Category Archives: Endorsement

My Place or Yours? How Brands Hook Up with Content Creators

When Drake unveiled his photoshopped album cover for Views in late April, it was not only a brilliant viral marketing ploy to encourage fan-created parodies, it was also intended as a heartfelt tribute to the city of Toronto. But the image of the ‘6 God’ sitting atop the CN Tower is also an unquestionable nod to the subculture of “rooftopping” that has recently emerged among daring young photographers in major cities around the world.

Frank & Oak, a brand that targets young urban creatives (are we calling them “yuccies” yet?), had the ingenuity to tap into this trend for their latest campaign. To promote its new Frank & Oak SC collection of premium utility gear, the Montreal clothier teamed up with Toronto photographerJamal Burger (@jayscale) for a killer content collaboration.

The brand & content creator pairing also yielded a web takeover on the Frank & Oak site, and several posts that reached the photographer’s 176k+ Instagram followers. As told by Frank & Oak co-founder and CEO Ethan Song in an interview with Marketing, “It’s the first time we’ve gone that deep into storytelling.”

 

With collaborations like this, brands are able to associate themselves with influencers that already hold a strong cachet with their target audiences. They are also able to align their brand values with lifestyle attributes and ideologies on a higher level, such as Burger’s quintessential Millennial mantra of incorporating “personality into what you’re doing on a daily basis.” The cherry on top, of course, is for brand messages to benefit from extended organic reach through influencer channels.

Regardless of whether it’s paid or earned, influencer marketing continues to gain mindshare – and share of budget – with savvy brands. According to a poll by Tomoson, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, with 59% of marketers planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next year.

However, it’s definitely no slam dunk. Without the right approach, influencer campaigns can come across as contrived and can damage both the credibility of brands and the influencers that partner with them. Here are 3 key lessons to keep in mind to maximize success with influencer marketing.

1. Authentic Fit

Finding a natural fit between brand and influencer is key, otherwise followers will see right through the collaboration. It’s not in the best interest of either side for content creators to be perceived as paid shills – just like any endorsement, it should be believable that the endorsee is genuinely excited about the featured product.

 

Fashion & beauty Instagram star Krystin Lee was a natural fit for TRESemmé to help promote its new Beauty-Full Volume collection, teaming up with the brand for a sponsored post about haircare tips on her blog. It’s an intuitive fit, both for the beauty products category and with TRESemmé’s accessibly-premium positioning.

2. Engaging Content

Online influencers are all internet-famous for their own unique reasons, and many of them have hustled to improve and showcase their talents while building a community of engaged followers. They are able to maintain and grow their respective communities by consistently posting the types of quality content that initially drew in their core audiences.

For this reason, it’s a big mistake for a brand to come in with its chequebook expecting to control the message on an influencer’s channel with an iron fist. Branded content, while respecting the brand’s guardrails and positioning, should be respectfully developed as a collaboration and directly from the voice of the content creator.

 

Chicago photographer Paul Octavious was able to tie a personal story into Capital One’s #walletstories campaign concept, which itself centres on individual stories as a spin on their “What’s In Your Wallet?” slogan. It’s storytelling that fits the brand message, but it’s still a story told through the influencer’s eyes and in his words.

3. Channel Relevance

Finding an authentic fit and the right concept for some engaging content is a great start, but the practice of actually hooking up with influencers can be a complicated challenge – especially if it’s a brand’s first time. Yikes!

Thankfully, the folks at Kissmetrics put together The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting, which is a helpful resource to start with. It defines the right influencers as having context, reach, and actionability to help drive a brand’s objectives. The guide also recommends giving the influencer an image before reaching out, as a specific genre or personality may work best for a specific brand.

It’s also important for marketers to choose a social media channel that aligns with their brand objectives. While Instagram might work best for some premium brands, perhaps a channel like Snapchat might be more effective for brands going for a fun, youthful approach.

That’s exactly how the Paramount Pictures approached their famous teaser stunt for “Zoolander 2”. Vine’s biggest star, Jerome Jarre, was conveniently on hand at Paris Fashion Week in 2015 for Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander) to “steal” his phone for a Blue Steel selfie.

Also worth noting is that some advertiser categories have proven to be more successful than others with influencer campaigns. A 2015 study from RhythmOne indicates that Alcoholic Beverages, Travel & Tourism, and CPG Food outperform the $11.20 in earned media value (from $1.00 invested) averaged across all industries.

Not that it can’t be done with some creativity, but influencer campaigns in Electronics, Telecommunications, and Baby Care don’t have a strong track record. It’s not surprising – just try to think about an influencer campaign for wireless plans without cringing.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that influencer campaigns will continue to gain prominence within the marketing mix. So whether it’s on YouTube or Snapchat and whether it’s being posted by brands or content creators (or both!), the love affair is growing stronger and stronger every day. Don’t you get that feeling?

What’s the best influencer campaign that comes to mind for you? Or, even better, what’s the worst brand + influencer hookup you’ve seen?

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Marketing Players of the Week – “Together” Edition

Whether or not you view advertising as art, it’s impossible to deny that it imitates life. Between global acts of solidarity such as “We Are Ferguson” and “Je Suis Charlie”, socially-conscious individuals have boldly come together amidst acts of racism and terrorism.

Fittingly, the most effective ads of January 2015 have embraced this concept of togetherness.

NBA

Arguably the most global-minded and progressive of North America’s Big 4 sports leagues, the NBA recently hired Translation as its advertising agency after a creative review. The new partner came through impressively for the league’s Martin Luther King Day tribute spot, helping the NBA become only the third entity to gain authorization to use King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Featuring black-and-white footage of monumental events of NBA history layered with audio from MLK’s powerful speech, the 60 second commercial shows how basketball brings people together. Images of Red Auerbach with Bill Russell and Phil Jackson with Michael Jordan celebrate not only teamwork (and winning) but the unity between races that King dreamed of.

Transcending race, the video goes on to include the NBA’s first female ref (Violet Palmer) its first openly gay player (Jason Collins).

Recent controversies such as Donald Sterling’s blatant racism prove that the league (and America) have a long road ahead of them to improve race relations. However, from protests about Sterling to players wearing “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warmups, it’s been encouraging to see players come together to more actively join social movements. Thankfully, the league is supporting these causes and even bringing them forward with its marketing messages.

Newcastle Brown Ale and Brands of America

Also in the world of sports, we are only a few weeks away from The Big Game. It’s also Oscar Season, and former Newcastle endorsee Anna Kendrick was busy as a quirky Cinderella in December’s “Into the Woods”. With Newcastle Brown Ale striving to maintain its indie brand image, the beer manufacturer needed to find a slightly less mainstream spokesperson.

Enter deadpan specialist Aubrey Plaza of Parks and Recreation fame. In a call to arms for brands across America, she expertly lambasts the cliches of big budget Super Bowl advertising while asking small brands to join the first ever crowdsourced Super Bowl ad.

The #BandofBrands campaign extends to social media, as independent brands such as Armstrong, Beanitos, McClure’s Pickles, and Sharper Image have joined the collective. Only time will tell how many others will sign up, but the email application process on their website will undoubtedly find many interested parties.

McDonald’s

According to many, their “Signs” ad during the Golden Globes received a negative response for using events like 9/11 in an attempt to grab at consumers’ heartstrings. But McDonald’s elicited a much greater reaction when the brand released “Archenemies” earlier this month.

The animated 60-second spot imagines lifetime rivals making amends and coming together by sharing various McDonald’s products, all to the cheerful tune of “Love Is Endless” by Mozella. According to an article by Maureen Morrison of Ad Age, the company with the Golden Arches is “reigniting” its commitment to the “I’m Lovin’ It” tagline which launched back in 2003.

It’s a bright, happy, and moderately funny approach for a fast food brand that aims to appeal to the masses. We can expect to see more of this from the burger giant, although it’s hard to imagine anything embodying the concept of ‘together’ better than Wile E. Coyote making nice with The Road Runner.

Are you lovin’ it again, or not so much? Share your thoughts on these ads of togetherness in the comments below.

Marketing Players of the Week – NBA Tip-Off Edition

Tipping off this past Tuesday, the 2014-15 NBA season represents a year of many compelling storylines. Rookie phenoms Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker kick off their pro careers amidst massive expectations. Anthony Davis (and his trademark unibrow) looks to break out and become a household name, while Derrick Rose returns from injury to bring the Bulls back to title contention. And a player by the name of LeBron James returns to his quiet home of Cleveland, Ohio.

Nike

Since day one when he signed an endorsement deal with Nike for $90 million while still in high school, LeBron James has been a perfect fit for the Beaverton-based sportswear giant. According to Forbes, LeBron’s brand is worth $10 million more than last year and he has replaced Tiger Woods as the most valuable sports brand in the world.

Brand partners including Sprite, Beats by Dre, and McDonald’s have already celebrated his return to Cleveland, but it’s Nike that most effectively brings this to life in their advertising.

In a masterful short film by Nike’s longtime agency Wieden+Kennedy, LeBron gives a goosebump-inducing speech in the pregrame huddle, joined by not only the Cavaliers players and staff but what seems like the entire city of Cleveland.

His words are expertly crafted in the fashion of classic locker room speeches by sports leaders. The black and white effect paired with the ominous score contribute to the drama. Hoards of Cleveland faithful bow their heads in reverence, almost religiously. It’s perfect.

Accompanying this spot was a gameday launch of his LeBron 12 signature shoe, and the installation of a 10-story banner, with “Cleveland” replacing his name on the jersey to symbolize James putting the city on his back.

Remember the aftermath of The Decision in 2010 when fans burned his jersey and parodied his Nike ad? It seems like a distant memory now, as scars have healed over time while LeBron (and his PR team) have made all the right moves in process of his return to Cleveland.

Yes, ‘LeBrand’ is alive and stronger than ever in 2014. And his corporate partners – Nike especially – will gladly benefit from their associations with King James.

Los Angeles Clippers

New management, new era. The upstart LA Clippers, longtime basement-dwellers of the NBA, were finally able to split ties with disgraced former owner Donald Sterling when Microsoft billionaire Steve Ballmer took over the team for a record $2 billion.

As any brand would be wise to do, the Clippers have made moves to distance themselves from any associations with their past owner’s baggage (Lululemon, take note). Ballmer attending a Dodgers game with Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Magic Johnson (who was disparaged by Sterling) was a fantastic way to extend the olive branch and signify a new beginning. Now, the NBA club seeks to reinforce to fans that the Clippers are entering a more positive era.

The ‘Be Relentless’ spot by RPA avoids any mention of the controversy or ownership change, but hints at the changes with overt imagery of Ballmer and references to a “beginning” in the script. Most of all, it is successful because it focuses on the basketball court, which is all that Clippers fans will care about assuming the team continues to emerge as a leader in the NBA’s Western Conference.

Sport Chek

Embracing the Toronto Raptors’ successful ‘We The North’ campaign, Sport Chek looks to make itself the retail destination for basketball fans across Canada.

Canadian Tire Corporation has made a big bet on Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment brands with a recent sponsorship deal, and Sport Chek is even selling an exclusive Raptors clothing collection by Adidas this year. Tapping Sid Lee to re-create the magic of ‘We The North’, Sport Chek is releasing several videos for a #MyNorth series.

Starting with a heartfelt tribute to Toronto basketball legend Phil Dixon, the videos take on a grassroots approach and will feature amateur ballers from nine communities in the GTA, according to Russ Martin at Marketing Mag. It’s a strong content play, and complements the Raptors’ own 2014-15 campaign quite well.

Sport Chek took it a step further by involving Raptors forward Patrick Patterson as an ‘Undercover Pro’ working at a Sport Chek store. It’s a cute stunt, but lacks the polish and emotional resonance of the Sid Lee videos.

While it’s important to draw a connection to the stores, this video does little to sell fans on the merits of their basketball section, nor does it take advantage of their impressive in-store digital technology.

In fact, the ‘Undercover Pro’ concept itself is derivative of a much funnier video that involved Landry Fields as “employee of the month” at Modell’s. Given that Fields now plays for the Raptors it seems baffling that Sport Chek would recycle this concept with another Raptors bench player. Thankfully, this stunt is just a backup to the much larger role played by the ‘#MyNorth’ videos, which should suffice just fine in their starting role for Sport Chek.

 

What’s your opinion on LeBron James since his return to Cleveland? Do you have a favourite NBA tip-off campaign that deserves mention? Share your thoughts in the comments!