This spring seems to have ushered in a new class of brand ambassadorships, as top manufacturers announced fresh collabs with noteworthy designers. But are such endeavors worth the time and effort they require, and what benefits do they bring? Four professionals who have signed on as brand ambassadors reveal why it was the right move for them, and what considerations other designers should think about before committing to partnering with industry manufacturers.
“It really helps to have a personal connection to the product that you will be representing, so make sure that you believe in it or the company,” advises Houston-based luxury interior designer Nina Magon, brand ambassador for Monogram appliances. “[Also] make sure that the brand is representative of your personal brand—there has to be a correlation between both for it to be successful.”
Designer Breegan Jane agrees, urging, “We should focus on whether our companies are aligned in all the vital areas.” Though the brand ambassador for Hooker Furniture has been offered several opportunities in her career, she says, “I’ve always known that if my values weren’t in sync with the values of the brand who wanted to partner with me, it wasn’t something I should pursue… I would advise placing significant importance on determining if your core values and structures align before solidifying anything further.”
Similarly, Lisa Mende, founder and creative director of a Charlotte, North Carolina–based design studio, says, “The products must be products I would specify in client projects or items I would use in my own home.” The brand ambassador for Thermador and Rohl adds that she looks to partner with companies that really stand behind their goods and offer high-quality products, ease of availability, and top-notch customer service.
Agree on the details
“Setting expectations in any business relationship is of supreme importance,” Jane stresses. “Be careful not to lose sight of all the details that play a role in making the collaboration a successful one.”
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She cautiously offers, “Designers should take the necessary steps to outline every facet of the contract. That includes minutiae such as how many Instagram story frames a company expects per week or month, or if photography reshoots are required. I’m always keenly aware that the client’s messaging needs to remain the priority. For example, I might favor a product because of the aesthetic, but the brand might want to highlight the functionality. My job is to ensure that the messaging comes across clearly.”
Magon delineates a few critical points to include in the contract: “Who will dictate creative control of content? Who will own the content? Is there an approval process? What does each party expect? And are there competitor restrictions?” She adds that the compensation structure, contract time frame, and any additional benefits such as concessions for using the product should be spelled out in detail in the contract.
“It is critical to outline exactly what you plan to do for the brand and what you plan for them to do for you in exchange. Every contract should include the exact details of the arrangement,” Mende notes. “If you have any specific requests you would like to be included, they must be in the contract.”
The time commitment
In general, brand ambassador responsibilities include creating content and promoting the brand via different media.
Portland, Oregon–based interior designer Max Humphrey—who recently partnered with West Elm as a brand ambassador and also released a new book, Modern Americana, in April—says, “Some of the collabs I’ve done involve creating content, like filming a DIY project or designing a space for a before/after reveal, which can require a lot of time and end up taking over my day-to-day for a few days or weeks, putting my interior design work on hold. Others are simply mentioning a brand on a post or reposting existing photography or graphics, which takes no time at all.” He adds that he tends to enjoy “the meatier” projects because he ends up with photo assets that he can use again.
“The amount of time one will devote to an ambassadorship will depend on the magnitude and quantity of duties needed to fulfill the contract obligations,” Jane offers. “I approach being a brand ambassador like I’ve entered into a marriage with the company. Anytime a chance arises to highlight the company, I take it, because we are investing in one another…. If the partnership is organic, I’m bringing the brand up in everyday conversations.”