Since the very idea of brands came into existence, word-of-mouth has been a key part of the process of building them. In many cases, this is organic; customers rave about a product to their friends because they genuinely love it and want to share their recommendation. In other cases, brands act in certain ways to prompt and provoke those discussions. From press stunts to sponsorship deals, from TV ads to in-store sampling, marketing campaigns aim to put their products at the front of consumers’ minds, prompting conversations and (hopefully) advocacy.

The problem with word-of-mouth, of course, is that it’s very difficult to control and quantify. As a marketing channel, its primary advantage is trust; people will generally have more faith in a personal recommendation from a peer than they will in any kind of marketing message. The downside for brands is that this trust works both ways. The message that your new product tastes disgusting and should be avoided will be received and taken on board with just as much conviction as the message that it’s a delicious taste sensation.

With the rise of social media, online influencers have stepped in to solve this problem. As people whose public-facing profiles are perfectly calibrated to seem both authentic and aspirational, influencers have offered marketers the ideal combination: voices and opinions which are trusted while also being for sale. Ostensibly, it’s the perfect way of bringing word-of-mouth marketing under control, keeping it on message while harnessing the trust and influence of a carefully chosen individual.

But the sands are shifting in the world of influencer marketing. With increasing calls for transparency on sponsored and paid-for Instagram endorsements, combined with decreasing customer trust in the authenticity of many professional influencers, the whole channel is becoming more complex. Well-chosen influencers still reach huge audiences of engaged and relevant consumers but, if nobody really trusts what they say about your brand, the campaign becomes just another ad.

Selling a lifestyle

So, what’s the answer? Well, there’s one thing that influencers sell better than anything else: their own lifestyles. From Instagram-filtered vegan brunches to sleek designer kitchens, the job of an influencer is to know what their followers want and to deliver it in a beautifully photographed package. If brands want to harness their influence, they need to complement and align themselves with these lifestyles.

Unique travel experiences for influencers offer the perfect opportunity to do this, reinforcing your brand identity while creating new and engaging content to draw the attention of followers. Does your brand have a distinctive or exotic heritage? A sun-soaked vineyard, a traditional distillery, or even an iconic flagship store? Do you have sponsorship deals in place? Festivals, fashion shows, sporting events, even TV shows and movies?

If so, these offer the perfect hook for an influencer campaign. By creating aspirational and exclusive experiences, with your brand at their heart, it’s possible to forge the perfect marriage between product and influencer. From premiere events and movie studio tours to perfectly curated photo tours of the world’s hottest destinations, you can integrate your brand into the lives and stories of your chosen influencers in ways which are far more powerful and engaging than a simple endorsement.

To be clear, this doesn’t negate the need for disclosure; it’s still a paid-for influencer campaign which needs to be transparently declared and identified as such. The difference is that disclosure doesn’t lessen the impact and appeal of the content in question.

Increasingly suspicious customers may respond to an Instagram product plug with understandably cynical thoughts of you would say that, you’re being paid to say it. If the product is tied to an amazing experience, the cultural cachet of that experience remains intact, even if customers are aware that the influencer is being paid to be there. It’s still an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience; it still complements the influencer’s own brand; and it still reflects positively on your brand identity too. Actions speak louder than words and, by marketing through action, your campaign is sure to speak louder as a result.

If you’re looking to create a unique and aspirational trip or experience for an influencer campaign, get in touch with Chris Pearson on +44 20 8871 9959, or on chris@element-london.com.

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