New to the influencer marketing industry? Are you running a food business, and you want to remodel your marketing strategies? The first question to answer is; what exactly is influencer marketing anyway? Influencer marketing is leveraging the reach or attention of an influencer who has built a following and a strong brand reputation in a particular niche, to support your product and put you on to its audience. All this is to increase your food brand’s awareness and drive sales or conversions. It would be a big mistake to ignore this industry entirely given in strength and impact in the food industry.
Just like every other industry, the influencer marketing industry has not been left behind when it comes to the impact of the Covid-19. While some campaigns have had to be adjusted, we also see food companies move more of their overall marketing budget to online activities like influencer marketing to offset the lack of in-person sampling and events that might have been part of the overall marketing plan at the beginning of the year. The new balance of driving sales, creating meaningful content, and making sure not to come off as insensitive is one at the top of food and beverage brands looking to win in the influencer marketing space.
In recent years we’ve seen the influencer marketing industry grow significantly. The food and beverage industry has not been left behind in the process of embracing influencer marketing. And that is not to say that the influencer marketing space hasn’t had its challenges from time to time. Problems of lack of authenticity and issues of fake followers, fake likes, and comments have been experienced in this industry. There has been a big challenge in measuring the return on investment (R.O.I) for influencer marketing projects. But that has not stopped the industry from evolving, finding solutions, and growing past those challenges. The move by Instagram to do away with public likes has made Instagram likes less of a measure of performance or R.O.I in an influencer marketing deal. Surveys done in 2019 projected that the market is set to nearly double from $8 billion in 2019 to $15 billion by 2020. The economic impact of Covid-19 could slow things down, but some growth will still be realized as influencers and brands have found a way to adapt to the current situation and the changing consumer behaviors.
If you want to be successful in the food industry, it is essential to remain updated on the latest in the influencer marketing industry. Here’s the latest you need to know to stay up to date with winning in influencer marketing for packaged food brands.
There’s never been an easier time to make and share video content. More food and beverage businesses have now incorporated videos as a marketing tool when working with influencers. Most people would rather watch an online video than T.V. Videos seem to be the holy grail of content marketing because they are easy to view and are quick to get information from.
Content marketing through video is the latest craze, and if you are not yet tapping into that space, then you are behind the curve. When reaching a purchase decision, most millennials go to video content. Video content promotes storytelling, which evokes emotion. Purchasing decisions often begin with an emotion, then later backed by product reviews, availability, and pricing. Storytelling grabs more attention, is more memorable, and creates beliefs. All these make video a more organic way of reaching out to people than images, status posts, and link posts.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen live streaming grow in popularity. That is because it allows interactions with audiences in real time. While coronavirus meant most spring/summer events had to be canceled or postponed until 2021, a few have chosen to go online. A good example is SHIFT20, where attendees are challenged to think bigger and bolder to solve the world’s biggest food issues and make better food for the future without leaving their houses. Self-isolation has resulted in the food industry players looking to build and maintain connections through such virtual video events. We can now attend a range of international food events that would have presented a financial and logistical challenge, especially for small food businesses and startups. Big events are now within reach for all sizes of food brands to network with food and marketing experts from the comforts of their homes.
Brands are now pulling out of traditional video ads and shifting to influencers making videos about their food products through product teaser campaigns, unboxing videos, or exclusive review videos. Influencers are getting more creative and authentic with their videos. Authenticity is crucial, as it makes people feel more human and part of the action.
With the continuous growth in the number of video platforms, we expect video content to dominate the food and beverage marketing field. Influencers will continue to make more videos and try to make them extra personalized and relatable to their audiences.
Gone are the days when brands would just look for famous people online and pay them to promote their food or beverage products. Brands are now looking to be better matched with their influencers in terms of values and purpose. Previously, we’ve seen cases of brands being ashamed of their relationships with their influencers due to their poor controversial behaviors. Influencers can be very unpredictable sometimes. Such adverse actions have tarnished the area of influencer marketing before. Today, brands focus on their alignment with their influencers over the number of followers the influencers have to show.
Brands are no longer focusing on reach but the quality of engagement, the identity and voice of the influencer, the audience relevance, and the content relevance. Businesses and influencers have taken a step away from perfectly curated feeds to get a little more real. People are starting to see through the “perfection” found online. Finding and working with an influencer who has been using your food product and genuinely enjoys it is better than finding a famous random person online and asking him/her to promote your product. More authentic influencers and brands are more appreciated. Brand trust is crucial, and so is finding trustworthy and “fit” influencers for the brand.
Consumers are making purchase decisions informed by their values. People are ready to pay a premium to buy from brands that align with their principles. Most consumers are now concerned about how food companies package their food and beverage products, and how that affects the environment. So, finding influencers with the same principles and concerns as those of the brand and the target consumers is crucial.
In the early years of influencer marketing, most brands selected influencers on a campaign by campaign basis. Influencer marketing used to be a one-off transaction. A food or beverage company would choose an influencer when launching a new product. After that marketing campaign was over, that would be the end of it. Next time when the business would require to put together another influencer marketing campaign, they would approach and work with a different influencer. That made it appear inauthentic to consumers and resulted in lower conversion rates.
With consumer skepticism at an all-time high, there’s a need to demonstrate a long term affinity to a brand to convince the consumers. We see a move away from the transactional to relational kind of influencer marketing. Things are sort of going back to the Marketing Rule of Seven, which states that it takes about seven ads to inspire a sale.
Trust and commitment are critical when it comes to influencer marketing. Influencers are more willing to produce higher quality content when they are in a long term partnership that provides them with greater financial security and the ability to become stronger advocates for a brand. Longevity gives influencers an incentive to perform well and, at the same time, gives the brands time to monitor what works well for them. That way, they can all set goals and work towards achieving them. In the end, it becomes a win-win for all.
If food brands or startups want to build credibility and true loyalty among their audience, they should look to forge long term relationships and trust with their best influencers. Work with influencers who’ve used your food products and put the word out there about how good your products are, even before you met them. Look to form long term partnerships with such influencers. It will pay dividends in the long run.
As influencer marketing has developed over the years, brands have come to understand which factors really influence R.O.I. Brands are becoming better at measuring R.O.I. It is becoming clear that vanity metrics such as likes and followers don’t cut it when it comes to the real measure of R.O.I. Sales matter more. A hundred thousand likes on a picture of your food product on an influencers page, with only two conversions made from that, doesn’t reflect a great return on investment. That’s why more brands are moving away from macro-influencers/celebrity influencers. They demand big pay and special treatment but aren’t engaged enough with their massive following to generate a high conversion rate.
Nano and micro-influencers may not have a huge follower count as the “big boys” in the space, but they can be powerful. It turns out that less may actually be more. Marketing relies heavily on authenticity and trust between the influencer and their audience, something that nano and micro-influencers can achieve by nature of their intimate relationships. You can find a nano or micro-influencer who specializes in health and fitness and therefore takes healthy eating seriously. A better part of their following will consist of people who are interested in health and fitness. So, if you have food products or drinks that will facilitate a healthy lifestyle, then that is the best influencer to work with. The niche-specific influencers tend to have high engagement and connection levels with their audience. Consequently, their sales and conversion rates also tend to be high.
Nano and Micro-influencers are more cost-effective than the macro-influencers who usually demand big pay because they have massive followers and likes count. Brands are being more responsible with their budgets, and having realized that big following and many likes don’t necessarily translate into sales, they are changing how they work with influencers. Nowadays, brands looking to grow their food businesses bring more micro and nano influencers on board to save on costs and achieve value for their money.
TikTok is the fastest growing platform in history. Its user base growth is swiftly outpacing the other social platforms. Right now, it stands at more than one billion downloads.
It is no secret that there is a surge in demand for authentic and spontaneous content over perfectly curated feeds. TikTok thrives on that very demand. You are wondering how you can use TikTok to benefit your food brand? There are three ways you can use TikTok to your advantage to achieve food business growth and success. You can create your channel and upload relevant videos on the channel. Secondly, you can work with nano and micro-influencers that align with your brand to produce great content and upload it on their TikTok accounts. The platform’s natural virality will ensure that your product reaches relevant audiences who will convert. Finally, you can pay to advertise on TikTok. TikTok certainly looks like they are determined to cement themselves on the marketers’ playbooks by the reliable advertising infrastructure that they have put in place. TikTok already released a self-serve and buying platform with daily budgets, targeting, and controls not too different from the Facebook ones. You can also pay for your ads through credit cards, which opens their gates to the smaller budget food startups. If you are looking to optimize your food and beverage business success, then it would be wise to combine all three ways; create a channel for your brand, work with influencers and pay for a few ads whenever necessary.
Most TikTok users are people between the age of 18 to 30. Millennials and Gen Z tend to turn away from anything that feels like traditional advertising. They want more fun stuff. They want more authenticity. Brands have got to appeal to this audience if their customer base is within this audience. So if you have a fun brand with a younger audience on TikTok, it’s worth investing the time and energy to start to understand the platform and build connections there.
When planning your influencer marketing campaigns and looking to build relationships with influencers, note that it isn’t just a one-social platform play. It can be done on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Linkedin, and many others. You can even run your marketing campaigns on blogs. Just figure out what works best for your packaged food company and invest your resources in that.
Inside the F.A.B Growth Academy, we have the perfect tools and training to build lasting influencer marketing relationships that will help your food product get on more shelves, into more homes, and have more people buying and trying your product. Join us inside the F.A.B Growth Academy to get this and so much more. You are one click away from starting up on a journey that will help you realize food business success.
Published by Healthy Food & Beverage Group Contributor Calvin Wasambla