Over the last couple of months I have shared some tips on how fashion and travel brands can work with and leverage influencers in their digital strategy, so today, I wanted to share something for all of the food and beverage brands out there. Whether your business is an ingredient, food product, restaurant, grocery store or kitchen utensil, here are 13 ways you can work with influencers to achieve your business goals.
1. Ambassador roles
For brand awareness on a large scale, attach your brand to a well-known food influencer via an ambassadorial partnership. The influencer could be a high-profile celebrity chef or public figure, or a food blogger or local spokesperson - anyone who resonates with your target market and creates hype. Ambassadorial roles take on many forms, from creating content, hosting events, using their name and image to market the brand, driving sales and raising brand awareness, so the arrangement will depend on your KPIs and budget.
For example, Whole Foods Market might engage a high-profile health and fitness influencer to be an ambassador for the brand and have them appear in TV commercials, create content for online and offline distribution, promote the brand’s core message and encourage their followers to shop at Whole Foods. In doing so, the brand receives exposure among the influencer’s community and they get to attach the supermarket to a well-known public figure that appeals to the target market.
2. Sponsored posts
A less-maintenance, yet highly effective way for food brands to work with influencers is an ongoing collaboration and sponsored post strategy. This is a groundswell approach to influencer marketing and allows you to tap into influencers across the spectrum, from top-tier, high-profile digital influencers to micro-influencers with a small but engaged following.
For this approach to work, you must to be prepared to send out a lot of samples and have budget to pay influencers to spread the word about your products.
3. Hospitality reviews
Food brands can take on many forms, including hospitality services or venues, such as bars, restaurants, cafes, pubs, coffee shops and food trucks. If your business fits this mould you can connect with influencers to review your business and share it with their community. If you are a restaurant, you will probably want to target the surrounding community, so engage local micro-influencers and invite them to enjoy a complimentary meal with friends.
The most important thing about hosting influencers when seeking reviews is, of course, to give them the best experience possible. If they want a cocktail, it’s on the house! If they want to swap and change a menu item, be patient and work with them to make it possible. If they only ordered a main, bring out a dessert at the end. Make sure all of your staff are aware they are a guest, so they can help “wow” the influencer during their visit. If they have a great experience with your business, they will be more inclined to share it with their community, and with their personal friends and family network too.
4. Product reviews
On the flip side, if your food business is a physical product, send it out to influencers and media to generate product reviews. This is a great way to launch a new product to the market as it allows influencers to create content for you and share their reviews, which will build brand awareness. Reviews are also great if you don’t have budget, as they can slot into other content, such as a round-up style post, recipe creations, a feature in editorial, coverage on social media alongside other products or inclusion in a blog post on a related topic.
5. Founder interviews
Content about the product or service isn’t the only way to tell a story and promote a brand… the founders, owners, growers and producers often have incredible stories that can provide the basis for influencer content. This can include interviews, expert and specialized tips, inspirational success stories, business insights, key lessons and personal growth commentary or even the story of how the brand came to be.
If the founders, owners, growers, producers, farmers or any other stakeholder involved in the business has an interesting or inspiring story to tell, leverage it to generate and receive influencer and media coverage.
6. Famil experience
Inspired by the approach above, take it to the next level and allow influencers to experience the brand, its origins and its point of difference with a media famil experience. Famil experiences are common in the travel industry, where travel influencers are regularly invited by travel brands, tourism boards, airlines and accommodation partners to experience a location and itinerary and share it across their platforms. In the food and beverage industry, this approach to influencer marketing can be mimicked, especially if the brand has a great story to tell about it’s origins, or how the product and produce is made.
For example, if your product is a gourmet cheese that is produced by goats in the French countryside, invite local and/or international influencers out to the farm for an overnight stay so they can experience the whole process, taste the produce and connect further with the brand. Ultimately, this will help them create better and more engaging content than if you sent them a sample of your cheese and hope they like (and share) it.
7. Sponsor a cookbook
Sponsoring a cookbook could be the next step in extending an existing ambassadorial role that is driving good results for your brand, whether that be awareness, new sales, content creation or recognition in the market. Influencers want to create content across platforms and channels and by partnering with a brand, they can share expenses, leverage exposure, establish credibility and generate publicity. In turn, the brand receives content, coverage and can tap into the influencer’s community of like-minded consumers in their target audience.
In the food and beverage space, brands could sponsor an influencer to produce a cookbook featuring products from the brand to be sold in the brand’s retail outlets and/or eCommerce platform. It’s a great way to create content about the brand or sponsored by the brand, and adds value to the community by providing recipes and meal inspiration focused on the brand's products and/or services.
For example, Nutella could engage a high-profile baking influencer to create a recipe book (digital, magazine or hardcover publication) featuring 10+ different recipes made with Nutella. The cookbook could then be distributed in all stores that sell Nutella as a freebie product (grocery and department stores) or could be sold online with commission going to both the brand and the influencer.
8. Co-create a product or range of products
While we are on the topic of co-creation, influencers can be used to co-create products and services that consumers want and need, and brands can leverage an influencer’s personality and profile to get the products to market and ultimately make conversions. This influencer marketing strategy works well in the fashion industry, where influencers and media personalities are engaged by brands to co-design a collection or product that is co-branded. The food and beverage space is also a great foundation for co-creating products, such as a healthy alternative in collaboration with a health and fitness influencer, a baby product in collaboration with a “Mommy” blogger or a range of kitchen utensils by a cooking blogger.
From a brand’s perspective, co-creation is a great way to bring new ideas to the table, leverage influencer knowledge of the target market, create hype and launch a new product, and from an influencer's perspective, it is an opportunity to work on a tangible product, showcase their skills and be a part of something big.
9. Content creation
Instead of leveraging influencers to distribute content about your brand, work with them to create content to use across your own platforms, such as social media, website, blog and other marketing materials. Content creation could be creating recipes with your product, creating video content and how-to demonstrations or food styling and photography to elevate your Instagram strategy. Use them like you would any other freelance photographer, writer, videographer, stylist or consultant.
Influencers are expert content creators with a unique skill set, so think of other ways you can leverage their skills and have them benefit your digital marketing strategy.
10. Hosting and in-store appearances
One way to further leverage an ambassadorship is to have the influencer host events and appearances so consumers can engage with the influencer and ultimately, the brand. It also helps consumers make the connection between the influencer and the brand, and establishes credibility when the partnership is a good fit.
Leveraging influencers to host an event, or make an appearance at an event, creates hype, as consumers are excited and eager to see their favorite online personalities in real life. As a result, consumers are connecting with your brand without even knowing it.
11. Influencers as amplification vehicles
Do you have big news that you want your consumers to know? Use influencers to share and amplify your own content to help it reach new audiences.
For example, if you are running a competition, get influencers to share the details with their followers. If you are sponsoring a new cooking show or celebrity chef, work with influencers to share information about the partnership and distribute your own content to get more eyeballs. No campaign is complete without distribution, so use influencers to amplify the content and help it reach more people.
For food and beverage brands in-person events are a great way to get in front of influencers and give them an opportunity to experience the brand and create content in a unique environment. If you’re a restaurant, bar, cafe or hospitality venue, invite a group of influencers and put on a night of cocktails and share platters. If your brand is a product or ingredient, create different bite-sized recipes with the product and serve them at a lavish pool-side event so influencers and consumers can see the versatility of your product.
When hosting an influencer event, make sure the lighting is good for content creation, curate a targeted guest list and create photo opportunities throughout the event.
13. Affiliate marketing
Finally, influencer affiliate marketing is a quick-win in the food and beverage industry, especially if your products can be purchased online. Affiliate marketing is when influencers earn a percentage commission on all sales attributed to their influence and/or content. Affiliate marketing is tracked via unique links which help brands understand the referral path of the conversion.
Don’t forget, these are just some ideas to get you started with influencer marketing if you are in the food and beverage industry. Of course, your strategy can be a combination of approaches, or it could be something completely different (which is great), so think creatively when it comes to your influencer collaborations.