Friday, 2 February 2018

Why Do Brands Take Influencers On Expensive PR Trips?

What a week for new beauty releases! I've seen the most insane PR packages and trips. I honestly love how fast-paced the beauty industry is moving at the moment. I spotted 4 separate 'blogger' or launch events happening yesterday across my social media feeds and they each looked their own kind of incredible.

When launching a new product or store, introducing a new face or having a rebranding, the current preference for glitzy, no-holds-barred events is a part of a trend called Experiential Marketing. It's been predicted as being 'big' for several years on digital and tech blogs but it's taken some time for brands to get used to spending their budgets in this way and so we are just starting to see something really awesome happening in the sphere of Influencers. Brands are beginning to understand that not every aspect of marketing can be measured in a quantifiable way. Experiential Marketing is about giving consumers an experience that will increase their propensity to purchase, even become an advocate for, the brand. In turn a wider audience is then exposed to positive feelings about the product. This snowball effect is extremely valuable!

At the Benefit Cosmetics #raiseabrow event last year

I was inspired to write this post after I saw quite a bit of moaning on Twitter. Two nights in a country hotel for a new cleanser?  The Maldives? For a MASCARA?  How can this possibly be beneficial for the brand and why are they splashing out thousands on a very small minority and then charging a high price for the product when us mortals have to purchase them?

Brace yourself, sensitive snowflakes.

If you are going to work in social media, expect brands to pay you for your content and ideas and promote yourself as an expert in the subject, you need to know your shit.

I'm really surprised by some of the people I've seen negatively commenting on bloggers attending events, especially when the general mood of the blogosphere finally seems to be turning in a 'support each other' kind of direction.  So I've written below some of the ways that these launches can benefit the brand in a much wider way than just promoting the individual product and how it benefits you too.

Brands have had to completely change the way that their marketing budget is allocated in the last three years. From point blank refusing to pay bloggers to signing up content creators on £100,000 contracts, things have gone from zero to hero for those of us that love to write about and photograph our lives. When I first started working in Influencer marketing, I was convincing decision-makers of the three ways that working with Influencers could help to grow their business.
  • Increasing the number of followers their brand accounts had
  • Raising general awareness of the brands existence
  • Direct sales (became a lot more relevant with the advent of Instagram Stories 'swipe-up' function)
All three of these are measurable to some extent. You can watch a brand's follower count go up when you see an influencer posting about them. Brand awareness can be measured in tags and mentions and direct sales are counted by total sales, of course. A combination of this data should help a brand target the Influencers to keep working with, the type of content that works for them and so on. This ability to use the data to hone future campaigns is a secondary benefit which works infinitely better online than it can do in print as you can test different content and users easily with A/B testing. This is where you trial something on a selection of your potential audience, and something else on another group.

At the launch for Deciem x ASOS

Each of these desired results has certain ways it can be achieved - for example, if you want to increase your follower count then running a contest that involves following that account would be an ideal way to achieve it.

So, we have all these ways of creating campaigns, mixing and matching your desired results with A/B testing of audiences and content. Brands usually have to select what they want from a campaign.

Experiential marketing does all of this and more.

But what brands really want these days is for their fans and users to be creating content for them, independently. This is the holy grail of online marketing in the current climate. Imagine you are launching a product and you've given it a kooky hashtag. If you check that hashtag daily, you want to see people tagging your product in their images. In the case of beauty brands, this is so valuable because of the possibility of using so many different products in one images. You could easily feature 15 or so brands in one picture of your made-up face and tagging with the brands individual hashtags is the first step towards getting that brand to notice you. If they notice you and your image is of a high quality, you might get shared on their page. Boom, 4 million people are looking at your photo, This can have an earth-shattering impact on your own follower count.

 If a brand seems to be sharing a lot of Influencer's content to their audience, sending out amazing PR packages and taking bloggers on holidays that most people can only dream of, it becomes aspirational to be noticed and featured by these brands. This in turn makes their products more desirable, as you aren't going to be featured on Kylie Cosmetics page wearing a knock-off dupe liquid lip. For those bloggers that don't actually take pictures of their face but create elaborate flatlays and studio set-ups - the same goes. They need to buy the product to create the content. Then their followers see them buying and recommending the product and go out and buy it too - this is where micro-influencers fit in and play their part in the campaign. Essentially, creating content on a brand's behalf in exchange for a potential feature.

This is the crux of Experiential Marketing - for the cost of hiring an aquarium for the day and giving away some of your product in mermaid packaging, you can create an experience that gets shared millions of times, something that isn't always possible to get when paying individuals to create content - although that's obviously incredibly valuable too!

One of the negatives I've seen so far is that EM is more difficult to measure. I don't know how brands are going to be analysing whether the thousands and thousands they spend on events with spaceships coming from the roof, covetable merchandise (who else wanted a Too Faced sunhat last summer?) and masterclasses added to their sales. This will be really interesting to watch and research. I'll be keeping an eye on new launch hashtags and how long it takes content to start getting created by aspiring make-up artists and micro-influencers.

The Boohoo Spring/Summer Press Day 2017

I LOVE the movement towards this type of promotion and PR. It means brands have the opportunity to really infuse their personality and their ethos into launches, making it an exciting time to work in the beauty (and fashion and lifestyle and fitness...) industries. Once the longer term effects on sales and brand awareness can be measured I believe there will develop a whole secondary industry dedicated to putting on these type of events with the most success. In the meantime, the only way anyone gets to be involved, whether it's an all-expenses paid trip to Bali or a pool party in central London, is to create amazing content - moaning about it on Twitter won't get you anywhere at all.

I hope this has given some background as to why brands are creating these experiences, I would love your comments below on amazing events you have been to and how they made you feel about a product or brand - please do leave a comment.

I'm currently available for consultation and digital content projects. You can email me on katycloudsofficial[at] or tweet on [at]katy_clouds

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