NewsWhip Whippies: Top Influencer Campaigns of 2016


By   |   December 15th, 2016   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Brands, Communications & PR

This year, influencers became an effective way for brands and publishers to reach their audiences. Here are the ones deserving of some recognition. 

Earlier this week, we awarded our annual Whippies for publishers and brands who have innovated on social media in 2016.

As more social media platforms implemented algorithms this year, organic distribution became increasingly vital for brands and publishers. These algorithms favor stories from a user’s friends and social network, displaying that content predominantly.

Content creators and brands have tried numerous ways to combat algorithms from native advertising to having their authors grow out their own social channels.

One of the tested and true ways brands have beaten the algorithm is through collaborating with influencers.

Influencers have helped brands drive wider engagement and reached new audiences. Since influencers already have established audiences, whom they’ve fostered authentic interest with, they can help brands make a deeper impact.

In fact, Twitter reports that its users now trust influencers nearly as much as their friends. Another study this year revealed influencer marketing is 11 times more effective than banner ads.

There are a multitude of approaches to partnering with influencers. It’s more than a celebrity endorsement. Here are a few of the brands that we think deserve recognition this year for their work with influencers.

whippies 2016 influencers

1. Kohls and Chewbacca Mom

One of the biggest moments in 2016 influencer marketing happened completely organically. Instead of an influencer being asked to promote a service, the top moment came from an American mother live-streaming her recent Kohl’s purchase on Facebook.

The most-viewed Facebook Live video to date, with over 164 million views, featured Candace Payne wearing a growling Chewbacca mask and laughing uncontrollably.

Kohl’s was more than appreciative of the viral publicity. The brand hosted its own Live video, showing up to Candace’s house with more Star Wars gear, and drove an additional 34.5 million views.

When we look at Kohl’s Facebook page for the past 11 months, the average amount of Facebook shares per post was 2,895. Compare that to the above video, which drove over 508,000 shares.

Kohl's Chewbacca Facebook Influence

Looking at the interactions on Kohl’s Facebook Page around Chewbacca Mom, we can see that the sensation had quite an effect for the brand. While brands can only cross their fingers for the sort of viral success of Chewbacca Mom, there is a lesson we can learn from Kohl’s.

Influencers are people. People resonate with people. While celebrities like Selena Gomez and Kylie Jenner may drive the biggest numbers of likes on a sponsored post, smaller and more focused influencers can create genuine connections. 

2. Mercedes Benz and Loki the Wolfdog

Meanwhile, the lesson to be learned from Mercedes Benz this year, is that influencers don’t necessarily have to be in your industry to drive success.

The automotive brand partnered with pet influencer Loki the Wolfdog to promote the 2017 GLS SUV. Pet influencer manager (also known as owner) traversed a snowy mountainside with Loki in the car.  

Not only did Mercedes Benz embrace an unconventional influencer, the brand also embraced new technologies. Two videos were created for the campaign, a traditional one, and a 360 VR experience.

On Facebook, the video has driven 2.3 million views, and plenty of positive feedback. Despite Loki the Wolfdog having nothing to do with cars, and unlikely to ever drive a car himself, this campaign generated press and adoration from viewers . Mercedes Benz isn’t a stranger to this approach, often posting photos of pets and kids in brand-related moments on Instagram.

"How are the brakes? Don't know, I never touched them" #mbphotopass @fsvail @mbusa @trentbonaphoto

A post shared by Loki (@loki_the_wolfdog) on

Loki appeared with Mercedes Benz on Instagram as well. Going omni-channel for a marketing campaign is strategic, especially if the influencer translates across channels. However, what works on one platform might not do well on another, so it can be wise to customize the influencer content per channel.

For brands that aren’t sure what influencers might work for them, looking at the most popular examples can help generate ideas. In Spike, we have a few different panels per industry, and exploring these can reveal the tactics and people who make an impact with their followers.

December 2016 travel influencers

A look into a panel of travel influencers in Spike reveals the influencers, tactics, and stories that are trending.

Influencers can liven up a brand that may otherwise seem limited. For hospitality brands, travel influencers like above can spice things up.For example, Casey Neistat, who has over 6 million subscribers on YouTube, teamed up with Marriott to do a Snapchat takeover in Rio De Janeiro.

3. GoPro and their User Base of Influencers

GoPro blurs the line between tapping influencers and user-generated content on its Instagram channel.

Rather than advertise the product, it’s all about the user’s own experiences through a GoPro lens. Often this comes from re-gramming photos and submissions from photographers, adventurers, and oftentimes, pets too.

Many of these users already have substantial following on Instagram. By featuring follower photos, GoPro creates a more intimate connection with the now-influencer. It’s not just the brand preaching to the masses. Instead, GoPro is fostering a conversation between brand and consumer. Consumers may create more GoPro photos and videos, in the hopes of being recognized.

Don’t think you have an exciting product? Red Bull and Monster Energy have also adopted an adventurous vibe on their social channels, using extremists and thrill-seekers to show off the stunts that can be accomplished with ample energy. This transforms the brands beyond just a beverage. 

What were your favorite examples of influencer marketing this year? Are there any big ones we missed? Reach out to us on Twitter and let us know.

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