Brand Ambassador Strategy Case Study: Free People

A brand that is commonly cited in discussions centering on ‘what makes for a good brand ambassador campaign?’ is Free People (@freepeople). As a beauty, fashion, and wellness brand, they have done quite a bit more in terms of their social media efforts as compared to some of their competitors. Fundamentally, they are not in it for the short term: Free People does not limit themselves to brand ambassador campaigns, but rather a cohesive brand ambassador strategy. In this case study I outline three ways that they have kept ahead of the brand ambassador game. 

1 – #FPYourWay & FP x You

These are both permanent Highlights on FP’s Instagram Stories and main feed. 

Both efforts seem similar but actually take quite a different approach. With #FPYourWay, for example, influencers are featured as stylists and are given the chance to showcase their FP wardrobe to an audience that already has an interest in the brand. Considering the production value behind the images, I am quite sure that #FPYourWay posts are paid collaborations, while FP x You is organic reposting. Either way, it is a good example of a brand ambassador campaign because it is dynamic

The quick nature of IG Stories allows for multiple looks to be featured at a single go, and multiple influencers to be featured over a period of time. Furthermore, FP tends to collaborate with nano/micro influencers who have very niche followings and immense untouched potential. With @inscotts for example, we see that she has a 13.62% Engagement Rate, and 81% of her followers are interested in beauty

This, combined with the fact that she has only collaborated with @dior and @jacquemus so far, means that her audience is hungry to see what she has to say about other brands. 

By featuring her on their IG stories, FP stands to benefit from her low cost as a nano influencer as well as the competitive advantage she has, considering she has only worked with two other (luxury) brands. 

FP x You is a little different because it features influencers who wear and tag FP on Instagram, effectively building a community of people who are a part of the brand image. These do not necessarily have to be ads or paid collaborations — all a brand needs to do is repost a story that their brand account was mentioned in, which effectively allows them to leverage on organic content and in turn gives the influencers free exposure.  

Consider these images, which look like they were shot by the influencers themselves. 

This means that anyone can take a picture, tag @freepeople, and stand a chance to be featured on their Stories. For example, here is @kianazakar’s original post: 

She only has 1254 followers on Instagram but nevertheless, the brand noticed her tag and she is now a part of the community. A brand effectively has access to all the content that influencers or regular social media users put out there, even if they were not paid to post anything. What FP has essentially done is make full use of all the mentions out there to generate buzz about their brand.

2 – #TeamFP

The second way in which FP has cleverly strategised brand ambassadorship is by leveraging on their own employees — similar to a recent effort by H&M. Again, this appears on their IG Story Highlights. 

As I mentioned in the H&M case study, there are three main reasons why this is an amazing alternative to hiring influencers. 

  1. Loyalty to the Brand is not a question — Employees of Free People already have a strong brand affinity. 
  2. Familiarity with the Product and brand values — Considering these ambassadors already work for Free People, they are already aligned with the brand vision.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness & Low CPE — Hiring influencers can be expensive, but there seems to be no need to seek and bear the additional cost of external parties when the marketing team can leverage on followings that their staff already has.

Pairing #TeamFP with You x FP essentially gives Free People a brand ambassador strategy that costs them absolutely nothing, while still managing to feature a steady stream of consumers. 

3- Engaging with Professionals

People often forget that brand ambassadors don’t have to be influencers. Industry professionals also make for great ambassadors. Apart from their own employees, FP has also externally engaged Daphne Javitch (@doingwell) in a segment called ‘Ask Daphne’, who helps with the educational aspect of their brand. 

These videos are generally very well received by the FP audience and presents a side of ambassadorship that brands don’t usually take up. 

Additionally, Daphne also promotes these videos on her own account, which opens FP up to an additional 25.9K followers. 

Knowing how to source for ambassadors in the most cost-effective way possible is key to a long-term brand ambassador strategy. Free People has executed their version very gracefully, and so they reap the benefits from it.

Written by Deesha Menon

Influencer Marketing at Popular Chips. Interested in social issues, narratives, books, social media, and machine learning.

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