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Influencer Marketing Case Study: 4-Year Olds + NASCAR

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Influencer marketing is a powerful form of relationship marketing. Steve Ziemba from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) takes you through the basics with this fun case study

– Josh

My Influencer Moments

Whether I am at a non-industry function or a local neighborhood event, when the “what do you do” question comes up, my mental floodgates open wide.  As Social Media Director at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), I get asked everything from “I’m on Twitter – now what?” to “What is this influencer marketing thing all about?”

For the purpose of this post, I’ll skip the Twitter question.

To understand influencer marketing, we’ll start with the definition.  It is important to remember that influencer marketing involves two parties, the consumer and the marketer.  Fortunately for me I just so happen to have a copy of WOMMA’s Influencer Handbook in front of me.  Here is how WOMMA defines “influencer” and “influencer marketing:”

Influencer: “A person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.’”

Influencer Marketing: “Influencer marketing is when a marketer identifies, seeks out, and engages with influencers in support of a business objective.”

The one thing that I cannot stress enough is that engaging influencers is a relationship, not a campaign or a one-off buzz tactic.  To keep things simple I won’t go into types of influencers, or finding influencers- I’ll simply look at engaging influencers.

My mind works in color and images, not in abstract theories or rote memorization of statistics or charts.

So in explaining influencer marketing, I like to take the Denzel Washington as Joe Miller in the movie Philadelphia approach, “now explain it to me like I am a four year old.”  However, rather than explaining influencer marketing as if I am talking to a four-year-old, I’ll explain it using a four-year-old as my example (side note: with reverence to the COPPA Act, I do not recommend anyone try to engage children as influencers). My son was four-years-old only two years ago, so, close enough.

Just as I have a common bond and ongoing and growing relationship with my son, influencer marketers should view their subject matter in the same manner.

For whatever reason, my son loves NASCAR and it’s certainly not because I am a gear-head or race fan myself.  My son has several drivers he likes on any given day, but for the sake of this example we’ll use good ole #48, Jimmy Johnson.  Jimmy is such a good driver you would think that his car is on performance enhancing drugs.  But I digress.  I have no idea if NASCAR is involved in influencer marketing but I do know they have an inordinate amount of fans and influencers.

So, if I were a NASCAR marketer and my son was an influencer I was trying to engage, here are a few things I’d keep in mind.

Balance: The relationship between marketer and influencer need to be in balance.  If your relationship with an influencer is too one-sided in your favor, the influencer will lose interest over time.

Example: NASCAR asks my son to attend local fan events, to wear NASCAR t-shirts to school, to talk about NASCAR in every playground conversation from first graders to eight

Result: He’s lost that lovin’ feeling. My son grows weary of shilling for NASCAR and moves on to Monster Trucks.  Don’t drown your influencers.

Sustainability: Influence programs are, by definition, long-term, multi-year commitments designed to build a relationship.

Example: Instead of giving products to shill, NASCAR empowers my son to help find, engage, and activate other influencers.  NASCAR would do this by providing my son with specific details of an upcoming Sprint Cup event that mere fans would not know about.

Result: By supplying this insider knowledge, NASCAR deepens their relationship with my son.  As a result, NASCAR empowers him to help find, engage, and activate future influencers by sustaining his fire and desire to talk about all things NASCAR.

Private access: An excellent way to engage influencers is to capitalize on their passion.  Provide your influencers opportunities to connect behind-the-scenes. Give your influencers talkable and sharable experiences.

Example: NASCAR provides my son opportunities to take a test-drive in Jimmy Johnson’s #48 Chevy Impala, or to sit in the pits with Chad Knaus, Jimmy Crew Chief, during qualifying runs.

Result: Experiences always trump material gifts.  You could bet that 20 years down the road my son will still be talking about his insider experience versus the copy of NASCAR for Playstation that he received for his sixth birthday.

Feedback: Influencers are a great source of product/service feedback.  Ideally, design your influencer-marketing program so that you can close the loop back with influencers on what you are doing with their feedback and suggestions (it is empowering for them).

Example: Through understanding my son, NASCAR can gain a better understanding of what could be done to improve their presence and searchability on iTunes. Or how they can improve the NASCAR.com website experience. Or why we cannot easily find 1:24 scale diecast cars online or offline.

Result: NASCAR takes these suggestions seriously and in return confirms and reaffirms his feedback.  By confirming the feedback and ultimately coming back to him and saying “here is what we have done (or not done) based on your feedback,” NASCAR reaffirms his belief that he matters as an influencer, deepening their relationship.

So at this point you should be able to take away two things from this post:

– Influencer marketing is not a passing fad or the latest trend.  It is just one component of a successful word of mouth marketing campaign.  If done right, you’ll have fans for the life of your brand or theirs.

– NASCAR, if it doesn’t already, should have an influencer-marketing program in place.

Does anyone know where I can pick up a used NASCAR for cheap?  I want to convert it to a backyard playset.

Steve Ziemba is the social media director at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), which will be hosting the School of WOM this May to immerse marketers in the rudiments of  creating talkable brands.

Meme E

2 Comments

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