in love with your products and you offer good incentives, you can turn them into brand ambassadors.

But where do you find brand affiliates?

Let’s find out!

How to Find an Affiliate for Your Marketing Campaigns

One of the most important steps in the affiliate marketing checklist is finding users to partner up with.

Since both your brand and the affiliates aim to drive sales, it’s best to find influencers who have large followings and more power to shape consumer behavior.

Here’s how you can find them:

  1. Use an influencer marketing platform. As we’ve already mentioned, you can search through Insense’s database of influencers to find those that match your niche and audience demographics.

But that’s not all!

You can also use the Creative Brief feature to give details about the affiliate marketing campaign you want to launch, including format, type of content, and creator requirements.

Insense then matches you with the influencers who best fit your brief and you choose who you want to work with.

  1. Join an affiliate network. These platforms are specifically created to connect brands with affiliates.

Some of the best-known affiliate networks include Shopify Collabs, ClickBank, and ShareASale.

The only problem is they are limited to affiliate marketing.

  1. Search for trending hashtags and niche-specific keywords. First, you can identify the most trending hashtags in your niche and search for influencers using them on social media platforms.

On the other hand, you can use niche-specific keywords in Google to search for industry bloggers and podcasters whom you can affiliate with.

That’s all well and good; but is ambassador marketing or affiliate marketing better for your brand?

Let us explain…

How to Choose Between a Brand Ambassador and an Affiliate

Let’s make one thing clear: both of these marketing strategies are highly effective and you can use both for maximum results.

Still, if you have to choose, you should first define your goals to see which strategy will help you achieve them.

When to go with a brand ambassador program

If your goal is to enhance your brand’s image and build customer trust, a brand ambassador program is the way to go.

A brand ambassador is already familiar with your products and truly enjoys them so they can answer questions about them and create authentic content to promote them.

This engages the audience and helps strengthen your brand’s relationship with its current and new customers.

The best part is that brand ambassadors represent and promote your brand both online and offline.

So, you can train them a bit, then send them to represent your brand at industry events to increase brand awareness.

Also, you can compensate them with free products and various perks, or agree on a fixed salary, which makes this a cost-effective strategy.

When to choose an affiliate program

If your primary goal is to increase sales, then you should definitely opt for an affiliate program.

This strategy works so well because both your brand and the affiliate are equally motivated to sell products.

Of course, this comes at a cost, as you have to pay them a commission for each sale, but at least, there are no up-front costs.

So, this is still a very cost-effective form of marketing.

Still, what we like most about affiliate marketing programs is that you can easily measure their success using the tracking links.

However, note that this is strictly a digital marketing strategy, so you can’t use brand affiliates offline. You’ve got salespeople for that. 

Let’s wrap this up, shall we?

Key Takeaways

Use our detailed comparison of affiliate vs. ambassador marketing to decide which is best for your brand.

But remember you can also use both strategies simultaneously.

Then, once you’re ready to look for candidates, consider using Insense to find the best creators to work with.

And if you need more information on how it works, just book a demo with Insense.

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Manana Papiashvili

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