We’ve been talking a lot about influencer marketing on the blog lately.

From common mistakes to tips on finding the right micro-influencer – it’s easy to wax lyrical about the idea. But what does successful influencer marketing really look like? 

To give you some proof that it can be an effective strategy for brands (and not just a buzzword) here are 11 campaigns that are undeniably great.

Andd to learn more about influencer marketing, check out Econsultancy’s subscriber reports:

Daniel Wellington

While there’s nothing particularly innovative about this example, I feel it’s worth including simply to show the scale of impact that influencers can generate.

Daniel Wellington is a watch brand that has chosen to completely bypass traditional marketing to focus on influencers. The brand pays celebrities for sponsored posts and gifts watches to lesser-known micro-influencers. In exchange, they post photos of themselves wearing the watch, accompanied by a unique money-off code for followers. 

It’s a simple formula: beautiful images of minimalistic jewellery, which serve to promote a lifestyle as well as a product. There are over 1.3m Instagram posts using the #danielwellington hashtag, with the brand’s main account amassing over 3.2m followers. Considering the brand’s beginnings as a small start-up – it’s an impressive display of the strategy's potential.

Apartments.com & Super Bowl 50

Commercials have arguably become just as much a part of the Super Bowl as the game itself – and usually a primetime slot is more than enough exposure for the brands involved. However, Apartments.com wanted to ensure that it created as much of a splash as possible for its 2016 ad, using the #movingonup campaign to capitalise on the power of the influencers and celebrities involved in it.

In the 10 days leading up the Super Bowl, campaign activity involved Lil’ Wayne (who featured in the ad alongside Jeff Goldblum) posting brand-related content to his social media following. Meanwhile, three musical influencers on YouTube created their own interpretations of ‘Movin' on Up’, introducing Apartments.com and its concept to a whole new digital audience. 

With Apartment.com’s social content generating over 8m engagements, the combination of mainstream and niche online influencers created an effective buzz in the run-up to the Super Bowl, leading to even greater impact when the commercial was broadcast.

ASOS Insiders

Instead of using sponsored posts, ecommerce giant ASOS has created sponsored accounts for individual influencers. Known as ‘ASOS insiders’ - they primarily post images of themselves on Instagram wearing ASOS clothing – using links to prompt followers to ‘buy the look’. 

The ‘Insiders’ are usually fashion, beauty, or lifestyle bloggers, meaning they already have a large and existing audience on their main accounts. This means that the people involved are able to capture more than just the product, offering style tips, behind-the-scenes insight into the brand, and general lifestyle-related content.

By encouraging influencers to build a natural and organic audience based around the brand, ASOS is able to widen its reach (and create long-term engagement) without spending money on big advertising campaigns. 

Revolve & #Revolvearoundtheworld

Influencer marketing has been at the heart of clothing retailer Revolve’s brand strategy for a few years now. Instead of using traditional fashion models for editorial-style ads, the LA-based ecommerce retailer takes top influencers on trips to exotic locations, with those involved typically documenting the entire experience on social media. 

Beauty bloggers like Fleur de Force and In the Frow have been involved with #Revolvearoundtheworld, posting images of themselves wearing Revolve clothing to their large audiences. Naturally, with 53% of women reportedly making purchases due to influencer posts, this kind of content is hugely valuable – helping to widen its reach and strengthen its image as the ultimate ‘cool girl’ brand.

As well as influencer getaways, Revolve also regularly holds parties and events for people in the industry. Most recently, it held #revolvefestival during Coachella, capitalising on the hype and interest surrounding the music festival and those that attended. 

Mercedes Benz & Loki (+Kelly Lund)

While many luxury brands want to maintain a sense of exclusivity, influencer marketing can be effective for making brands seem both accessible and desirable – particularly to younger audiences.

Mercedes Benz is a great example of how to use influencers to drive storytelling. Earlier this year, it created a 360-degree video featuring the Instagram-famous wolf dog, Loki, and his owner Kelly Lund. The video sees Kelly Lund drive a Mercedes through Crested Butte, Colorado, giving the audience a glimpse of the landscape through Loki’s eyes.

This example demonstrates that influencer marketing does not always have to follow the (rather cliché) formula of a sponsored Instagram. Sure, Loki is likely to have contributed to some of the video’s appeal, however it was this combined with innovative technology and authentic storytelling that truly drove its success.

Glossier's UGC & referral program

Cult beauty brand Glossier believes that every single customer has the power to become an influencer. So, unlike other brands that pay well-known personalities to promote a product, Glossier relies on the authentic devotion of its loyal following – some of which just so happen to have a powerful social presence.

Glossier creates buzz about product releases by sending freebies to influencers and loyal customers before they’re widely available. This encourages organic reviews, blogs, and Instagram posts – all of which contribute to hype and excitement surrounding the brand.  

In order to expand on this kind of social influence, Glossier has also created a referral program, which offers money-off incentives to people who refer the brand over Facebook or Twitter. By using its customers to create a cycle of advocacy, Glossier ensures that its dedicated fan-base continues to expand. 

BoxedWater's ReTree Project

Influencer marketing has come under fire in the past for being disingenuous or a purely sales-driven tactic. This is not always the case, however, with BoxedWater – a company that sells water in sustainable packaging – using the strategy to spur on a philanthropic campaign called the ReTree Project.

In partnership with the National Forest Foundation, Boxed Water promised to plant two new trees for every Instagram photo posted with the hashtag #Retree. In order to spread the word and highlight the cause, influencers like Julianne Hough and Alyssa Milano shared the campaign across social media.

As well as increasing visibility, support from high-profile names made the campaign appear authentic, with people getting involved due to a legitimate and personal interest in the cause rather than paid-for sponsorship. In turn, this encouraged social sharing and the campaign's organic reach.

Lagavulin & Nick Offerman's 45 minute video

While some brands use multiple influencers for mass reach, others draw on a single name in order to target a niche audience. Scotch whisky brand, Lagavulin, did just this when it released a 45-minute video starring Parks and Recreation actor, Nick Offerman.

The campaign aimed to reposition the brand as one that’s relevant to a young audience, using YouTube to reach a whole new demographic of digital natives.

The video itself put a clever spin on the phenomenon of yule log videos – which allow people to watch hours of footage of a burning yule log fire. Lagaluvin’s video involved Nick sitting by a fire, doing nothing more than occasionally moving and sipping whisky.

The video’s strangely captivating and humorous nature – alongside the cult appeal of the influencer – ensured viral success. It generated 2m views in just one week, with the brand’s YouTube channel subscribers increasing from 5.5K to 23K due to the campaign.

Got Milk?

Before social media influencers, the California Milk Processor Board capitalised on the influence of celebrities and sports stars to encourage the consumption of milk. The 'Got Milk?' campaign (which first started in 1993) mostly involved famous faces sporting a 'milk moustache' to promote the health benefits of milk and the reasons why it should be a beverage enjoyed by people of all ages. 

From Harrison Ford to Serena and Venus Williams - Got Milk? worked with people from various different industries in order to widen the product's appeal. In recent years, the brand has updated its strategy to promote milk as the perfect drink to enjoy with different types of food. However, it has not sidelined its influencer strategy entirely, instead featuring niche influencers from the food industry - such as chefs from the popular US food truck movement - in its online marketing.

In recent years, there has been a number of homages to the original 'Got Milk?' campaign. One of the most notable has been by Refuel, which aimed to educate consumers about the science behind its product, and how chocolate milk can be beneficial for recovery from exercise and injury. For its 'Got Chocolate Milk?' campaign, it worked with Hines Ward - former American footballer for the Pittsburgh Steelers - as well as a number of other sports stars to emphasise this message.

By choosing influencers that people might not expect to be associated with its product, Refuel's campaign was able to create a big impact – going on to change common brand perception and driving increased sales of the product from a new demographic. 

Nikon & the Warner Sound Festival

It’s all well and good for an influencer to mention a brand on social media, but seeing them actually use the product usually creates the most impact.

Nikon turned influencers into photographers during the Warner Sound Festival in 2013, asking attendees to document the evening with a Nikon camera and share the results with their own Facebook communities. It also asked select artists to use Nikon cameras to share content in the run up to the festival.

As well as showing the product in action, this also meant that Nikon accounted for a huge share of social mentions on the night of the event itself. #NikonWarnerSound became a top trending topic on all three nights, which was also thanks to Nikon live streaming select musical performances.

National Geographic & International Women's Day

Lastly, an influencer-driven campaign that aimed to deepen an emotional connection with consumers. On International Women’s Day 2016, National Geographic launched “Make What’s Next” – a campaign to encourage young girls to study or work in STEM (the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

The brand posted 30 images on its five Instagram accounts, with each one taken by influential wildlife photographers. The photos, which featured a number of prominent female scientists and adventures, were hugely well received – generating over 3.5m likes in total.

By capitalising on a popular event, and drawing on real-life stories, National Geographic was able to deliver an authentic and emotionally inspiring campaign. What’s more, it showed that influencer marketing does not have to be consumer-focused, proving to be an effective strategy for B2B campaigns too.

Social media is just one of the 12 stages at the Festival of Marketing in London from October 4-5. Book now.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 27 June, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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