Influencer kits and influencer marketing are taking the digital world by storm; do you have the low-down?
By Marken Shedd and James Lucey
If you’ve checked your Instagram feed recently, you’ve witnessed influencer marketing in action. It used to be that product endorsements were reserved for the likes of Michael Jordan and Sofia Vergara on a billboard, but in today’s egalitarian digital celebr-osphere, your neighborhood Snap queen and Mommy Blogger are getting in on the game. So why are big-brand marketing departments favoring digital influencers over bonafide celebrities?
By the end of this article, you will be able to answer the following questions:
1.) What is influencer marketing?
2.) Why is influencer marketing as valuable, if not more so, than a highly polished celebrity endorsement on TV?
3.) How can you leverage packaging to get in on a piece of the pie?
Under the influence
So what is an influencer?
There are many opinions on the nuances, but the consensus is an influencer is an individual who has used social media to share original content surrounding a given topic, and in doing so has established themselves as an expert, with a dedicated following of content consumers. This contrasts with a celebrity, who perhaps has a broader audience but has established their fame in some other, more traditional, media channel (TV, movies, radio, etc). Of course, internet influencers have made the transition and are now ambassadors for traditional brands in traditional marketing avenues and becoming ‘celebrities‘ in their own right; the boundary is certainly blending, but for now the distinction holds.
Influencer marketing, therefore, is a social media marketing strategy which leverages the credibility and audience of an influencer who has developed a personality and reputation for being an expert in a given field– shoes, make-up, DIY projects– to reach new markets, drive sales, brand build, etc.
Why is it so valuable?
At its best, social media is a personal tool; people communicating with other people. Influencers share content which is personally representative; an Instagram post, a Snap, or a YouTube video featuring a snippet from their life – just like everyone else who uses social media. When an influencer gushes about their detox tea, makeup, new sneakers, etc, there is an understanding that their consumer habits are a genuine reflection of themselves, and therefore a more credible product endorsement than a celebrity being paid millions to endorse a similar product.
That credibility is compounded when the product endorsed is genuinely in the influencer’s wheelhouse. A micro-influencer, someone with less than 10,000 followers, who endorses a new product may not have the reach of a celebrity, but their followers are many times more likely to actually make a purchase (at least, based on research here, here and here).
Finally, strategic partnerships with influencers have shown tremendous ROI. Both influencers and big brands are looking to generate compelling content for their streams, to keep audiences interested and engaged and shopping. Compare the cost per impression of,
a.) giving free make-up to an influencer with 35 million make-up loving followers.
b.) garnering equivalent impressions with a TV ad or billboard (which is being seen indiscriminately by everyone including your dad)?
Providing an influencer with free product puts the onus of content creation on the influencers ready shoulders, and ensures the proliferation of genuine, user-generated content into that influencers engaged, qualified audience. Its a win-win.
In short, the current brands and products can garner the attention of qualified buyers simply by identifying the taste-makers in their niche demographics, and providing those individuals with something worth posting about.
New Kits on the Block
Now, what does packaging have to do with this?
Influencer marketing campaigns often coincide with a new product launch; in order to deliver a physical sample of the product as well as informative, branded collateral to their influencers, companies are increasingly relying on the use of ‘influencer kits,’ or ‘seed kits’.
Enter rigid boxes, the standard in prestige presentation packaging.
The calling card of a true influencer kit is an attractive, customized package containing promotional swag and print collateral relevant to a particular marketing campaign. An influencer kit is designed to make an impression. In fact, influencer kits are often more costly than the item they carry because the driving force behind the package isn’t the product but the brand messaging and ‘unboxing’ experience for the recipient.
These packages appeal to a specific type of person (a Street baller or bartender for example) who knows they are a leader in their field. The package must demand attention, be well considered, and they look great in a photo. This cannot be underscored enough; the package itself has to appeal to the tastes of its recipients and be worth sharing on social. The packaging and the product have to look good on Instagram, like this Happy Baby kit announcing new, clear packaging.
And it has to be cool.
When Red Bull released its Orange Edition flavor, they seeded the the internet with a custom packaging for a single can of the product in a box decorated with vivid color pops. Highlighting an exciting brand new product is easy when it comes in gorgeous packaging. The soft touch wrapped box, with four color printing interior, beautiful flocked foam insert and ribbon lift is more commonly seen with an expensive electronic, but when used to promote the soft drink helped garner tens of thousands of impressions, including a Snap video by olympian Lolo Jones.
That said, influencer kits ought to delight their respective influencers and one surefire way to please is with lots of free stuff. A well-branded influencer kit could contain bonuses as standard as a t shirt or as exceptional as an Xbox; there’s also opportunity for truly weird specialty items like giant dice and ceramic artichoke holders.
While it’s difficult to measure the ROI of influencer marketing at this point, the consensus is that it works wonders for the brands who invest in it.
As social media continues to integrate into the culture, influencer marketing will become a mainstay of the typical marketing mix; current industry professionals recommend spending between 1%-25% of your annual marketing budget on Influencer campaigns. As such, Influencer kits will continue to be crucial to the success of influencer marketing campaigns.