By: Hanifa Sekandi
It’s no secret that influencer marketing is pivotal to your marketing strategy. Of course, brands can opt out and avoid it altogether. Many brands do not use influencer marketing to grow their business or notoriety.
Understandably, there is pressure to conform to this new modern marketing norm. Initially, influencers were frowned upon. The idea of allocating thousands of dollars of your marketing budget to a niche food blog was unthinkable. It is still a marketing strategy that many struggle to wrap their minds around. Also, there is no guarantee that you will see an instant return on your investment. On the other side of the coin, there are benefits to influencer marketing. The proof is in the pudding when you look at brands that have found great success with influencer marketing. Overnight, these brands have become household names, expanding their reach to an untapped market.
The popularity of the Stanley Cup is an example of an influencer’s ability to influence buying decisions. Not all influencer marketing successes are purposeful. Your brand may experience unexpected success from an unsolicited review from Bethenny Frankel! Your consumers’ buying power is more than just an increase in revenue. An honest review on social media or a write-up on a blog can be impactful.
Hopefully, you have taken the time to build and create a noteworthy beverage. Aside from great packaging, is it a high-quality beverage? Does it measure up? Simply, does it taste good? Have you perfected the product? If you walk the aisles of a beer or liquor store, you will likely meet a fellow whiskey enthusiast or ale expert. The in-store influencer with first-hand experience trying your product is who you should appeal to first. Before social media, people were influenced by a friend of a friend. Word-of-mouth sold your product.
Building an Influencer Marketing Strategy
Your why – why your brand is notable will be at the forefront of this strategy. It might be a good idea to have this visible at all times when devising any marketing strategy. It is easy to veer off your path if this is unclear. Why your beverage? Why are you so passionate about your product? Your why is your company’s mission statement. It will look different from your competitors, as it should. From here, brainstorm what kind of social media in the beverage sector is compelling. What draws you in? Depending on the size of your marketing team, write a list of marketing campaigns you have liked online that made you go out and buy the product. It does not have to be in the beverage industry. The main objective is to discern why this marketing campaign inspired you to purchase that item or beverage.
People connect to things or products that draw meaning in their lives. A popular alcoholic beverage is more than just a good time for many people. It is also an imprint of a memory – a moment in time that reminds them of their wedding or a first date, a trip to Ireland or a celebration with friends and family. There is a reason why people fight over the best tequila and why just any tequila will never do. The same is true for those who enjoy a cold beer. Your influencer marketing strategy is not about numbers. It is about being impactful. The influencers you select to showcase your brand must align with your brand’s mission. It does not matter if they have one million followers if the stories they tell do not support your long-term goals.
Effective influencer marketing strategies require research. Once you have zeroed in on influencer campaigns that inspire your team, it is time to curate a list of influencers who create content that supports your vision. Influencers are storytellers. The storyteller for your beverage must get the story right. What does an effective influencer marketing strategy have?
● Clear direction: Do you know who you are? Are you a botanical gin? If so, you should lean towards influencers who create content that supports a healthy lifestyle. Who thrive on creating content that is about finding alternatives for mainstream gins. An influencer who drinks organic alcohol will most likely create content that supports their lifestyle choice to consume clean beverages. Avoid the temptation to solicit a well-known influencer who does not create content that supports who you purport your brand to be. At the onset, this is a good idea. But remember, influencer marketing is not a one-and-done game.
● What is your message? Influencers need to know every detail about your brand. Do not send your beverage to them and hope for the best. A marketing manager should spend time with them going over product education. A media deck should be available for reference during the campaign. Once you have provided the information, they should use their unique storytelling ability to convey the message to their audience. Generally, for experienced influencers, you will not need to approve their content before sharing. But when working with micro-influencers, review all content before it is shared. An influencer with experience will know that they should not deviate from brand messaging. A newer influencer may not be aware of industry protocols. You should not have any issues if you did your due diligence during strategic planning. Pre-approved content prevents brand inconsistencies.
Understanding Your Audience
Now that you have selected your list of influencers to collaborate with, do not be afraid to audit your list. Do a deep dive into their storytelling style first. As tempting as it may be, ignore the numbers initially. Study all their content, from blogs to social media. If you spot more than five things that do not align with your brand, remove them from your influencer outreach plans. This does not mean that they are not great at what they do. It just means that they might not connect with your audience. Or, they may create content that does not support your brand mission statement.
A thin line exists between having a successful influencer marketing campaign with the right influencer and tarnishing your brand with the wrong influencer. Celebrity chefs or food bloggers are often popular choices for beverage brands looking to dip their toes into this unpredictable marketing terrain. It is low risk and generally a good return on investment. The food and beverage sectors pair well together.
Focusing your influencer marketing strategy on your targeted audience will help you express your desires if you work with a PR agency. Most influencers work through an agency, which can complicate the relationship since a third party is involved. Be clear. Do not get easily swayed. Some agencies represent other beverage brands and have strong influencer relationships. Some agencies are influencer-focused and manage a roster of talent. Your budget needs to account for the types of agencies you choose to work with if you do not contact the influencer directly.
Agency fees should be included in your budget and separate from what an influencer would charge you. Ask your agency to illustrate influencer rates and agency fees clearly. Some agencies focus exclusively on food and beverage marketing. You are more likely to find an influencer with an audience you would like to reach if you work with a team that understands the importance of targeted marketing. They will ensure that you get the results you desire since they have an in-depth understanding of the beverage industry.
No one will know your product better than someone who works for your company. Hiring an in-house brand ambassador might be the right direction for your brewery. Did you know many influencers start blogging or social media channels to build an online portfolio? They do this to get recognition or a position at a reputable beverage or food company. Since experience matters, and there are few opportunities to build your resume, they create a portfolio of expertly curated marketing content. Hire an in-house content creator who understands your audience and has experience creating marketing content that appeals to them.
Since they work exclusively for your brand, an in-house content creator can develop a consistent online presence. Consider this to be a winning long-term marketing strategy. Another benefit is that food and beverage industry influencers have a big network of connections. As your in-house content development strategist, they can create content and work with other influencers on cross-promotion collaborations. In addition, it gives you free range to build multiple marketing campaigns without delays. Since your marketing team will work directly with them, there is no need to pre-approve content, thus giving you more control over how your brand is portrayed. While curating your influencer list, a quick LinkedIn or Muck Rack search will show you which influencers or bloggers are looking for work or offer freelance content development services.
Should You Opt Out of Influencer Marketing?
If you are lucky, word of mouth and excellent product placement in-store is all you will need. If you are okay with slow growth and use other means to promote your beverage, then opt out. Influencer marketing is not for everyone and will not necessarily make your brand influential. It is a quick marketing tool. But it cannot be your only one.
Before you delve into the world of influencer marketing to become the next influential beverage, make sure you are running a strategic marketing plan that will perform well on its own. Invest in in-house talent. A good marketing team may be all you need. When you decide to solicit the help of these industry gurus, you should feel confident in your beverage and the marketing materials you have implemented. Remember, influencer marketing is the bonus addition that can take you to new and unimaginable heights.