Social media influencers have made their way into the mainstream of brand marketing and advertising. Their posts fill millions of timelines all over the world, with carefully curated images displaying products from pet food to beauty.
These “naturally” placed products are seen playing an important part in the influencer’s daily routine or are shown coming in handy for a special event. In any case, their followers are taking note, eager to emulate their online celebrity idols.
In the marketing realm, influencers have become a trusted and proven method of reaching consumers and increasing sales. A 2014 poll found that 92 percent of respondents purchased a product after they heard about it from a blogger, and 69 percent are more likely to make a purchase if someone they follow on social media recommends the product. For emerging companies looking to get equal air time with the big brands, influencers can quickly provide brand visibility, social proof, and word-of-mouth advertising with their target audiences.
Yet, finding and aligning with the right influencer for emerging CPG brands isn’t as simple as writing a friendly direct message and hitting send. As a CPG company, you want to partner with an individual who truly represents the life of your brand and your product. You want someone who can market it to their fanbase in a way that is authentic and natural. You want an influencer to mean it – to really believe in your company, and to do so, you need to market to those influencers exclusively.
Seeing as how influencers are consumers themselves, many of the same tactics that connect brands to the average customer will work in the blogger/influencer realm. Experiential marketing can deepen relationships with influencers and accelerate the relationship building process.
Below are three key experiential tactics that emerging CPG brands can use to win-over influencers and make them advocates of their brand.
Woo them with exclusive, influencer-only experiences
Brands of all sizes use experiential to build awareness of new products and win over legions of fans. Incorporating brand activation into a larger marketing strategy is one of the best ways to engage consumers and obtain actionable feedback on your products and brand positioning. Yet, experiential does not have to speak exclusively to the Average Joe; in fact, experiential activations that cater exclusively to influencers can give brands the most bang for their buck, as their experiences are amplified to their followers.
Create a highly-strategic experience that gives your target influencers “unprecedented” access to your brand and products. Give them the red-carpet treatment, product freebies, one-on-one time with company leadership, and more. Build connections with your influencers by soliciting their feedback about your brand and products so they know that their opinions are valued. This strategy can also give them a sense of ownership in your brand, so they are more likely to promote their role as a contributor to their followers.
But, like all experiential events, having good old-fashioned fun is the name of the game. Some influencer events might include challenges like “escape” rooms, themed activities or larger than life experiences. But don’t worry. You don’t need to spend a fortune on the events; you just need a healthy amount of creativity.
Like any brand activation, giving attendees an opportunity to share their experience with their networks is key to amplifying event impact. However, with influencers, it is clearly even more critical. Take it up a notch by providing professional photos that they can share with their networks or set up a booth for video testimonials, so they can share their experiences at the event. You can also provide each influencer with a unique discount code that they can share with their networks, giving them something valuable to pass on to their followers, and giving you a method by which to measure each influencer’s impact on driving sales.
Meet face-to-face for a private demo, sampling, or brand adventure
Influencers don’t generally market products they don’t already love – and use – themselves. At a recent State of the Influencer event, influencer Garance Dore emphasized that “when I put myself behind a brand or a project, it’s a product I really value.” It’s crucial that influencers have a firm grasp on your product and a personal experience with the brand to draw from. This makes their promotion of your brand authentic, as their followers are smart enough to know when they are being “sold to.”
If an influencer hasn’t had the opportunity to connect with your product yet, or isn’t quite engaged with it currently, private brand adventures or demos can be a great way to let them see, touch, and experience the product in person. With an individualized face-to-face meeting, brands can share product benefits and walk influencers through the kind of partnership you envision.
This is also a great time for vloggers and the like to document their personalized experience with your team during a demo, and capturing the event on video is a great way to extend the experience exponentially.
Sampling is also a proven way to secure and connect with influencers. Send your company rep armed with a wide variety of product samples, then gift the influencer a full size of their favorite. Consider mailed samples and a Skype or video chat as a cost-effective way to reach micro-influencers and expand your reach in areas where you might not have a physical presence.
Partner with an F&B brand or restaurant to develop exclusive products and experiences
We’ve talked about ways to engage influencers directly by creating unique and customized experiences that allow them to develop a close relationship with your brand. Yet, emerging CPG brands can also incorporate cost-effective experiential tactics though partnering with other non-competitive companies with similar marketing goals. Some of these might be distribution partners, restaurants, or companies in the food and beverage industry.
Whether you’re a new snack brand looking to collaborate with a health-focused cafe or want to create an exclusive beverage or product inspired by a popular chef that is sold in his or her restaurant, the sky is the limit. Creating new or limited-edition products is a great way to draw interest. Once you have your partnership strategy in play, invite your target influencers, as well as the F&B partner’s key influencers, to an exclusive event at the restaurant or retail location. And, just like with influencer-only events, give them plenty of reasons to post, tweet, and amplify your message.
Emerging CPG brands are challenged in getting consumer attention when larger brands dominate the day-to-day conversation. However, partnering with influencers and micro-influencers can be one of the best ways for these brands to get ahead through the endorsement of trusted social media celebrities. By using experiential marketing tactics, emerging brands can build a meaningful relationship with these key allies and transform them into legitimate brand advocates, not just spokespeople.