June 24, 2021
8 minutes to read
Opinions expressed by Contractor the contributors are theirs.
“Authenticity” would win the award for the most used word in influencer marketing today. Which means it would also cause the most eye rolls. Nevertheless, authenticity remains the key differentiator between an influencer marketing activation that resonates with an audience and one that does not. Success is imperative, although most people would have a hard time putting their finger on what a truly genuine influencer endorsement looks like.
In general terms, authenticity simply means that the influencer’s message to their audience is believable. But it’s more than just someone saying “I love this product” or even “I use this product”. Consumers are savvy enough to know that when there is money at stake, even low-cost influencers can smile and act like they love a product. They can spot a fake by browsing Instagram without ever stopping.
So what does an “authentic” influencer endorsement actually look like? I went looking and found a perfect example.
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Q Mixers is a brand of spirits accessories, if you will. Its range of soft drinks, usually canned, complete a cocktail. Think club soda, tonic water, ginger ale, ginger beer. Most of its competitors market themselves individually, while Q Mixers – even by name – says they are more interested in pairing with whiskey, rum, vodka, gin or tequila.
“As a small brand, our goal is to build awareness and trials,” says Catherine Vodola, executive vice president of marketing for Q Mixers. “People spend a ton of time selecting amazing spirits, but don’t realize that when the majority of your drink is a blender, the quality of that blender matters. “
The brand claims that by using natural ingredients, perfect carbonation and making their drinks less sweet, they allow the “subtleties of great spirits to shine through.”
Vodola knew that influencer engagements were important to the brand because they provide instant expert recommendations. “We need advocates to help tell this story,” she says. “To elicit an ‘a-ha! “”
The influencer (s)
Patrick Janelle started his professional life as a graphic designer, but Instagram propelled him into the influencer stratosphere in the mid-2010s. Self-created images from his travel and New York life include beautiful interiors and architectures, eye-catching personal fashion ideas and a glimpse into the lifestyle of a trend designer. This trend has helped him reach nearly half a million @aguynamedpatrick subscribers.
As Janelle’s popularity grew, so did his awareness that influencers like him needed help. In January 2020, he founded Untitled Secret, a management company that represents content creators. One of his clients happens to be Elliott Clark, also known as The Apartment Bartender, a cocktail maker with a pretty engaged following of over 74,000 Instagram followers.
Q Mixers approached Janelle about a partnership. Untitled Secret chief executive Mauricio Abascal says the original concept was born by chance last fall amid Covid’s relaxed restrictions.
“Initially, Patrick was going to be in LA for work and Elliott was going to be in San Diego for a shoot,” he recalls. “We figured they would meet in person to shoot an interview style, co-hosted and socially distanced video tutorial for Q Mixers.”
Sadly, a new wave of infections late last year derailed their travel plans, so the conversation shifted to what could replace a face-to-face conversation.
Eventually, someone pitched the idea of filming the two influencers having a virtual meeting from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, rather than the apartment, brady heap Zoom boredom grid. “We’re all pretty collaborative, so it’s hard for me to remember who exactly had which idea,” admits Abascal. “But we figured that recording their Zoom interaction and shooting it from an outsider’s point of view would allow for a more dynamic, almost cinematic edit of an otherwise straightforward social media video.”
Janelle adds, “So this was really a conversation about what it looks like?” What are we talking about?”
The most important part of the plan, according to Janelle, was thinking about how to deliver interesting and engaging content that also incorporates the product and the brand in a meaningful and thoughtful way.
“At the end of the day, what they really wanted to showcase was the versatility of the product in the home,” says Clark. “We wanted to bring something a little more interactive, where it’s more about the conversations that take place about the product rather than the strictly product. “
The execution was perfect. The two are friends and share a mutual love for cocktails. They hopped on a Zoom call to make up for it before the holidays. The video was posted on December 21, 2020.
In the clip, Janelle asks her expert friend what makes a great cocktail. Clark’s answer is quality ingredients. The list includes the type of mixer you are using. The B-roll is based on the photos of Q Mixer products.
The conversation then turns to holiday cocktail ideas and Janelle asks what Clark is drinking. A list of ingredients includes Q Mixers Grapefruit. Janelle then delves into the ingredients of Q Mixers as a reason to love the brand. Queue talking points.
Clark then asks what Janelle is drinking. His Dark & Stormy features ginger beer, another Q Mixer flavor. Then the joke turns to Janelle’s favorite place to travel and is often asked if Clark is single or not. (It is.)
You can tell that the two have a real relationship. The brand is showcased and talking points made, but not in an overly arrogant manner. You can watch the video under two minutes and walk away with information or entertainment value without feeling like you’re receiving a marketing slogan.
Before your brain jumps to the question of ROI or how many boxes of blenders this Instagram video sells, let’s get back to the customer’s goal: to market and test Q blenders. “We’re not a brand that is aimed directly at consumers, so we cannot follow (sales) directly, ”explains VP Marketing Vodola. “We use the traditional methods of reach, engagement rate and sweep. We also indirectly follow the growth of subscribers.
Another way for brands to measure awareness is social listening. If an influencer (or two) is talking about your brand on social media, you’d think the ensuing conversation would generate an online buzz around your product or service. According to data from the social listening platform Talkwalker, the highlight of online conversation on Q Mixers over the past two years? The week of Janelle and Clark’s conversation post.
“When you find the right person, that person gets your point across effortlessly and with great authenticity and authority,” says Vodola. “Patrick and Elliott are both very nice and great people, but they have real passion and authority in the beverage business. They fully understand why Q Mixers is a better mixer and why it matters. And they tell this story well.
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It’s important to note that influencer marketing success is best defined as long-term gain for the brand and the content creator. Clark has discussed and promoted the collaboration on his Instagram Stories to support Janelle’s content placement, but this example is a one-off video post. Q Mixer worked with Janelle and Clark over time to reinforce the message and add frequency to the reach provided by the two.
The content here was also guided by a creative concept formulated by two influencers, a talent management firm, and the brand’s marketing and PR teams all working collaboratively. The production was much more elaborate than a simple phone and a selfie stick. Janelle and Clark both use professional videographers and photographers to produce their content.
“It was a good job,” confirms Janelle. “We had to be creative with the way we executed and make sure the brand was completely happy with the end result. “
They were, and the brand was, but it came together because the influencer content was treated as high quality creative execution. Q Mixers didn’t undervalue either of the two content creators by simply praising their reach. They’ve invested in the creative direction and production value that each provides.
It came together because the concept was right: Bring two friends together to have a real conversation that includes the brand, arm them with talking points the brand hopes to convey, and let them present it in a way the audience sees it. will notice without skepticism or frowning.
It came together because it was genuine. At the mark. To influencers. And to their audience.