Consumers are getting more and more cynical, and untrusting of branded communications. Instead of looking to brands for advice and tips on trends and the next new thing, they look to trusted peer experts and tastemakers, frequently online. For years, brands have been aware of this and have been looking for ways to influence those influencers. The problem is complicated. Such attempts are frequently tone-deaf and way off the mark, like paid reviews and blog posts. The other big hurdle is in the strategy. Too often, there isn’t one. Influencer marketing is treated like a Hail Mary pass—toss out the feelers and promos and hope that the bloggers’ and tweeters’ followers feel some love.
Well, that kind of old-school event marketing is just that: old. And brands like EFFEN Vodka and Coco Brevé are leading the way into the new age of strategic tastemaker marketing, by making use of what handling agency Brand Influencers calls “Social Intelligence.”
This year, EFFEN Vodka has been trying to grow its share of the highly competitive premium vodka category, and to do that, the brand set out to align itself with premiere style events and court influencers across the social spectrum. By moving through the Social Intelligence process, EFFEN determined that some of its most hardcore fans were in the bartender community, and that the premium vodka drinkers and style bloggers that the brand needed to target and convert get their drink recommendations from those very bartenders.
To give the bartenders a well-deserved spotlight and put them in front of tastemakers all over the U.S., the brand created a series of invite-only Art of Design parties in key markets throughout the summer, including Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Monica, CA, Seattle and Washington D.C. EFFEN invited style and booze bloggers to sample five cocktails at each event created by a team of two mixologists using EFFEN vodka. The attendees each got a bag of marbles to use for voting. They would taste the drink and then place as many marbles as they wanted in the bottle of their favorites. Several official judges were on hand to evaluate the drinks and keep the competition legitimate. The judges evaluated the drinks based on taste, creativity and originality and the winning bartenders in each market got an EFFEN Vodka-branded bartending kit and a $500 cash prize. To keep the events feeling local, EFFEN also invited a few local artists to show their wares.
“The brand was really born out of the bartender community, and we really wanted to figure out how to leverage our passionate bartenders and the power of social media to build the brand through Art of Design,” says Kelly Georgetti, director of activation for vodkas at Beam Global Spirits and Wine, which owns EFFEN. “This program was designed with the idea that these powerful social influencers, lovers of design and the arts, will craft some powerful stories for us. We felt that this is a great way to highlight some of the biggest advocates while letting them bring some of their own art and design to the brand.”
From June to September this year, coconut water-infused malt beverage Coco Brevé unfurled a pilot program to test launch its drink in five U.S. markets: Atlanta, Austin, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco. The brand wanted to drive offline trial through influencer-hosted contextual experiences and online sharing through 50 hand-picked social influencers. Coco spent months watching and listening to the target consumers across dozens of social channels and determined who the best possible influencers to invite would be. The idea was to get the product into target consumers’ hands through those influencers and then have the influencers share their experiences with their respective communities through social media. Coco helped each influencer throw a party for their circles of influence, and in all there were 195 events that led to 1,365 targeted trial experiences, 218 influencer posts, 4,350 unique social actions, $200,000 in earned media value and more than 14 million social impressions.
EFFEN and Coco Brevé are among the most forward-thinking brands out there in the influencer space, but there’s no super secret sauce in developing Social Intelligence. It all starts with the research. When Brand Influencers was developing these programs with Coco and EFFEN, it analyzed millions of social conversations to track behavior, analyze trends, extrapolate best practices and learn how to provide consumers with the experiences they wanted, and when, where, how and through whom they wanted it. Once the information gathering gets to a point where the brands can feel like they know who their targets are and what they want, that intel allows them to build events and other marketing strategies upon that platform of passions, topics and content that matters.
Consumers engage in millions of social conversations on all kinds of outlets with one another. They talk on all sorts of social media and in online communities, where they share interests and passions. By monitoring and analyzing the conversations that are relevant, brands can distill the raw data into consumer insights and help identify trends, passions and interests. The influential voices that the communities of customers are listening to and following become clear. And that’s the golden goose. You ready to start gathering eggs?