UK retailer Boohoo brings on board Aussie brand ambassador Donny Galella – but does the strategy work?

United Kingdom-based online retailer Boohoo has appointed high-profile Australian stylist Donny Galella as its first Australian brand ambassador.

Galella is set to provide style tips, shopping advice, dress key celebrities and point out best buys from the website in his new role.

Experts are divided about the effectiveness of brand ambassadors, but founder of the Retail Doctor Group Brian Walker told SmartCompany that when chosen well, they can help boost the profile of a brand.

“The value in an ambassador is they’re someone local people can identify with. When a retailer is thinking about going overseas, choosing a local ambassador can show the brand is cross-geographical,” he says.

“In more cases than not it gives an aspirational value to the brand too. Ambassadors tend to be quite involved in how the brand is treated and the integrity of the brand.”

Boohoo joint chief executive Carol Kane said in a statement Galella is an important addition to the brand.

“We are proud to have Donny on board,” she said.

“He brings such insight and knowledge of the Australian market and his all-inclusive approach to fashion is very much in line with that of the Boohoo brand.”

Boohoo has been operating in Australia for the past 18 months, but launched in the UK in 2006. The site attracts 9 million visits each month.

Retail Oasis digital strategist Nicole Venter told SmartCompany for a brand ambassador to be worthwhile, they need to reflect the brand’s values.

“The person has to relate to what the product as its core is about,” she says.

International jeweller Michael Hill which was founded in New Zealand in 1979 expanded to the United States in 2010 and as part of its expansion brought on board Kim Kardashian as a brand ambassador.

“Kim Kardashian and Michael Hill made sense,” Venter says.

“She was used by Michael Hill to help it launch in the US with a campaign about the ultimate ring. Consumers are getting much savvier and they’re starting to expect their brand ambassadors to more closely relate to them.”

Venter says other successful brand ambassador partnerships include Bindi Irwin and Lara Bingle as Australian tourism ambassadors.

Walker says whether or not having a brand ambassador is a successful strategy is circumstantial, but if a brand is looking to grow overseas, ambassadors can be an important part of that strategy.

“You need to have clear outcomes of what you want them to achieve. Increasingly consumers are looking globally, but our research suggests they still want the security of knowing what’s around them locally,” he says.

“They still want to see what ‘so and so’ is wearing and who is involved.”

Walker’s top tips for ensuring a brand ambassador isn’t a failed investment is to educate the person on the business or product, have a clear multi-channel marketing and communication strategy, ensure the ambassador reflects the value of the brand and research what consumers are looking for and who they’re interested in before searching for an ambassador.

“Look at what your customers want. If it’s an edgy brand, you’ll need an edgy individual. But if it’s a wholesome family brand, then you’ll need a person who fits this image.”

Venter says while brands have been partnering with celebrities and sportspeople for a long time, increasingly brands are also turning to bloggers as ambassadors.

“Bloggers are more like you’re talking to a friend and this is where the power of brand ambassadors gets interesting,” she says.

“If you’re launching a new label, for example a food product, then a blogger ambassador can be a powerful way to get your name out there. Bloggers identify with you and they’re usually aspirational.”


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