Biggest Mistakes Brands Make With Influencer Marketing, And What To Do Instead

Originally published on ION.

(Editor’s note: AList is published by a.network. To get up to speed on the rapid changes affecting the influencer marketing landscape, click here.)

As influencer marketing investment is expected to reach $10 billion by 2021, better data and campaign measurement are critical to hitting the nail on the head with influencer activations. And while marketers’ confidence in influencer marketing is growing, brands still have some lessons to learn in terms of what not to do if they’re to achieve full return on investment. 

We spoke with Mike Heller, the CEO of Talent Resources, about the mistakes brands make with influencer marketing, and what to do instead. Keep reading for Heller’s tips on growing influencer marketing campaign success.

How are marketers missing the mark in terms of driving ROI on influencer campaigns?

Aligning influencers with a brand by audience and true social interest. Where influencer marketers are missing the mark in terms of driving ROI most often stems from not properly putting data tools to use when pairing an influencer with a brand or product. The most successful influencer and brand partnerships use data to inform campaigns. If you’re not measuring the outcomes of your influencer campaigns to optimize for the next, you’ll be missing your own mark as well as the opportunity to improve ROI.

What’s one thing marketers are doing wrong with influencer marketing on Instagram/Stories and Snapchat, respectively? And what should they be doing instead?

Stories on Instagram and Snapchat stories are each steps behind in the customer journey on Instagram. Utilizing these tools can seem like a space to run transient partnered content, but you should use Story frames to pre-qualify followers for the end call to action (CTA). Make sure your influencer is methodically walking their followers through story frames while providing context to the final sell, which will keep interest high toward conversion.

In terms of measuring success of influencer-led campaigns, what are marketers having the most difficulty with?

Measuring conversions are one thing, the challenge comes when it’s time to measure retention, both in the short term and more specifically in the longer term. Common question: How can you attribute new fans to past influencer marketing campaigns?

Given its nascence, TikTok influencer marketing is uncharted territory for some brands. What do marketers have to know before spending influencer marketing budget on TikTok activations?

Know that if you’re leaping into TikTok, a sizable budget will at best help complement any brand awareness initiatives. Conversions and true measurements of success with engaging TikTok influencers are still to be seen, despite interest from brands in engaging in what may be a fad.

Influencer marketing on YouTube can be daunting for some marketers given the lack of a centralized influencer marketplace on the platform. What advice would you give to marketers who are reluctant to get on board with YouTube?

Brands looking to convey a message or promote a product and have it linger in consumers’ minds would be wise to test the YouTube waters. On the Google-owned video platform, influencers have more time to genuinely connect with consumers and actually have their messages be heard, differing from Instagram, where just 60 percent of stories are viewed with the sound on. 

Marketers should consider two popular types of influencer activations, Direct Response (DR) and Brand Awareness. Campaigns are generally a mix of the two. It’s a right of passage for many YouTubers to start producing direct response campaigns. YouTube makes these campaigns especially easy due to the handy inclusion of the “Link in Description.” Creators can ask their audience to click on the link to achieve the brand’s conversion goal. These DR campaigns can be placed further up the marketing funnel when used to generate leads or newsletter sign-ups. They can also be the bottom of the funnel when the influencer specifically asks the viewer to buy the sponsor’s product/service. 

Brand awareness campaigns get new fans to enter the top of your funnel, a great entry as fans have a personal connection with their favorite creators. Aside from the influencer being required to disclose the sponsorship, the creator’s brand awareness ad can feel more like one friend recommending something to another.

Which platform or channel has the steepest learning curve for influencer marketing today?

Inherently, a new platform with new functions such as TikTok would present the steepest learning curve both for influencer marketing and users alike. Being said, just because influencer marketing has been a practice through Instagram for some time already doesn’t mean the learning curve has flattened out. Instagram as a platform changes so frequently that there’s always a learning curve with influencer marketing, that’s what makes the landscape on one platform alone so exciting.

Where’s the most growth potential for influencer marketing?

As far as platforms, Instagram remains the space with the most potential for growth of influencer marketing. Regarding growth for ongoing campaign success, the opportunity is with the agencies who are focused on data-informed decisions and use a minimum of two software partners to do so. 

We may have come to find the best influencer marketing strategies on Instagram for today, but influencer marketing on Instagram will only grow greater and greater in new solutions. The next frontier of growth for potential influencer marketing won’t necessarily be a direct pivot to a new platform as much as it will be enhanced campaigning, more sophisticated based on data that’s increasingly becoming available through our own technology and previous influencer marketing efforts.

McDonald’s New Online Pop-Up Store Will Sell Merch Year-Round

McDonald’s launched its first-ever online pop-up shop, giving its US fans year-round access to exclusive apparel and accessories that aren’t available anywhere else. The quick-service restaurant prides itself on having partnered with multiple fashion brands and retailers to create branded merchandise since the 1980s.

At “Golden Arches Unlimited,” fans can shop more than 20 casual apparel and accessories items, including a Big Mac sandwich bag, McDonald’s hair ties, Golden Arches stainless steel tumbler and “World Famous Fries Lounge Set.” A sesame seed PopSocket, Happy Meal ornament and ugly Christmas sweater are among the items in the pop-up’s winter collection. 

McDonald’s says that while debut collection supplies may sell out, it plans to restock and drop new merchandise on a regular basis.

Colin Mitchell, who assumed the role of senior vice president of global marketing earlier this year, said that the brand has been ingrained in the fabric of culture for years and that McDonald’s is excited to help its customers wear their love for the brand on their sleeves.

In 2017, KFC opened a limited-edition online merch shop stocked with Colonel Sanders-inspired shirts, enamel pins, framed artwork and a 400-year-old meteorite that sold for $20,000.

Last month, Dunkin’ also launched its first online pop-up store with limited-edition apparel and accessories like fanny packs, one-piece pajamas and a custom electric guitar. Dunkin’ recently partnered with home fragrance and lifestyle brand Homesick to launch three limited-edition candles inspired by the brand’s coffee blends and donuts.

Though selling merch is nothing new to the QSR category, selling branded items year-round could help McDonald’s maintain a competitive marketing advantage during busy seasons.

Verizon, Serena Williams Launch Shoppable Video Series For Athlete’s New Line

Verizon Media and Serena Williams recently launched a shoppable video series on Yahoo’s new commerce platform, Yahoo Shopping, featuring the tennis champion’s “S by Serena” clothing collection. The short-form digital series was created to empower viewers to embrace size inclusivity, the line’s key selling point.

The digital series, powered by Verizon Media’s new shoppable video format, will take viewers on an immersive journey, with clickable content that allows for seamless purchasing. In the first episode, “Everybody, Every Body,” Williams gives fans a look at her favorite seasonal pieces from her autumn/winter 2020 collection including tips on how to style them. Additional episodes will air through February 2020.

In July, the fashion entrepreneur debuted a red twist front dress that sold out in nearly all sizes.

The partnership marks Verizon Media’s effort to build upon its commerce strategy. This fall, Verizon Media launched Yahoo Shopping, which powers commerce across the company’s brands and curates and price tracks deals for shoppers. A suite of capabilities including shoppable content videos and different ad formats through augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and cross reality (XR) have also been added to its lineup.

In July, Google debuted a new shopping platform for US users, giving them access to tailored suggestions and a “Buy with Google Guarantee” that promises a refund if the recommended retailer fails to deliver on time.

In April, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicted that brands are expected to increase spend by over 25 percent to $18 million on digital video this year. Comparatively, advertisers spent $14.2 million on digital video advertising, up from $12.2 million in 2017. The data also found that direct to consumer brands expect to allocate more than half of their digital spend on digital video advertising, a 50 percent YoY increase. 

Imgur Launches Gaming Content App Rivaling Twitch Clips

This week in social, Imgur launched an app that allows gamers to build up their audience, Instagram enforced a 13-and-over rule for new users, Reddit reported strong year in review performance and TikTok surpassed 1.5 billion downloads.


Imgur Launches Gaming Content App Rivaling Twitch Clips

According to The Verge, Imgur’s new app Melee lets players flaunt their best gaming moments as well as share favorite clips with other users. 

Why it matters: Imgur said that Melee was formed to give players a chance to build up their audience, something that is much more difficult to accomplish on Twitch without an already-established presence.

The details: Melee contains sections dedicated to different games and uses. For example, there’s a Fortnite group, a FIFA group and sections where YouTuber influencers and Twitch streamers can share their clips. Imgur users also have the ability to like, comment and share clips within Melee. 


Instagram Now Requires Date Of Birth When Creating An Account

In a company post, Instagram said it wants to enable more age-appropriate experiences overall by asking for users’ date of birth.

Why it matters: According to TechCrunch, Instagram has played dumb about users’ ages to avoid a $40,000 fine per violation of the Child Online Privacy Protection Act. Despite Instagram’s new age checkup, it still won’t be asking existing users for their age.

The details: Before today’s update, anyone could create an Instagram account regardless of their age. Now, Instagram says users must be at least 13 years old to have an account in most countries. Birthdays will remain private information, viewable only within your own account. Instagram says it has plans to use the birthday information to create tailored experiences such as education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young users. The post also detailed Instagram’s latest efforts to strengthen messaging privacy—users can control who can send them direct messages and who adds them to group threads.


Reddit Sees 30 Percent YoY Increase In Monthly Active Users

The company released its key performance stats as part of its year in review. 

Why it matters: Back in September, Reddit announced new video ad options and a new mobile landing page. Though the platform has work to do in terms of improving revenue potential, brands shouldn’t overlook marketing opportunities on Reddit. 

The details: In April 2018, Reddit had 330 million monthly active users (MAU). That figure skyrocketed to 430 million MAU, which means Reddit has more users than Twitter (330 million as of April 2019) and Pinterest (322 million). Reddit also saw growth in its engagement, as monthly comments grew 37 percent YoY and monthly view count jumped 53 percent YoY. Increases in subscribers in the top 50 beauty, style and food communities indicates that Reddit’s community is diversifying. 


TikTok Exceeds 1.5 Billion Downloads

According to data from Sensor Tower, as of November 2019, TikTok has surpassed 1.5 billion downloads across the App Store and Google Play.

Why it matters: Though TikTok has grown exponentially, the platform is still uncharted territory for most brands.

The details: In addition to becoming the third most-downloaded non-gaming app globally, TikTok has passed $175 million in user spend over its lifetime, with 48 percent of all revenue made in China.


Facebook Provides More Transparency On Limiting Discriminatory Audience Targeting

Facebook has added two new measures to help prevent discrimination in ads for housing, employment or credit opportunities.  

Why it matters: The new measures are a result of a lawsuit the National Fair Housing Alliance, American Civil Liberties Union and the Communication Workers of America filed against Facebook saying that the platform needs to build stronger protections against abuse. Still, Facebook’s algorithm-based system means that audience bias can still exist. 

The details: Facebook has added the new ad restrictions to Ads Manager, Instagram Promote and Facebook Marketing API. Though the restrictions were employed in August, they were only fully enforced when the ads were purchased via Ads Manager, until now. The measures apply to advertisers based in the US, or those trying to reach US audiences.


TikTok Updates Age Restriction Policy On Virtual Gifting

The platform updated its policy to allow only those ages 18 and over to purchase, send or receive virtual gifts during live streams.

Why it matters: TikTok’s effort to prevent misuse of virtual gifts comes after a BBC probe revealed how children and teenagers were being pressured to buy virtual gifts for TikTok influencers. 

The details: Users can send virtual gifts to TikTok creators during a live steam. Before today, anyone older than 13 was allowed to send virtual gifts on TikTok, and anyone over 16 could receive them. Now TikTok has bumped up the age to 18 and over for anyone looking to purchase, send or receive a virtual gift. 


WeChat’s Brand Value Grew 1,540 Percent, Ranking Finds

According to Mobile Marketer, the value of the Tencent-run messaging service grew to $50.7 billion over the past five years.

Why it matters: WeChat’s success reflects the messaging app’s dominance in China, where it provides its massive audience of smartphone users with a lifestyle hub. The all-encompassing app lets other companies develop micro-programs that work inside the main app, which allows expanded features such as multimedia messaging, making payments, gaming, ride-hailing and travel booking.

The details: WeChat’s massive increase in brand value makes it the fastest growth among 100 global brands. In terms of dollars, Amazon saw the greatest brand value growth, which reached 187.9 billion. Together, China and the US had 39 of the world’s fastest-growing brands.


Twitter Uses Twttr Prototype App To Test New Conversation Features

According to TechCrunch, the features tested on twttr have now been spotted on Twitter.

Why it matters: With Twitter’s potential use of threaded conversation replies, it seems the platform is following in Reddit’s footsteps. Twttr also labels the person who started the conversation with a little microphone icon, similar to Reddit.

The details: Twitter launched twttr to experiment with changes to the Twitter user interface and gain feedback before officially rolling out changes to Twitter’s main user base. Now some of those features will be making their way to the Twitter app next year, including a Reddit-like conversation tree which helps keep track of a conversation’s flow. 


Twitter Pauses Purge Until It Can Memorialize Accounts Of The Deceased

Before proceeding with its plan to delete dormant accounts, Twitter is developing a way to memorialize the accounts of deceased users.

Why it matters: The announced purge would’ve initially only impacted accounts in the EU due to local privacy regulations, Twitter said. The platform didn’t specify when it would have a plan to memorialized accounts of the deceased, but until then, it can look to Facebook, who already has a feature for memorializing accounts. 

The details: Twitter received messages from many users regarding its plan to purge and the company reacted swiftly, ultimately making the decision to wait. However, the platform says its current inactive account policy has always been in place, but that it hasn’t been diligent about enforcing it.


Editor’s Note: Our weekly social media news post is updated daily. This installment will be updated until Friday, December 6. Have a news tip? We’re looking for changes to and news surrounding social media platforms as they relate to marketing. Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.

Lemonade Insurance Names Its First CMO

This week in marketing moves, Trulieve Cannabis Corp. hires Valda Coryat as chief marketing officer, Unilever hires a chief digital and marketing officer, David’s Bridal appoints VP of marketing and communications and Jeff Brooks joins Lemonade as the company’s first marketing chief.


Jeff Brooks Named CMO At Lemonade

Lemonade tapped Jeff Brooks as the insurance startup’s first chief marketing officer. 

Brooks joins Lemonade from direct-to-consumer (DTC) mattress brand Casper, where he served as CMO since 2018. He also worked as president and CMO at digital marketing agency Huge and was a CEO and chief digital officer at advertising and public relations company Havas.

At Lemonade, he will be tasked with overseeing all marketing initiatives.


David’s Bridal Promotes Vice President Of Marketing

Callie Canfield was promoted to VP of marketing and communications at David’s Bridal. 

In the newly created role, Canfield will oversee the strategy, planning and implementation of the bridal brand’s global marketing and communication efforts. She will report to the recently hired CMO, Kelly Cook. 

“Callie is a proven leader with a true passion for the brand and our customer. I’m so excited to have her support in driving the brand and messaging across our entire marketing ecosystem,” Cook said.


Conny Braams Promoted To Chief Digital And Marketing Officer At Unilever

After Keith Weed left the post earlier this year, the company decided to evolve the role of CMO and this week announced the promotion of Conny Braams, formerly an EVP of Unilever Middle Europe to chief digital and marketing officer.  

Unilever CEO Alan Jope told CNBC that Braams will be in charge of turning Unilever into a “future-fit, fully digitized organization at the leading edge of consumer marketing.”


Centric Brands Inc. Welcomes Pamela Gill Alabaster As CMO

Lifestyle brands collective, Centric Brands Inc. hired Pamela Gill Alabaster as chief marketing officer. 

Alabaster has extensive experience in lifestyle marketing, as she previously held executive marketing roles at Revlon, The Estée Lauder Companies, L’Oréal and Philip Morris. 

At Centric Brands, Alabaster will be in charge of corporate marketing and communications functions. She will report to Jason Rabin, Centric Brands CEO. 

“As we establish awareness of Centric Brands as an innovative industry leader with an unparalleled portfolio of iconic, admired apparel and accessories brands, recognized for its exceptional know-how in creative design, product development and marketing, we are delighted to have Pam on board to lead our strategic marketing and communications initiatives,” Rabin said. 


Lisa Kauffman Joins Starboard Cruise Services As Senior VP And CMO

Starboard Cruise Services appointed Lisa Kauffman the company’s SVP and marketing chief. 

Kauffman will be tasked with leading the planning, development and execution of strategic initiatives for Starboard. She will report directly to Starboard’s President and CEO Lisa Bauer. 

Bauer said about Kauffman’s appointment: “Lisa’s unique combination of extensive retail and cruise experience will be a tremendous asset to Starboard’s continued growth. She is a proven innovator who will leverage her expertise to create meaningful retail guest experiences for our cruise line and brand partners.”


Trulieve Cannabis Corp. Welcomes New CMO 

The cannabis company today announced the appointment of Valda Coryat to the role of CMO, effective immediately. 

In her new role, Coryat will be tasked with leading strategic marketing, product branding initiatives and digital awareness campaigns on a national level for Trulieve Cannabis. She joins Trulieve from National Mango Board, where she served as director of marketing. Prior to that, Coryat held executive marketing positions at Colgate-Palmolive, Avon and Heineken.

“Valda Coryat is a highly experienced, marketing leader with a proven track record of building global CPG brands. We are very excited to have Valda join the Trulieve team at this critical point of our national expansion,” said Trulieve’s CFO Kim Rivers.


Editor’s Note: Our weekly careers post is updated daily. This installment is updated until Friday, December 6. Have a new hire tip? We’re looking for senior executive role changes in marketing and media. Let us know at editorial@alistdaily.com.


Job Vacancies 

Vice President, Global MarketingShiseido Americas CorporationNew York, NY
Vice President, MarketingThe Walt Disney StudiosBurbank, CA
Chief Communications And Marketing OfficerUC San DiegoSan Diego, CA
Senior Vice President Of MarketingClear Channel OutdoorNew York, NY
SVP–Creative MarketingWalt Disney TelevisionBurbank, CA
Vice President, Marketing StrategyParamount PicturesHollywood, CA

Make sure to check back for updates on our Careers page.

Pandora’s Mobile App, Brand Identity Get A Makeover

As part of a comprehensive update, Pandora revamped its mobile experience with a focus on enhanced discovery, better personalization and more on-demand music and podcasts. The redesigned mobile experience is now available to users across all tiers of service, including free/ad-supported, Pandora Plus and Pandora Premium. This follows the streaming service introducing the enhanced experience to select users in October.

Pandora is also launching a multichannel national campaign featuring the brand’s new visual identity via television, out-of-home (OOH) and digital as well as large-scale experiential events.

Pandora’s new mobile experience gives users access to an updated discovery feed that serves custom-curated music and podcast recommendations to each user throughout the day. Additionally, the company introduced a station customization feature called “Pandora Modes,” which grants users more control over the kinds of songs played on their stations. Lastly, the app’s simplified navigation interface allows for better user experience. 

Examples of new content that users can look forward to include an exclusive custom playlist from LeBron James, a comprehensive year in review of a user’s playlist and a playlist with the most thumbed up songs from 2010-2019.

Pandora will unveil interactive street murals in key markets and is set to host a live-streamed concert with Halsey, a massive silent disco in New York’s Times Square. Pandora says more immersive experiences with top-tier artists are in the works across the US.

OOH ads for Pandora’s campaign incorporate cheeky copy that tells listeners to, “Play exactly what song you want (for real),” and “You look nothing like you did 10 years ago (yeah, us too).” Old and new images and songs from artists like H.E.R. drive the brand’s fresh points home. The campaign’s television spots, which include songs by Normani and Tones and I, also display another new tagline, “The All-New Pandora: Be You. We’ll Be Your Music.”

In March, eMarketer reported that Pandora will have 72.4 million US listeners this year. With the growth of smart speakers and mobile devices, however, Spotify is expected to surpass Pandora in terms of users by 2021, one year sooner than eMarketer predicted last year. By 2021, it’s predicted that Spotify will have 73.7 million users.

Four Billion Views On TikTok And More With CMO Of EOS Products Soyoung Kang

During this episode of “Marketing Today,” I interview Soyoung Kang, the chief marketing officer at EOS Products. Kang brings a unique perspective and expertise in strategy and brand development that bridges product, retail and innovation.

Kang shares her career journey, which started with a bachelor’s degree in architecture from MIT. She then transitioned from consulting at Boston Consulting to vice president at Bath & Body Works, leading to her current role at EOS. 

Since joining EOS, Kang’s launched a reboot of the core brand, including the creative identity, strategic vision, product pipeline, messaging strategy and content. Her team debuted a new campaign called “Make It Awesome” and unveiled the EOS flavor lab. When asked about the biggest challenge of driving so much change so quickly, Kang said, “the toughest part was flying the plane while we were building it.”

Highlights from this week’s “Marketing Today”:

  • Soyoung’s fascination with architecture: “It’s a personal passion of mine, and it fuels how I like to think about what I bring to my day-to-day.” (01:40) 
  • A “little detour” for the Fulbright Fellowship. (04:03)   
  • Recruited into consulting: “They have a way of thinking that consulting firms see as a strategic potential and a way of breaking down problem-solving.” (05:03)  
  • Soyoung’s adventure into marketing via strategy. (06:02) 
  • Shifting into a “head of the brand” role. (08:05) 
  • “If I consider the first 10 years of my career as learning how to be a strategic thinker, the next 10 years of my career focused on understanding how to create brand stories.” (08:58)
  • Soyoung’s current role as CMO at EOS: “After leaving Bath & Body Works, I wanted to take on something that was different in scale.” (09:46) 
  • The unique offering of the EOS brand. (10:40)   
  • Deciding what to tackle as the first CMO for a company. (11:44)  
  • The “first four weeks” strategy: understanding the consumer. (14:35)    
  • The importance of describing your core consumer. (18:19) 
  • Key strategies and “edit points” on messaging through social media. (19:37)  
  • Micro-batch: a unique, new commercial platform. (20:40)
  • The approach of the EOS “Make It Awesome” brand campaign. (23:26)  
  • The amazing success of EOS brand’s first-ever “Tik Tok” campaign. (24:39)
  • Advice for marketers working with Influencers. (28:50) 
  • A great example of the importance of a speed-to-market strategy: the EOS #flavorlab. (29:32)
  • Starting a new role with tons of change: “The toughest part of it was flying the plane while we were building it.” (33:02)
  • The immigrant experience: the most defining experience in Soyoung’s past that is the foundation of who she is today. (34:42) 
  • Advice to your younger self, if starting over. “There are a lot of ways to get to the ultimate goal.” (37:06)

Alan B. Hart is the creator and host of “Marketing Today with Alan Hart,” a weekly podcast where he interviews leading global marketing professionals and business leaders. Alan advises leading executives and marketing teams on opportunities around brand, customer experience, innovation and growth. He has consulted with Fortune 100 companies, but he is an entrepreneur at his core, having founded or served as an executive for nine startups.

How The Beard Club Is Fostering Growth Beyond The Follicle

Winter is near, which means guys are trading in their blankets for beards and swapping shaving cream for beard oil. In the U.S. alone, 49 million men wear facial hair. And to keep their beards in dapper shape, these follically adventurous men are flocking to The Beard Club, a grooming subscription service created in 2015 by a group of facial hair aficionados. With the motto “Don’t Grow It Alone—” and on their way to a million subscribers—The Beard Club underwent a makeover in October, expanding its reach beyond bearded men to those who are curious about growing facial hair. The Beard Club’s goal is to foster growth beyond the follicle, cultivating a community of other fellow beard devotees. 

With the millions of beards currently being grown in America, it may not come as a surprise that women aren’t the only consumers comfortable with the commitment tied to a subscription. Guys see the value in receiving products on a recurring basis too, according to McKinsey & Company, who found that men are more likely than women to have three or more active subscriptions.

At the helm of The Beard Club is chief marketing officer Peter Dille, who held previous roles as marketing vice president at littleBits, CMO of Tapjoy and senior vice president of marketing at PlayStation Network. Alist spoke with Dille, who joined The Beard Club in February of last year, on the challenges a niche subscription service faces and how the company’s recent rebranding and forthcoming gift subscription will keep beardos—and the folks who love them—coming back for more.

Tell us about The Beard Club’s No Shave November efforts and how the company is measuring the success of that initiative.

There are 49 million men in America alone who have a beard. You really can’t walk down the street or go to a restaurant or go anywhere, frankly, without seeing one. It’s just such a part of the culture today. No Shave November is this one time of year when everybody gets on board to sport a beard.

When I joined The Beard Club, just last February, and I started telling my friends about it, a lot of them were like, “Hey, are you going to work with No Shave November?” And it just seemed like the obvious next step, and I have to agree with them. We now have a special promotional code, No Shave November, that when you use you’ll receive an additional 10 percent off. We’re happy to share some of the proceeds with the friends at No Shave November who are doing great work to raise funds for cancer prevention.

How do you think the subscription industry overall is performing or has evolved to what it is today?

I read about a new company popping up every day in particular with some of these direct-to-consumer brands. Amazon changed the world and consumers’ comfort with shopping from home, avoiding going to a brick-and-mortar retail and the notion of having a subscription offering. That said, I think you have to be a little bit cautious. There are products that we can all agree that we love, but are you committed to wanting to subscribe to them month-in and month-out, and for all the different things that you have interest in? 

Not everything makes sense for a subscription. Grooming is a perfect example because whether you’re a male or a female, you’re spending time grooming each day. For some, they’re curious about a beard, but for a lot of guys, they don’t know what to do with them. The hair comes out of their face, but then you have to tend to it. Some guys actually have difficulty with growing their beards, and our growth product is going to help with that. Even the guys who have an existing beard, they’re not quite sure what look to go with. Our whole business isn’t just about selling the product each month, it’s about that unfiltered approach to give them access to articles, videos and a blog that show them different beard styles, how to use a growth oil versus a beard spray or a wax. There’s this approach to have folks learn from others in the community as well, and that’s where some of the power of the club comes into effect.

“For a lot of guys, they don’t know what to do with [a beard.] The hair comes out of their face, but then you have to tend to it.”

One of the things that we’ve talked about in the company to combat subscription challenges is: what about gift-givers? The feedback that I got from some of the folks on the team regarding the challenge with that is that, say you want to give a gift to a significant other, your brother or your dad, you’re basically giving them something that they have to continue to get the value out of it. And then they take on the ownership of that subscription. 

We’ll have a couple different offerings with different price points: small, medium and large. We want to make sure we get people who just want the subscription for a small taste, so there’s less friction there. And if someone wanted to spend a hundred bucks or more, we have gifts for them as well. We’re rolling that out in the next couple of weeks. I think it’s going to be a nice way to drive additional subscriptions while also help us tap into a brand new market by marketing the product to females and other gift-givers.

How does a niche subscription service like The Beard Club acquire customers?

There are several different parts to it, but largely there’s a build off of Facebook, YouTube and performance marketing. The YouTube videos were wildly successful. The company started in 2015, and we kind of mimicked those of the Dollar Shave Club. But then we’re really just getting the word out there via digital advertising and the same dynamics around that marketing funnel where you’re paying for clicks, getting folks into your funnel and then re-engaging them with content. Content is a big part of the strategy and so is convincing people to subscribe and try it out. So those parts of the marketing machine really haven’t changed in terms of the tactics we’re using. 

The company was very successful when they launched, but they were kind of one-dimensional. They were appealing to a certain type of guy with a certain type of beard. A lot of them were these amazing beards that were almost intimidating, very masculine brand positioning, which is fine for some guys, but was not really all that inclusive. Like I said earlier, there are 49 million men in America and not all of them have that type of beard, so we want to make sure the brand can speak to every guy who wants to grow a beard, not just a certain slice. And that included different beard styles, but it also meant different ethnicities that we weren’t really talking to. So I think we’re trying to open that up. The new website and content we’re creating reflect that.

What is your take on some of the marketing challenges the subscription industry faces? 

When you talk about subscription and challenges, obviously the first thing that most people talk about is churn. And for obvious reasons, it affects our lifetime value and affects everything that we do. If we can keep folks engaged in the brand longer, then that’s obviously going to have a huge impact on our bottom line.

I think the thing that’s a little bit different about growing beards versus shaving is if you’re someone who is committed to being clean-shaven, you need a razor every single day of your life. The thing about guys with beards is sometimes they experiment with different styles, they may grow a beard on vacation, they may want to shave it off or even grow it seasonally, because it’s colder out. When they shave it, it doesn’t mean they’re no longer interested in beards and are gone forever. 

“Grooming is a perfect example [for a subscription], because whether you’re a male or a female, you’re spending time grooming each day.”

When I just got to the company, we commissioned some research to understand our customers and I found this really interesting paradox that was going on. Our customers were showing high brand loyalty, 90 percent or more, but when looking at our churn rates, they weren’t where we wanted them to be—after X number of months, they were signing off.  Or at least that’s what we thought. In their minds, they weren’t really churning.

What they were doing was reflecting a shortcoming on our website, because the website didn’t offer the ability to pause your account. What happens sometimes is if you have enough beard oil because you didn’t use it all last month or you decided to shave it all off, but you’re going to re-grow your beard next month, there’s a desire to pause your account. From their perspective, they were still displaying this brand loyalty through the survey, but their behavior showed that they wanted to put their account on hold, and we weren’t allowing them to do that. 

It became a straightforward thing for us to direct our product team when dealing with the website to offer a lot more flexibility for account management. Now you go in and you have a much more powerful experience that shows you when your next “beard box” is coming, what’s in it or if you want to pause it for a month and have [the box] come the following month. All that is now extremely easy to use, and I think we’re going to see some really terrific results in terms of churn from that perspective. 

The other thing we did was we introduced the brand new rewards club, for which our goal was to make guys feel like they belong to something, and at the same time, reward them for their participation, not just for the dollars that they’re spending with us, but for other actions as well. For example, when they engage with us on social media, after dropping a review, when making purchases or if they’re referring to friends. All these things allow them to earn points, and those points let them save money on future purchases. Combined with what we already know about the customers’ love for our product, I think the rewards club is going to have really great results for lifetime value and retention and combat that problem of churning and subscription.

How do subscription companies differ from other business models in their approach to customer service?

For our company, customer service is vitally important. Historically, The Beard Club has done a great job with the beard part of the business. And what I’ve tried to do since getting here is really dial up the club aspect. You’re giving up your money for a product, but also you’re becoming a member of a club. As such, I think there’s a certain obligation for a level of service, and that we take very seriously. So we’ve got a customer service team that is very active with our users. It could be anything like, “Hey, I’m not sure where my box is, it should have arrived and can you check on it?” or “I’m curious about growing a different style of beard, can you point me in the right direction?” Both of those questions are important. I won’t speak for other subscription companies, but I would eventually guess that most of them take customer service very seriously, and we certainly do.

As far as influencers, is that something the brand is engaging or plans to engage?

It is. We’ve worked with influencers in the past, some of which are actually investors in the company. But we’ll dial that up as well, as we just relaunched the brand. We’ve actually got a couple fires in the oven to expand our influencer programs.

Podcast Ads Have More Pull Than Marketers Think

Seventy percent of frequent podcast listeners considered buying a new product or service after hearing about it on a podcast, according to a study from Edison Research and the PodcastOne, “Super Listeners Study.”

As podcast usage continues to rise, it’s important for marketers to know who they’re speaking to when advertising on podcasts. Here we’re breaking down the preferences of these super listeners and how podcasts influence these consumers’ buying behavior, according to the study’s findings.

Many podcasters are also cord-cutters as 79 percent of respondents regularly use streaming video services, followed by 63 percent who use internet-only music streaming services and 58 percent who use cable or satellite television. Forty-five percent of respondents said it’s very important that they watch or listen to a program whenever they want. Forty-nine percent said they have a paid subscription to an internet-only music streaming service, followed by 27 percent who have a paid subscription to an audiobook service. When asked what their primary reason is for having a paid audio listening subscription, 43 percent cited having more control over the content they’re listening to.

Podcast listeners are more attentive to ads heard on podcasts as 44 percent agree that they pay more attention to advertising on podcasts than on other forms of media. Thirty-seven percent said that podcast marketing is the best way for a brand to reach them. Although these super listeners generally avoid ads, they agree that podcast ads are an effective way to reach them.

In June, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicted that US podcast marketplace revenues will double by 2021, reaching $1 billion. While the number of people listening to podcasts as well as podcast marketing dollars are increasing, marketers should be selective about the podcast to advertise on. Only 16 percent of respondents strongly agree that the products and services they learn about on podcasts are generally relevant to them—that’s one percent less than for social media, which 17 percent said display products and services relevant to them. 

The advantage of podcasts is that listeners are more willing to consider products discovered there. Compared to other places where they might hear ads, 46 percent of respondents said they’re more likely to purchase a product after hearing about it via a podcast ad.

Findings are based on 1,032 online interviews conducted in February and March 2019, consisting of 56 percent men and 44 percent women, spanning all generations. All respondents reported listening to podcasts for at least five hours weekly.

Selfridges UK, Instagram To Throw Immersive Pop-Up Shop

The best of Instagram shopping will come to life this month as Selfridges UK has partnered with Instagram to host a pop-up shop called “The Instagram Edit.” It will feature curated items from eight Instagram-first brands spanning fashion, beauty, homeware and jewelry.

Open from December 5-15, The Instagram Edit will take place at the Designer Studio on level three at Selfrdiges’ London flagship. Items sold at the pop-up, from brands like Frankie Shop, One DNA, Ammé London, Kim Shui, Atelier Stella and Tandem skincare, will also be available to buy on Selfridge’s Instagram page. Selfridges will also create a digital window display to highlight the pop-up.

The Instagram Edit makes Selfridges the first UK retailer to partner with Instagram to bring together physical and digital in an immersive retail setting.

With 90 percent of people following a brand or business on Instagram and the fact that 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month, it seems a natural retail match for Selfridges UK to capitalize on the digital shopping experience that Instagram has made so easy in recent years.

An emphasis on experiential marks Selfridges’ recent attempts to modernize its messaging. Earlier this month, the retail giant debuted a short film that highlights the company’s omnichannel advertising campaign via a narrative set in the year 3019 among a star-studded cast including Dior Homme creative director Kim Jones and musician Miguel. 

Selfridges also got yet another head start on holiday marketing this year when it opened its Christmas shop 149 days before Christmas, two days earlier than last year. The brand’s Christmas and home buyer, Eleanor Gregory, said that an early launch gives visitors from all over the world as well as domestic shoppers a chance to buy festive decorations and souvenirs on their London summer holidays. The early launch has resulted in year-on-year record sales according to Selfridges.