Chief marketing officers surveyed last year indicated that content marketing was the number one tactic they were relying on going forward. And as CPG brands look at creating content that moves product off shelves, it’s a short leap to influencer marketing. The good news is that most brands using influencer marketing today seem happy with the performance, at least according to an eMarketer report that found 48% were increasing influencer budgets while only 4% were decreasing.
But as budgets increase, the temptation to invest in “bigger and bigger” influencers grows and celebrities (from social media stars to reality show stars) are drawing more than their fair share of the revenue allocated. More often than not, however, this will be a mistake for CPG brands and not just because of the well-publicized issues with brands backing away from celebrity sponsorships.
Influencer marketing by its very name is designed to change behavior and inspire people, not just reach them. We’re attempting to leverage influence. But celebrities have a mixed history of helping brands in that way. In fact, a study of TV commercials in 2010 found that commercials featuring celebrities had, on average, negative brand lift (-1.40%), while commercials without celebrities had positive brand lift (+8.0%).
At the same time, today’s millennials are focusing more on experiences over things and this combination of factors requires a new approach. Millennials don’t have the same brand loyalty as their parents did, but they are far more passionate about the flavors, the looks and the events that increasingly define their lives. Therefore, content that inspires, teaches and motivates these customers is what’s helping CPG brands move product off the shelf.
Having conducted hundreds of influencer programs for leading brands and retailers over the last decade, I can safely say that aspirational, inspirational content is the purview of the “power middle,” which we define as micro-influencers with between roughly 10,000 and 1,000,000 followers. These people are the foodies, the fashionistas and philosophers inspiring this generation of customers with amazing thumb-stopping content. And more and more, marketers are realizing that these micro-influencers are the ones who actually have the influence.
Importantly, it’s not their names that are getting them shared, retweeted and pinned across the social web. It’s their authentic content—their ideas, their imagery, their videos, their recipes and the way they use your products in the very best of ways. And in showing these ways, they inspire sales, greater awareness and increased engagement.
Let me give you an example of a CPG food brand we worked with. The product is one that can commonly be used in baking and our campaign focused on creating fantastic birthday parties for infants turning one. The content naturally featured the product in many ways, but also included décor ideas, activity ideas and the related pageantry that goes with these events. We embedded a link to a coupon for $1 off that product on a particular retailers’ website. It was included in blog posts, pinned to the Pinterest board and shared during the Twitter party. Just four weeks after the program ran, all 250,000 coupons available had been printed or downloaded.
In addition, with a budget that would have supported (perhaps) a small effort with a mid-tier celebrity, the program mentioned above activated 10 different micro-influencers who collectively created 18 original party planning ideas. The array of content they created attracted over 5,300 followers to a Pinterest collection, a phenomenon that would not have happened with a simple celebrity post. This also ensured that the content would continue to pay dividends for the brand as time went on.
Examples like this are the reason leading CPG brands are focusing on the quality and scale of content they’re creating in their influencer programs, rather than just the reach and “name” of any single influencer.