[Aspire Higher] The evolution of influence

Mon Aug 31 2020
Jenn Kim
Aspire Higher

We recently kicked off our Aspire Higher Speaker Series, which brings together top brands, investors, and thought leaders to share their perspectives on how and why brands should invest in building deeper relationships with the people who love them most. 

In our very first session, we were joined by Arpon Ray, Principal & COO at Coefficient Capital, who moderated the discussion between Maggie MacNeil, Sr. Associate of Influencer Marketing at Brooklinen, and Mykella Gannon, Director of Marketing at COOLA, as they talked about how the definition of “influence” has evolved.

If you missed it, watch the recording here or keep reading for the highlights.

It’s no longer about follower count. 

Influencer marketing used to mean that brands were working with people with big audiences, but follower count isn’t what matters anymore. In fact, both Mykella and Maggie say that they work with micro-influencers more, as they typically have a closer relationship with their followers — which leads to higher engagement. 

Mykella explained, “Because they have a smaller audience, micro-influencers are able to interact with their followers more frequently via likes and follows, and actually respond to questions and comments. Essentially, they’re better at connecting with their audiences on a personal level than a celebrity. It’s almost like relying on a friend’s recommendation, which we all know is incredibly valuable.”

Maggie echoed, “We never turn away an influencer due to size. We look to see that they have a genuine connection with an audience and an aesthetic that aligns to our larger goals, but most importantly, that their values resonate with ours. We find that working with influencers with higher engagement leads to more sales and brand recognition. Since their audience is so engaged, they are more interested in our company and what we have to offer.”

Diversify your partnerships.

While it makes sense to collaborate with influencers in your industry, it’s worth testing the waters and branching out to those in other niches. For example, Brooklinen started out by working with home design influencers because, of course, the brand sells bedding. However, Maggie started working with influencers in the food, lifestyle, and fashion spaces, especially since Brooklinen launched new products like loungewear.

The brand started working with foodie influencers with a “breakfast in bed” approach to their content, and the results were amazing! Maggie says that these new audiences respond well to Brooklinen because the influencers they work with are amazing storytellers. 

Maggie gave this piece of advice: “Test these new audiences because you really never know what could work for you and you could be surprised by what does. Even if you don’t have a lot of budget, reaching out and gifting product is the best way to test and we always try for a story first.”

Build long-term partnerships.

Creating long-term relationships is a win-win for both the brand and the influencer. Brands get authentic endorsements from their brand partners, while influencers continue to work with a company that they love. It helps on the consumer side, as well. Maggie explained, “Instead of an influencer posting about our products once, we want to create relationships with them and have them experience all that we have to offer. We might start with bedding, then have them try out our bath products, loungewear, and so on. I think that knowing the influencer trusts our brand and what we have to offer is helpful and reassuring to their audience.”

But to build long-term partnerships with creators, brands need to nurture these relationships in creative ways. 

For Mykella, this means identifying creators who clearly work well with COOLA and inviting them to run every active campaign with the brand. The brand is focused on helping their creators hit their professional goals as well. She explained, “Just like any relationship, we believe influencer marketing should be a two-way street.” She enforces this by:

  • Giving them unique discount codes for them to share with their communities
  • Supporting them with product giveaways on their social channels
  • Repurposing their content
  • Inviting them to take over COOLA’s IGTV or blog 

Even when COOLA isn’t running campaigns, the brand checks in with these influencers, sends them “surprise & delight” products, and engages with their content. 

Everyone is an influencer.

Today, the influencer marketing is shifting to include not just social media influencers, but also customers, industry experts, employees, creatives, and more. People who are not social media influencers have just as much (if not more) power to sway the purchasing decisions of those around them. 

Both Mykella and Maggie discussed how influential their customers and employees are. Consumers trust other people over ads and other corporate messages from brands, so word-of-mouth recommendations from customers and employees are extremely powerful for both COOLA and Brooklinen. 

Since COOLA is an organic suncare brand, skincare professionals are very influential as well. Mykella told us, “We also partner with dermatologists to give us more credibility within the beauty space. Since they are experts on skincare and suncare, people trust their recommendations. Over the last few weeks, we have been working with Dr. Lily Talakoub to host virtual Zoom meetings with several beauty editors. It’s been great to have such a well-known dermatologist speak highly of our brand, and it certainly resonates well with the editors.”


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