5 Examples Of Heartland Brands Using Influencer Marketing
Updated: Jan 25
Influencer marketing has reached every nook and cranny of the agency world and made its way into marketing speak alongside "authentic," "relevant," "omnichannel" and "disruption." The amount of platforms and companies built around influencer marketing have increased by more than 320 in just the last year. And over the past three years, the industry has grown from generating $1.7 billion to an estimated $6.5 billion. Like "digital marketing" used to be a thing, but is now a table stake, so is influencer marketing. It isn’t if marketers should use this effective channel, it’s how.
Leveraging Community Leaders Works
My agency has done dozens of celebrity endorsements over the years, including the partnerships between Beyonce and Verizon, Taylor Swift and Pepsi, Blake Shelton and Pizza Hut, Lady Antebellum and Lipton and secured country music stars like Dierks Bentley and Jason Aldean to support Mountain Dew. So, we know that connecting brands with influential people in specific industries, locations, markets and social media spaces is effective.
But we’ve all seen those celebrity endorsements that lacks a believable passion for the product. This lack of believability opened channels for more grass roots, microinfluencers who may not have the audience numbers the big celebs do, but the people they engage with are more apt to support what they support. This is where the microinfluencers can really make a difference in building brand relationships. A majority of Americans, 83%, are more willing to purchase a product based on word of mouth recommendation from family and friends. In our social media based culture, an influencer on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook quickly becomes like a friend or family member to many consumers, making word of mouth the most trusted source of brand advocacy. Influencers’ recommendations are received with open ears because their followers don’t believe they would endorse something they don’t believe in.
Brands Influencing the Heartland
With core values including Faith (not religion), Family, and Community, the Heartland is a place where brands should consider focusing their influencer marketing strategies. Consumers in the Heartland are especially receptive to social proof distributed through an individual they trust to a community they are proud to be a part of. Not on the influencer marketing bandwagon yet? Maybe these examples will get you there.
Naked Juice “However You Healthy” campaign
PepsiCo brand, Naked Juice, recently decided to promote the launch of its new product with 50% less sugar. Instead of focusing on the obvious health benefits of managing sugar intake, the brand put a message behind the bottle. It assembled a task force of Instagram influencers primarily consisting of health, wellness, and lifestyle bloggers to share sponsored posts. Instagram influencers ranging from Texas-based Erin Ruoff (60.3K followers) and Mom Duty blogger Rocio Ocampo (205K followers) to Kentucky-based health coach Gabby Male (101K followers) and Fab Everyday blogger Ramona Ruby (54.6K followers) have posted up with a bottle of Half Naked juice and detailed the small ways they make big health differences. Naked Juice even enlisted a heavy hitter in the social media space, John Legend, to kickoff the campaign with a video post giving it a solid launch pad. So far, the campaign has generated over 100 posts on Instagram.
Nissan TITAN Adventure campaign
It’s no secret that Nissan knows how to flex their marketing muscle to get noticed. But with its TITAN Adventure campaign, the brand didn’t just ask influencers to tell their stories, it invited them to participate in an experience. Nissan North America brought around 20 fans, influencers, and ambassadors to Wyoming and Idaho for a 4-day outdoor extravaganza. Attendees included rock climber Gabrielle Dickerson, who has more than 15K followers and fly fishing guide Maddie Brenneman, who has 111K followers. The brand conducted an off-road snow school designed to get influencers inside the TITAN truck without the expectation that they document anything. Driven by enthusiasm for the product, many of the influencers actually ended up publishing images and videos of themselves during the experience anyway. Response to the posts were icing on the cake for Nissan, who will surely mimic the event for marketing other products moving forward.
PepsiCo #Summergram campaign
For brands, summer poses a challenge. How do you stay top of mind for consumers who are vacationing, spending time with family, and enjoying time outdoors? PepsiCo got ahead of the curve and deployed its #Summergram campaign, which involves a serious social strategy. The company printed and distributed 200 bottles of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Pepsi Zero, which included QR codes that reveal Pepsi-branded AR filters for Instagram Stories. Although the launch of the campaign leaned heavily on social media behemoths, Chrissy Teigen and DJ Khaled, PepsiCo has kept the momentum going by teaming up with a variety of social media influencers in key markets and categories. If you scour the #Summergram, you’ll see that PepsiCo carefully vetted its influencers based on the overall aesthetics of their accounts and follower reach (i.e. Madison Payne and Sam Ushiro, both Texas residents, and Wisconsin-based Alexa Mae).
Buffalo Wild Wings March Madness 2019 campaign
Sports are one of the top ways to connect with Heartland consumers. Buffalo Wild Wings used the influence surrounding former college basketball players ranging from Tyler Hansbrough to Sean Singletary to increase engagement on Instagram Stories with the brand among March Madness fans from specific schools. The influencers adopted a Buffalo Wild Wings-branded snarky tone with a singular message: “why are you on Instagram instead of watching the games?” They encouraged viewers to drop the remote, step away from the couch, and head to the nearest Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar to tune into the games. The influencers’ ability to express their emotions triggered a response in the viewers, leaving a lasting impression during an event that would otherwise drown out the noise from other advertisers.
Hardees YouTube Star
The best way to ensure that your influencer marketing efforts will succeed is to put work on the front end in identifying your target audience. You want to find an influencer that will most effectively distribute your message. When Hardee’s decided to start selling its kids meals again after an 8-year hiatus, it developed a plan to reach parents. For the brand, the best way to do so was through the media their children were consuming. That led Hardee’s to YouTube star and seven-year-old Ryan, who features a variety of toys on his YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, which has more than 19 million subscribers. This action is part of a greater campaign to associate with YouTube stars who are family-friendly, a great move for the brand who wants to speak to Heartland consumers.
BONUS: Cuvee Coffee and construction guy
An honorable mention goes to a local coffee shop out of Austin, Texas who flipped the definition of an influencer on its head. Cuvee Coffee collaborated with a construction worker in the area, who allowed the company to use his likeness across social media accounts and post photos of him drinking coffee from their shop. One of the shop’s largest sources of patrons are blue collar workers who stop by for a cup of java before hitting the office or work site. What better way to reach these individuals than through a regular Joe who they might have actually run into on the street or in the grocery store? Through what the company coined as an “anti influencer influencer” campaign, @justaconstuctionguy built up a following of 535K people. His feed shows him enjoying a race at the Iowa Speedway, playing pool in an East Austin dive bar, and working on (and sometimes scooting by) various construction zones. All of these activities are aligned with the lifestyle of Heartland residents.
For brands that want to bump up their influencer marketing strategy in the Heartland, it’s important to consider who you want to reach and the message you want to share, as it will properly inform your search for the right influencer partners. Above all else, thoroughly vet potential influencers based on their values, cultural positioning, and lifestyle activities they bring to your campaign, as they are a true extension of your brand.