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Finding Success with Influencer Marketing in 2021: 5 Strategies for CPG Brands

COVID-19 has brought a massive shift in our grocery buying habits, from strolling the store aisles to placing orders online with Instacart and Amazon Fresh. Contactless shopping and the absence of free samples mean there have been fewer opportunities for customers to browse in-store and discover new products, changing the CPG shopping experience.

According to Kristina Drociak, Director of PR and Digital Strategy at Stonyfield, many of the changes in customer buying behavior will be permanent. Consumer goods companies must therefore rethink their marketing strategies, capabilities, and spending to better engage with consumers.

Kristina joined Danielle Wiley, Founder, and CEO of Sway Group, for an interactive discussion of CPG influencer marketing techniques and purpose-driven strategies hosted by AMA New York. Both see opportunities for CPG brands to regain lost market share, build consumer trust, and reach both existing and new consumers. Explains Danielle, “all consumers trust people who are like themselves, and when they see messaging coming from influencers who seem just like them, talking about a product or a service, it’s much more compelling.”

Kristina and Danielle agree on some key ingredients that are critical to success for CPG in 2021: shoppable posts; seamless transitions from influencer content to brand-owned channels; paid amplification; and brand culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).


Danielle advocates paid amplification of influencer content as a key component in reaching larger qualified audiences. She says, “When looking for influencers, you can consider the demographics and the psychographics of not only the influencers themselves but also of their audience.” In addition to organic content creation through an influencer program, she suggests paid boosting of content based on audience psychographics to reach customers when and where they will be most receptive. Psychographic targeting is based on customer personalities -- where they shop and what shows they watch, for example.

Danielle sees shifting algorithms as a blessing in disguise. Paid programming and granular ad targeting allow brands to be surgical in ensuring that their best-performing influencer content will be seen, despite tricky algorithms.


Kristina of Stonyfield believes that engagement is the most important metric in ensuring that the influencer content is resonating with followers. She affirms, “We want people interacting with the content. We tabulate every comment from the engagement of the campaign...we track purchase intent comments as well as traffic to the product page.” Among other metrics, she mentions cost per engagement and cost per mention (CPM) to help measure the efficiency of an influencer campaign.

For Stonyfield, another metric is the level of repurposing and resharing influencer-created content on brand-owned platforms. “Is it affecting our brand, are we getting new followers on our social channels, is there an increase in brand sentiment?” Kristina explains.

Danielle adds, “Engagement has always been a lot more important to Sway than pure impressions.” Speaking about engagement metrics, she considers ‘Instagram save’ a subtle metric that many CPG marketers overlook when understanding campaign impact. She says, “The number of saves is a great indicator in determining the impact created, the intent to purchase, and if the content is resonating with the audience.” Danielle’s blog offers more insights into best practices for Instagram influencer content.


When asked whether brands should develop strategies in-house, turn to a specialized influencer marketing agency, or use a combination of both, Kristina suggests a hybrid approach. She explains that her internal team manages roughly 20 influencers across all brands; Stonyfield, Siggi's, planning editorial calendars a year in advance. Yet for a new product launch or a more extensive campaign, the brand prefers to collaborate with an influencer marketing agency as an extension of the in-house team. According to Kristina, it offers the opportunity to scale up and reach a larger audience.

On the agency front, Danielle shares, “clients come to us when they want to scale up within a limited timeframe or are looking for something very niche.” Working with an influencer marketing agency and investing in technology to measure campaign success can be expensive. Therefore, working exclusively with an influencer marketing agency works better for smaller brands as agencies can offer the right metrics and help create marketing strategies.


While accounts with a massive following might seem to offer the most significant audience reach, smaller accounts run by micro or nano influencers often get more attention in the influencer marketing space. Influencers with a smaller following have more personal connections with their audience and are more likely to be perceived as authentic in their content and brand recommendations. Therefore, despite the smaller audience size, the quality of their interactions can lead to higher engagement. Citing examples from Stonyfield, Kristina believes that brands should simply work with influencers that are a good fit for their target audience and resonate with the brand’s purpose and values. In her experience, the success of an influencer campaign depends on variable factors, including choosing the right influencer, the campaign goals, and the age of the target audience.


Kristina sees influencer marketing as a cost-effective way to drive brand awareness and break through the noise. “Our target consumer, the millennial mom, is not interested in seeing ads, and up to 40% of millennial consumers have ad-blocking technology,” she explains. As a result, content shared on the influencer's social media accounts is where she finds her audience receptive and open to learning about new products compared to an ad. Establishing trust and credibility is essential. She emphasizes, “The millennial consumer just doesn't trust brands as much as previous consumers have. So hearing from somebody that they trust and respect about a new product is an important part of a campaign.”

For more conversations on the CPG category and more, tune in to or register to access our previous discussions.

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