Keeping up with the CAKE-dashians… (yeah, you read that right.)
Oh no… I’ve decided to do it after being prodded by a friend of mine who asked what seemed to be a simple question (or questions):
“Are you a brand ambassador? How did you become a brand ambassador? What does it mean to be a brand ambassador? What were/are some of the benefits you receive? Do you enjoy the partnerships? Are there any downsides to these arrangements?”
Of course the answers proved to be multi-faceted and opinions were strong.
And everyone is entitled to their opinion… But some are misinformed and through no fault of their own.
So let’s chat for a moment and let me share with you the distinctions between being a brand “Ambassador”, having “Sponsorship” from a brand, and just “Advertising” for a brand. They are very different things and you should understand what you are signing on for if you decide to be an ambassador (or if you THINK that what’s you’re doing)…
…are people who are generally contracted (legal form) with a brand to exclusively promote their product within that range of products (think Nike for shoes, Snickers for candy bars, or Americolor in cake decorating). This means you do not associate, promote, or use publicly any other brand in that category. Companies that truly create Ambassador programs don’t have tons of ambassadors – and those that DO have serious ambassadors are compensated nicely for what they do, both in product, travel and time spent promoting. There are behavior requirements for the Ambassador, appearance and promotional agreements, and the benefit is completely mutual monetarily.
…are when a person is doing a project or involved in an event and a brand wants to offer them product or money as a one time offer to be part of what the person is doing. For example businesses may sponsor race car drivers by paying them a certain amount of money and getting their logo printed onto the race car to be seen at all races. But they are one of many that appear on that single car. It is not exclusive and no obligations like above expected.
Advertiser (promoting the brand for free)
If you are getting none of these things and have not signed a contract, you are simply advertising for a brand. There is no mutual benefit, the benefit is for the brand that has you willing to market for them with no investment in you, payment to you, or obligation to you. It’s a very one-sided relationship.
Feathers ruffled yet? (see birds above)
I know. But stick with me because there is a reason I’m sharing this… Let me share a screencap of my response when this question was posed by the editor of American Cake Decorating Magazine, Rebekah Wilbur:
I’m not one to shy away from conversations that have to do with promoting cakers’ careers, especially when there is confusion that can cause distraction from what will ACTUALLY MOVE A CAKER’S CAREER FORWARD.
And honestly, I grow tired of how so many eager and good hearted cakers are taken advantage of. I want to help you make a fully educated decision.
Let me share with you some thoughts others had in that conversation… Names and faces are removed because #integrity even though they left the comment on a global public post…
Let’s be clear: if you are not being compensated with free product for all of your needed work, you are not an ambassador. You are advertising.
If you are not being compensated monetarily for your time (no matter how small) that you do any kind of promotion for the company, you are not an ambassador.
You will never receive direct monetary payment from being an advertiser for them, like cash in the bank – this is not a mutually beneficial relationship. It is very lopsided. If a company saturates a market with their logo, everyone simply thinks that what everyone uses. That does not indicate quality and it does not mean those people are more successful than those who aren’t ambassador/advertisers.
When it gets to the point that everyone is an ambassador for a product and most are not up to par with the top 10%, then it’s become a club – not an ambassador program. The word “ambassador” is being used to make people feel special and like they are part of an elite club, like the Kardashians but for cake, and like they will reap exclusive rewards for freely advertising.
Again, let me be clear:
Unless you are being compensated with money and all the product you need for every cake you make over the terms of your contract, you are not reaping any rewards and you are not an “ambassador”.
To say that you are repaid with “exposure” is diluted. We all know what “exposure” really is in our world: it’s free cake out the door that never turns into orders or money for you. Wasted product and wasted time. And we all have so much spare time to spend on anything but promoting ourselves and our own businesses, right?
“Exposure” doesn’t last. “Exposure” is only to a limited audience. And when everyone is getting exposure no one stands out and no one is special.
WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON HERE…
I am not out to crush anyone. I am not out to hurt feelings or cause pain. If you know me AT ALL you know that is the opposite of what I do.
What I DO DO (hehe) is educate cakers on how to run successful businesses, how to treat your work as a business and to take yourself seriously so the rest of the world takes you and your business seriously.
I have had immense success coaching within the cake community and getting cakers to think like business people and become profitable, long-term sustainability, and give them back their free time to LIVE AND LOVE LIFE – to not be hobbyists scrambling for any bit of attention they can get thinking that is any kind of validation or repayment. Because it’s not.
I want YOU and YOUR BUSINESS to be successful. And that means knowing want all of these shiny distraction and scampering squirrels are really about. Understand who benefits financially – because without a contract and/or direct payment it’s not you.
I want you to place your energy into promoting YOU because YOU deserve it! Stop covering up your own brand to be an advertiser for big brands who just count you as one of the many.
It can’t be over stated that you and only you will ever have your business’ best interest at heart.
If a decision leaves you feeling tied down – it’s wrong.
If you are feeling like “exposure” is a bunch of crap… you’re right!
Now I’m not saying I’m opposed to any of these things. I think people mistake sponsorship of a project with ambassadorship. I’m totally cool with sponsorship because I’ll use that product in a project that highlights its strengths. That totally works and it makes sense! Get your product need covered through donation and you’re off to the next project you need to do freely without having your hands tied.
And if you’re being taken care of as a REAL brand ambassador, then kudos! You’re doing it right! You’re being paid, compensated for things like travel and appearances, and the time you are required to spend promoting is paying off for you in dollars. And you must believe in the product and it must be serving your needs well.
And if you’re ok with KNOWING that you’re advertising for a company will get negligible return for your efforts and time, then that’s the bed you choose.
Nope. I will never have my abilities tied to any one brand of anything. I don’t believe in “one size fits all” products or recipes anywhere. I promote many different brands of products within categories because they all have different strengths and weaknesses and each project requires different characteristics.
My hands are not tied and I only ever need to worry about promoting my own business and brand. And I’ve been very successful at it. We all have 168 hours each week. After you take out all the everyday living things we need to do and all the other essentials like working and kid’s extra curriculars, how few hours do you really have left? Are you going to spend that precious small time promoting someone else, or promoting YOU and living the life of your dreams?
I vote for you.
And I hope you do, too.