Despite more than 90% of marketers currently working with influencers, there’s still no standardized way to go about it. Time wasted reinventing the wheel with each new partnership is leading many brands to rethink their influencer marketing strategies, workflows and relationship-building tactics for 2023.
”A lot of you have been asking us” (as many of our favorite influencers say) for the inside scoop on what it takes to make your influencer campaigns successful. So, “we thought we’d pop on here” to give you plenty of practical tips and insightful examples.
But seriously, here’s what we’ve learned about winning brand ambassador collabs and how top brands prevent things from going sideways. Let’s dig in!
A match made in heaven: Successful influencer marketing examples
A successful influencer collaboration is no easy feat. It requires hard work, a well-thought out strategy and top-tier execution. We’ve rounded up some of the top brands that make influencer marketing look effortless. Each of the below examples features an award-winning campaign with specific goals and unique challenges. Keep reading to learn from these real-life influencer marketing examples!
1. YouTube Pride 2021 x THE FIFTH
What they did: For Pride 2021, YouTube Originals hosted an event to celebrate the progress the LGBTQIA+ community continues to make. The event featured Elton John and Olly Alexander. To promote it, YouTube partnered with marketing agency THE FIFTH to create four mini virtual events including “get ready with me” livestreams and a cookie making competition starring notable influencers that Gen Z knows and loves.
Why it was a hit: THE FIFTH, YouTube plus Jammidodger, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard and other influencers collectively received the Influencer Marketing Campaign award for Best Cause Led Campaign because of how seamless and enjoyable their out-of-the-box approach to influencer marketing was. Not only did their campaign effectively up the hype for YouTube’s main event but it was also executed well through a strategy many brands have since used to win viewers: drawing audiences from a branded campaign across TikTok and pointing them toward YouTube.
To pull it off they used the divide and conquer method. First, they matched creators from TikTok and YouTube who they knew would get along well and had overlapping audiences that represent the LBGTQ+ community. Then they collaborated on what types of challenges were doable for each team given their location. For the campaign itself, they gave each team branded livestream templates, a chat moderator and an assigned day and time slot for their livestream.
Organizing all of these teams of multiple influencers was no easy feat, which is why it’s so impressive that they received an award for knocking it out of the park. Their 4 live streams collectively won over 8 million views, 9 million impressions, and $10,300 for akt, an LGBTQ+ charity.
Main takeaway: Purpose-driven campaigns are often very effective and lead to successful collaborations with those who share your brand’s values. The key to this award-winning campaign was a high-level of organization, a single and clear message and influencers with brands that already embodied the values of the campaign.
By giving the influencer partners clear directions and support each step of the way The Fifth was able to surpass their own campaign goals.
2. Schell Games x GRIN
What they did: No money, no problem. A small marketing budget for influencer campaigns doesn’t automatically equal small impact, as this example illustrates.
Schell Games recently won Best Use of Small Budget Award for influencer marketing after teaming up with Creator Management software, GRIN, to drive sales for their new virtual reality (VR) game release. The duo hired content creators to flip the script on typical gaming influencer ads. Instead of asking content creators to film a scripted spot and then using the final product for paid ad placements, they put their trust in the influencers themselves.
How? They gave away early access codes and simply asked the influencers to film themselves playing the game with one of two calls to action: buy the game or save it to a digital wishlist. Not only did they achieve a higher ROI than expected but they also came in under budget!
Why it was a hit: Fans were treated to a product demonstration by their favorite creator in a video format that was longer than an ad, fun to watch and provided honest feedback. The calls to action were also intuitive and straightforward, making it easy for those who wanted more to get to the next step of the buying process.
Source: Nathie on YouTube
Main takeaway: Equipping influencers with clear instructions, branding guidelines and materials to work with right from project kickoff ensures that even the most freeform content collabs will score high with audiences.
According to GRIN, Schell Games credits much of its success to creating a standardized partner vetting program. Tracking “creators, content and campaign data” made it possible for the video game brand to take its influencer marketing strategy to the next level.
3. HP x Gen.video
What they did: HP wanted to educate fans on the specs, features and accessibility of its Omen & Victus gaming laptops. To do so, it took what is now known as an award-winning and multi-faceted approach to influencer marketing.
The strategy was two-fold. First, the brand worked with Gen.video to find established influencers that had proven analytics in line with their goals. Their partners included:
- Judner A. @uravgconsumer
- Hardware Canucks @hardwarecanucks
- Harris H. @harrisheller
- TechMe0ut @techme0ut
- Enobong E. @booredatwork
- Colin W. @colinwasson
- Miles P. @milesabovetech
- Lindsey A. @lindseysznn
- Tim S. @qbking77
Second, it took a calculated risk on lesser known influencers who weren’t as far along their journeys but still produced professional quality content. This helped HP achieve their desired goals which were to “not only create buzz and push the products, but also test the market with new potential faces for HP,” according to Gen.video.
Why it was a hit: Using a mix of influencers with both large and small audiences builds up more excitement and gives viewers the impression that they really are in on the next big thing. In the end, those searching YouTube, Twitch or Reddit for reviews and information on the two featured HP products had plenty of different influencer-produced content to choose from.
Main takeaway: Getting (and keeping) a large group of individual creators on the same page for a shared campaign can be highly beneficial for all parties as long as content approval, management and sharing has been streamlined.
A match made in hell: Avoid these common mistakes
In general, influencer marketing is still the Wild West. And while marketers no longer have to prove that there’s value in engaging with influencers, we now know the consequences of when those partnerships go wrong. Here are just a few examples:
- Brand inconsistency. The more people that publish content about your brand, the more chances there are for your brand to be misrepresented. Even one accidental link to an outdated logo can cause issues if it features prominently in a video the influencer has already edited and uploaded.
- A brand crisis. Brands can only control so much. Every once in a while an influencer will go rogue (think Morphe and Jeffree Star), and their bad moves can rub off on affiliated brands’ reputations if the proper crisis management protocols are not in place.
- Content chaos. The need to provide custom and supporting digital assets for influencer partners, such as links, logos and more means a lot more content for brands to organize, distribute and track.
- Low ROI. Influencer campaigns require brands to dedicate time, energy and budget. If expectations or communication aren’t clear, teams run the risk of having even the most well thought out influencer marketing campaign flatline. #SadTimes
There’s no need to take any chances when you’re already taking a chance on an influencer partnership! Let’s tackle a few of the tools, systems and philosophies you need to avoid the most common mistakes so you can plan a winning influencer marketing campaign.
Mistake #1: Not sharing clear campaign details
Most marketers think they’re communicating well with influencers until it’s too late. To get ahead of this, marketers should share clear campaign details with their partners upfront using a formal document that all stakeholders have signed off on. Think of this as a creative brief, and be sure it includes information like:
- Campaign goals and objectives
- Budgets and timelines
- Project team members and their responsibilities
- Existing or in development assets that influencers can expect to receive
- Examples of what you’d like your final product to look like
Mistake #2: Failure to establish checks and balances
Quality is relative — and that’s a problem. If you want your influencer campaign to stay on brand and stand out you’ll need to have a strong review and approval process in place so that there are no surprises coming from your external collaborators.
First, start by defining what high quality means to your brand and how your partner can deliver that. Second, outline the review process ahead of time. Include a deadline, designate who will review the content and set out expectations for how and when revisions will be completed. Third, keep communication clear and simple. The goal is not for the content to be perfect (that would put far too much pressure on an individual creator) but for it to be an appropriate, high-quality representation of your brand.
Mistake #3: Too much or not enough access
Influencers need access to the right assets at the right moments, many of which may be customized for your specific partnership. Giving these social media gurus access to all your company’s content may not only overwhelm them, but it could also cause privacy, security or digital rights issues — especially if you work with multiple influencers at once.
A best-in-class digital asset management (DAM) platform can help you strike the right balance. These tools offer brands the ability to curate content for specific people or campaigns, so influencers always have access to the on-brand assets they need and none that they don’t!
Mistake #4: Not offering brand guidelines
Influencers need something to work off of when creating content on behalf of your brand. If they don’t have clear guidelines for your brand voice, look and values, they may spend their time on work that does more harm than good. This is where tools such as approved social media post templates, mission statements and style guides really come in handy!
Even if you make these tools optional, giving your partner a clear direction forward will inform their creative choices and ensure that whatever they do come up with will be effective for your goals and reflective of your true brand identity.
Mistake #5: Forgetting to think long term
In this coming year we will see an increase in brands wanting to establish and strengthen long term relationships with influencers at all levels. Building out a strong network of influencers means setting them up for success from the very beginning.
When you do work together, you’ll want that work to be enjoyable, straightforward and easy to manage. The more organized and prepared your campaign instructions and assets are, the smoother the process will be and the more likely an influencer is to want to work with your team again.
Perfect your influencer partnerships
Working with social media influencers can have a big pay off if you do it the right way. Although there is no set rulebook to follow, we know now from trial and error that setting up your influencer marketing campaigns for success means having the systems, tools and assets in place to help these ambassadors accurately represent your brand.
Up next: reach younger audiences with influencer marketing collaborations informed by our key strategies for engaging Gen Z!