2017 – the year operators took the influencer seriously by Ann Elliott

27th October 2017

2017 – the year operators took the influencer seriously by Ann Elliott

As an operator, what’s your main aim? To increase footfall? Spend-per-head? All of the above and more? Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. This year, more than ever, I’ve heard various clients and colleagues talking about “influencers” and how to successfully work with them. Brands are fascinated by them, consumers are obsessed with them and, no matter what, you cannot escape how they are shaping the food and drink industry.

While consumers are becoming wiser about (and increasingly annoyed with) paid-for content, using an influencer is an effective way to reach demographics that have been traditionally difficult to engage with, such as millennials or Generation Z. What’s more, it’s working. According to research carried out by Zizzi, 18 to 35-year olds spend five days a year browsing food images on Instagram.

We’ve all seen the effect organic social media posts can have on a new food trend – freakshakes and cronuts became overnight sensations with people lining the street to get their hands on them. The same can be said for restaurants. Sketch, for instance, has been named as one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in London due to the huge numbers of people posting images from inside the toilets. It’s now a trend (seemingly) for guests to visit and ensure they get the right bathroom “selfie”. These trends are sometimes started organically or sometimes via the power of the influencer.

Influencers are aspirational people and their followers trust them. Followers want to eat in the places where their favourite influencer has dined, they want to drink the same cocktails they have had in their hand and they want to take pictures in exactly the same spot favoured by the influencer. It’s tempting for an operator to work with an influencer with the most followers but that isn’t always the best route to take. Working with someone whose followers mirror your target market is much more important, as is the fact you want their followers to be likely to engage with your brand.

Pizza operators tend to use influencers a lot – perhaps because pizza is the most Instagrammed food (making it difficult to spot an advertisement from genuine content). Pizza Pilgrims has worked with food bloggers since the launch of its first food truck. Using hyperlocal influencers and documenting its brand’s journey through the YouTube channel meant it has been able to reach local people and achieve great results. Pizza Union recently opened its third site, in Aldgate, and created a social influencer campaign to do this, reaching nearly two million people in its target demographic for a relatively low budget.

All Bar One executed a brilliant campaign to increase brunch sales across its 50 bars nationwide, and it tracked its results religiously throughout. Targeting professional women aged 25 to 34, it worked with an influencer agency to source a diverse selection of ten micro-influencers with a combined reach of 200,000. They were tasked with taking a visual report of their food, as well as linking through to All Bar One’s “Time for Brunch” competition.

The results were incredible. In spite of publicising the competition using its own channels and paid-for social, All Bar One found the majority of the 200 entries and 4,000 engagements came through the influencers. Not only this, but All Bar One’s Instagram followers grew by 18%. As amazing as these results are, brunch sales also spiked 28% like-for-like growth, and across the year brunch sales grew by 13%, increasing the number of brunches sold by 1,800 per week.

Working with influencers can be daunting and, while I would never suggest committing your whole marketing budget to them, it is important to understand how they work and how successful they can be in generating interest and footfall.

It has to be said while influencer marketing is working very well in some areas of our industry it isn’t working everywhere. We are seeing a huge gap for suppliers to utilise the trend and work with influencers to create lead generation. While this might be harder to execute well, it is important to stay ahead of the curve and innovate when it comes to marketing or risk losing out to competition.

Ten Instagrammers in the food and drink industry to keep an eye on:

  1. @clerkenwellboyec1
  2. @KS_Ate_Here
  3. @mondomulia
  4. @food_feels
  5. @ldncheapeats
  6. @rosiefoodie
  7. @a_ontheroad
  8. @thecutlerychronicles
  9. @londontheinside
  10. @tschang

Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliotts, the leading integrated marketing agency in the hospitality and leisure sector – www.elliottsagency.com. Follow her on Twitter: @elliottsagency


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