As a follow up to our first article on Influencer Marketing, we’re providing a short series of pseudo case studies. The intent of these additional articles is to examine situations in which Influencer Marketing campaigns were employed to great effect. In article two we’re covering a study of two very large “Goliaths” in their industry. We’ve held back a few of the details to protect the parties in question.
Background – Goliath on Goliath
A little over a decade ago, in working with a large international CPG company, I had the opportunity to get a front row seat on the most significant turnaround I’ve ever seen resulting from an Influencer Marketing, or Brand Ambassador, campaign. The setting was South Africa and neither of the two companies was local to the country. They were the 2nd and 4th largest companies in the world in their industry and both did business in more than 150 countries. We’ll call them Company B and Company R.
Here are a few of the key details pertaining to this study.
- Both companies were multi-billion dollar entities with the corresponding resources.
- Both companies employed the full marketing mix in their efforts.
- Company B reached its zenith of around 90% of the South African import market in 1990.
- Company R controlled the remainder of approximately 10% of the market at that time.
In the ten year span from around 1990 to approximately 2000, the share of the import market in South Africa completely reversed with Company R taking approximately 90% share and Company B declining to around 10%. Company B saw no discernible changes in media spend or activity and was at a loss to how the transformation took place. It should be noted that company B retained their position as #2 in the world during this time frame.
Not long after the 10 year period identified above, Company B purchased all the worldwide interests of Company R. Although I was working on their US business, I was working with Company B at the time. Consequently, we had the opportunity to study what took place. In a nutshell, Company R had implemented a national Brand Ambassador program within a couple key channels in South Africa to acquire nearly all of Company B’s business. Here are a few of the key reasons this was successful.
- Consumption Focused – The program was limited to a couple Trade Channels where the products were heavily used but were not traditionally considered key points of distribution for the product. The program focused on consumption rather than distribution.
- Complete Assimilation – Rather than hire traditional salespeople or marketers, Company R hired people that were completely at home in the targeted environment. As a matter of fact, they hired people who were already entrenched in the desired environment wherever possible. This enabled instant credibility for their Brand Ambassadors and garnered immediate results.
- Practical Invisibility – Company R targeted Trade Channels where the majority of the selling activity was very subtle and took place almost entirely after normal business hours. This made it nearly impossible for a Company B representative to encounter a Company R Brand Ambassador at work.
In short, despite less resources and a fraction of the market power, Company R was able to overcome Company B and completely reverse market share over a ten year period. More importantly, Company B was completely unaware of the methods used to achieve this major shift until they purchased company R. The entire campaign was almost an “anti-marketing” campaign in that it made use of influencers as more of a “peer-in-his-natural-habitat” approach to Influencer Marketing.
To learn more about successful Influencer Marketing programs, read Part 3 about a successful fishing series brand ambassador program.