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Air Up: achieving greatness with the ideal influencer strategy

Foto Air Up

Seemingly overnight, teenagers everywhere were suddenly walking around with an Air Up. Without relying on TV advertisements, the startup appears to have hit the ground running all over Europe. What influencer strategy has the company used to achieve this success?

It all sounds a bit 'ok, boomer' but the water bottle became a hot topic all of a sudden. My son of eleven years old wanted to buy an Air Up bottle with his own money. What is it? A water bottle, albeit one with a kind of scent near your nose that makes it seem like you're drinking flavoured water. It is better for your health and the environment, because it saves you from having to buy soda. The bottle was invented by Lena Jüngst from Germany and the product is now being sold in various European countries, including the Netherlands and the UK, out of the Munich-based webshop. We paid around forty euros for ours, complete with a few of those scented pods.

Yo-yo and lolo ball
This is an interesting case in terms of its marketing strategy, because I had not seen it coming at all. In the past - the time of the yo-yo, the lolo ball and Flippos - such product launches were always accompanied by TV commercials during popular kids' shows and every media strategist I ever spoke to told me that you also have to utilise mass media in order to reach your target audience. I asked my son why he suddenly had to have an Air Up? "Well, I saw it on YouTube."

That makes sense. After a bit of searching on Google (and now that YouTube ad comes up all the time; such is the life of a media journalist), I learned that the startup achieved its success with the help of influencers. The forty million in capital that were raised have clearly been spent well. It was all driven by a remarkably clever strategy. Fortunately, Anouk Schepers from Coopr is an expert in this field. Among other things, she has helped Coca-Cola with their influencer approach. "I'm sure you saw that documentary on Netflix about the Fyre Festival. That was hyped up entirely by influencers. With certain audiences, you can achieve a whole lot without TV. If you go about it the right way, you don't need traditional mass media at all to reach this young audience." What is the secret, then? "Some influencers have more clout among their audience than others. What's important is that the product is a good fit for the influencer you choose. It has to make sense to viewers to see their favourite influencer promoting your product, so it all feels less like a commercial. Someone like Jessie Maya, for example, does a lot with appearance and cosmetics, so she has greater influence in that regard." Schepers explains that many people these days have role models whose advice they will accept almost without a second thought.

Large and small audiences
Looking at this case from a distance, it is clear that the brand's strategy revolves around working with big YouTubers with large audiences and smaller - yet highly influential - content creators. In professional terms, you might say they are going for a combination of "fame" and "preference." "If you manage to strike the right balance between reach and engagement, you don't need TV as much." She says a good influencer strategy is not simply a matter of making a list of the YouTubers who are raking in the most views. Rather, it is all about collaboration. "For example, Coca-Cola (the company that includes several brands, as you well know, BH), works with a pool of ten to fifteen permanent ambassadors. For each campaign, we choose specific creators. They each have their own brands. With Fanta, for example, we want to target a slightly younger audience, so we choose to work with rapper Leaf.'' She truly believes in the strength of exclusivity. ,,As a result, the engagement of influencers with ten to fifteen thousand followers is often a bit higher than that of creators with an audience of hundreds of thousands of viewers. They often genuinely love the brand."
Schepers talks about her work for Plus Dental, the provider of clear aligners. "The influencer strategy is very important here and we recommend focusing more on people who actually use the product than those who have attracted more fame. Wieke Veenboer from the platform "Amayzine" actually tried the product herself and wrote a story about it. That has resulted in a significant number of new appointments. A platform like that has a lot of credibility, which is why it is so effective." Schepers cites the example of "Snackspert," the man who has made a name for himself by testing snacks. "He ingeniously positioned himself as an expert in the world of snacks. If you're Mora, you would be crazy not to work with him. It is important to keep such people closely affiliated with your brand. Why? People follow him and will buy any snack that he recommends. I always get a sandwich at a shop he once visited."

We continue our conversation with Sjef Kerkhofs of Daily Dialogues. With him, we talk about the enormous influence that creators have on all social platforms. For example, he points to the huge sums that platforms such as TikTok are willing to pay to help creators make their content. Those creators are the lifeblood of the platforms and as such, they gather more and more influence. "There is an ongoing shift from brands 'borrowing' a creator's audience towards brands using creators on their own channels. The creator content is becoming the foundation for the actual brands. That is truly a significant change. For example, we are working with Woonmall Alexandrium. They are used to communicating by showing rooms full of furniture, but that strategy is no longer effective. Instead, you have to bring creators to you and distribute that content across your channels."
Kerkhofs expects the methods used by creators - small teams, modest budgets and a whole lot of creativity - to be adopted by mass media. "As the popularity of digital TV continues to rise, major commercial productions will slowly become a thing of the past." Kerkhofs describes how that affects the nature of working for an agency. "For our work with Blokker, for example, we will visit a well-known creator to see what stuff they have in their home. You have no choice but to adopt that mindset. Otherwise, it becomes hard to effectively reach younger audiences."

Okay, let's take a step back. Air Up was able to reach a large audience of young people with the help of influencers. The sizeable budget certainly helped, but the brand deliberately chose to work with YouTubers and creators on other platforms who truly have a strong influence on their audience. It comes as no surprise that these young content creators are becoming increasingly important to brands - yet their influence might just prove to be far greater than those in the media, marketing and advertising business suspect.

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