The Pros and Cons of an Agent Marketing Strategy
Digital marketing strategy allows for a very broad range of mediums through which to seize opportunities that otherwise escape your business with a traditional marketing initiative. One of the most successful strategies is an “Agent Marketing Strategy”. For this tactic, a company releases its chosen product early to a set of influencers, or “agents”. These agents explore the features and potential of the products and communicate their findings and opinions to their fans and followers. The idea is that instead of potential customers listening to the selling company advertising their own product, they get to listen to people who influence and direct their every-day lives. It is a common trend, especially amongst Millennials, that people will trust a complete stranger, someone they have never met, over what a faceless corporation has to say to them about a product. As the market skews farther and farther towards this, the value of influencers who will market your product to people that listen to them grows exponentially. However, with every strategy, in marketing and in life, there are pros and cons to the decision that must be considered before adopting it. This post will assess these pros and cons and hopefully help you better analyze whether an agent marketing strategy is right for your business.
There is a significant amount of examples of companies that have successfully employed a marketing strategy utilizing agents and influencers. We need look no further than one of the most popular domestic car brands, Ford. Ford wanted to change its reputation for being a gas-guzzling, massive-truck-producing car manufacturer. They recognized great growth potential in the compact-car segment. Ford already had a viable entry option for this segment, however the Fiesta was only popular over in Europe and never gained traction in the US. This was a result of reputation and demand; however Ford knew with a shift of both they could capture valuable market space that they had previously failed to hold. Ford created the Fiesta Movement, which released 100 Fiestas early to influencers around the country so that they could drive the car and create social media content that would be viewed by their fans and organically market the car. The Fiesta Movement showed quick success according to metrics that Ford developed and successfully helped launch the Fiesta to an eagerly awaiting group of consumers. Studying a case like Ford’s clearly shows the pros of the strategy:
- More positive consumer opinion of advertisement
- Ability to shift perception of brand and product
- Relatively inexpensive form of marketing
- Proven track record of success with many industry examples
- Differentiate your marketing from traditional measures
In contrast, having or relying on agents when marketing a product or brand carries risks that are difficult to mitigate. As in the example above, you have an agent with a massive influence range speaking about your brand. Here, Justin Bieber advertises the Cleveland Cavaliers’ brand through its most popular player, Lebron James. The exposure itself is invaluable. Bieber carries many fans that probably would not think twice about basketball, except now their influencer is expressing direct interest in basketball and specifically the Cleveland Cavaliers. But alas, the free advertisement came with a cost, as he wore a Lebron jersey that was out of date and had the wrong number on it. While in this case the mistake was not very significant and definitely not fatal to the brand, it points out the risk of having someone who is not directly affiliated with the company using the brand in any way or form. There is control in some cases, but this control is extremely limited. This case introduces the possible cons of this strategy:
- Little to no control over what the agents say
- No way to influence the agent’s opinions about the product/brand
- Subject to mistakes and errors made by the agent
- Sudden, negative changes in agents’ social standing could negatively affect the brand as well
- Overpaying an agent based on inflated opinion of their influence and fan-base
Agent marketing strategies have been proven to be extremely effective in the ever evolving consumer market. There are both advantages and disadvantages to employing such a strategy. However, a well-managed, well-tracked and well-assessed campaign can produce returns greater than a traditional marketing campaign could ever achieve.