Thomas Adams’ early exposure to e-commerce and desire to automate processes in influencer marketing inspired him to create Brandbassador. He used his experience from his previous businesses to create a platform that supports community building and management.
Get to know Thomas Adams, his entrepreneurial journey, and the role Brandbassador plays in today’s influencer marketing industry.
Tell us about your background and what inspired you to start Brandbassador.
Thomas Adams was exposed to e-commerce early and was always passionate about consumer psychology, marketing, and brand positioning. He started One Piece, which sells onesies to adults, in the early 2000s. He started an ambassador program in One Piece called Piecekeepers. This program is comprised of a thousand individuals who are One Piece’s best customers.
According to Thomas, they were dealing with the program manually and thought it would be cooler to automate it to get as much as possible from the Piecekeepers. For instance, Piecekeepers can work as much for them in terms of marketing without waiting for them to reply to their emails.
This desire motivated Thomas Adams to build a platform for One Piece in 2012. The platform had different tasks and missions for anyone who signed up, and once they completed them, they earned cash, gift cards, or free products as their prize. This strategy caused the platform to take off and the brand to become more popular.
Thomas shared that there was a time when Piecekeepers went crazy with these missions — and he was so happy they did because that’s the reason why the brand got into Selfridges.
Thomas created a mission for the Piecekeepers to visit Selfridges in London and ask if they sold One Piece in their stores. Back then, One Piece wasn’t available in Selfridges, but because of the number of people visiting the store asking for One Piece, it wasn’t long before Selfridges reached out to Thomas and asked for stocks.
One Piece eventually opened a store in New York. They hauled in thousands of people as they marketed that anyone who visited the store on opening day and signed up on the Piecekeeper platform would get $1 in-store credits, which they could use to buy items in the store.
The strategy became a hit, and One Piece had a line around the block, which included celebrities. Thomas shares that Gigi and Bella Hadid were on the platform, as well as Cody Simpsons and Justin Bieber. Justin even tweeted about Once Piece, causing the brand to gain more exposure online.
Several brands contacted Thomas after that and were asking about the Piecekeeper platform and whether they could license it. This fueled the birth of Brandbassador in 2018. Thomas and his team used everything they learned from the Piecekeeper platform to make Brandbassador something that brands can license and use while being engaging for users.
What are some of the biggest challenges that Brandbassador faced over the years, and how did you manage them?
Thomas Adams and his co-founders aren’t developers; they’re marketers. This is the biggest reason why they end up frustrated whenever they want to dive in, get something done, and get it out to sell. He continues, “With product development, it’s like, ‘I want this,’ and explain in your words to the development team, and they’re like, ‘Okay, we got it,’ but they haven’t really got it.”
Communication has also been an issue, especially in terms of estimating the time of product development. Thomas states that there’s always something that holds him back, and that has been one of his biggest frustrations.
How would you say Brandbassador has evolved since it was created? What are some of its key milestones?
Brandbassador was one of the first platforms marketed as an ambassador community-building platform, and they remain true to that up to this very day. Through the years, Brandbassador never went down the influencer route and searched for influencers. The platform automates the entire process, making it easy for brands to work with thousands of ambassadors simultaneously.
Thomas Adams recognizes the presence of more and more platforms marketing themselves having the same features as Brandbassador but doesn’t feel threatened as he has a highly experienced team. His team behind Brandbassador has been in e-commerce and marketing for more or less 12 years and knows the industry better than anyone else in the world.
What kind of impact does Brandbassador have on the influencer marketing industry, and how did it help shape the creative economy?
Thomas sees the influencer marketing industry as the long tail of video content and video creation. He explains, “Back in the day, no one really believed in YouTube when it first launched. Big companies said, ‘Who’s going to want to put hundreds of millions of dollars into making videos or watch videos made by some random person.’”
But after seeing the noise YouTube made and continues to make, it’s evident that video content and video creation are really big marketing. Today, big studios and video creation on YouTube co-exist — there are still big studios making great movies and spending millions of dollars for that, and the influencer marketing industry continues to grow.
Anyone who wants to join Brandbassador can call themselves whatever they want — whether that’s an influencer, ambassador, fan member, or a brand community. But the ultimate goal of the platform has always been to connect with brands, help them drive revenue, or increase awareness through social media.
Brandbassador was able to change the market and even disrupted it a bit in the long tail of influencer marketing by being the first ones to offer what they have been offering for years.
Can you share any successful campaign that Brandbassador has been a part of, and what’s your favorite?
Thomas’ favorite kinds of campaigns are ones that leverage the community to act on something in real-time. For example, the story of how they got into Selfridges. They wanted to get in, but the store said “no.” They created a mission, and then two weeks later, the tables turned.
Other successful campaigns involved tweets on social media. Thomas recalls wanting to get the attention of a big investor on Twitter who had thousands of followers. The investor pitched an idea to Thomas about making a platform that functions as a marketplace for brands and influencers to come together, and influencers get paid automatically — something that Thomas and his team were already doing.
Thomas Adams asked if the investor was willing to put money into this business idea, and the investor agreed. But the conversation paused as the investor received thousands of comments on Twitter that Thomas’ comment online probably got buried. He asked for help from his community, telling them to let the investor reply to his comment, and within 10 minutes, the investor reached out to Thomas. From there, the two started to get in touch. This proves how communities actually take action and make things happen in real-time.
Can you walk us through the process of creating and executing an influencer marketing campaign on Brandbassador?
In Brandbassador, brands can build missions, which are basically small tasks that are automated in the platforms. Ambassadors have the app on their phones and receive notifications whenever brands publish a mission. For example, brands will ask ambassadors to make a YouTube video of them skydiving in One Piece.
The ambassador receives a certain amount of money once they complete the mission. For instance, they get 10 cents per YouTube view.
Everything in Brandbassador is automated, meaning brands only have to go to the admin section of the platform to build missions using a simplified mission marker. The platform also has hundreds of mission templates brands can use, or they can make ones from scratch. After adding the details to their mission, they’ll click “Publish,” and the mission goes live.
Can you tell us about any exciting new features or partnerships that Brandbassador has in the works?
Brandbassador is making some big moves on the platform side with new features, like running campaigns with specific picked brands and they offer certain products. For example, a brand has hundreds of hats left in stock that they want to get rid of and don’t want to sell on their site with a 70% discount. These brands might want to give the discount to their community and do a code draw on the platform. Brandbassador will then offer something like, “The first 100 that grab a code can use it in our workshop and get a 70% discount off of this specific product.”
Another feature Brandbassador will have in the future is to enable users to build their own web shops.
How do you see the influencer marketing landscape will change in the next few years?
For Thomas Adams, influencer marketing is going to be all about recommendation marketing, the competition, pricing, and the level of engagement. And unfortunately, traditional marketing will continue to plummet.
Thomas also sees more and more brands will struggle to find influencers who drive a lot of value and revenue. Influencers will be in-demand, and the small things they do at large scales will impact brands more.
What advice would you give to brands that are just starting with influencer marketing?
Thomas Adams advises anyone still starting to get some help because it’s easy to make the wrong moves. For those who want to build a platform like what Thomas did with Brandbassador, he advises investing in resources to make it work, as buying the platform is only half the job — you should also run it successfully.
Secondly, Thomas advises you to find a niche you believe in and work towards that goal. For example, if you want to work with large influencers, then you should work with an agency or a platform that offers that service.
What role do you see AI playing in the creative economy, and how is Brandbassador leveraging this technology to create value for creators and brands?
Thomas Adams has been using AI in his company for a couple of months and feels it’s too early to say how this technology will affect influencers. But for sure, all mundane tasks influencers have to do will be expedited and simplified because of AI tools.
But at the end of the day, Thomas believes there will always be room for creative thinking and coming up with cool concepts and ideas. He adds, “I think that’s going to be hard to replicate by any AI.”
What is Brandbassador’s vision for the future, and how does the company plan to continue innovating and growing in the next years?
Brandbassador is currently working on several large projects and wants to bring these to their community. They’ve been working for 18 months to develop new functionality that will make it very easy for other brands to dip their toes into community building and community marketing.
Aside from that, Brandbassador will continue to scale its team of highly talented individuals, working together to help brands to succeed and not just introducing them to the platform. They’ll use their unprecedented skills and knowledge in the industry to continue working closely with brands.