February 20, 2019: Hulu embraces paid influencer relationships; The future of influencer-to-consumer brands is co-creation; Heritage brands are revitalizing their legacies; Kroger creates Amazon-like flywheel to support its next phase of business; Amazon acquires mesh Wi-Fi company Eero

Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:


Hulu Embraces Paid Endorsements

The Story

Hulu is embracing paid influencer relationships without shame in its latest campaign for Hulu Live. (And full disclosure, we also comment. #ShamelessPlugs for all!)

Tell me more.  

Last weekend, the streaming service launched a new campaign called “Hulu Sellouts” to convey to consumers that Hulu pays influencers to endorse its services, while also driving awareness around Hulu’s live sports offerings. The first ads in the campaign feature NBA stars Damian Lillard, Joel “Hulu Has Live Sports” Embiid, and Giannis Antetokounmpo taking extreme measures to advertise that Hulu has live sports.

Who is Joel “Hulu Has Live Sports” Embiid?

You may formally know him as the Philadelphia 76ers’ All-Star Joel Embiid, but the new campaign has him signing autographs with his new name: Joel “Hulu Has Live Sports” Embiid. When asked if he could sign autographs without “Hulu Has Live Sports,” Embiid replied, “Legally, nah.” You can check out the rest of the spots here.


Despite the risk that comes with brands or influencers being coy about paid relationships, the fact of the matter is that many still fail to adhere to FTC disclosure guidelines, which is problematic and a fineable offense.  

According to our Influencer POV survey, 40 percent of influencers said that marketers don’t consistently follow up with them about following government rules for endorsement disclosures and 16 percent said that a marketer had at least once asked them to skip the disclosures completely.

Instead of fearing the paid partnership, brands and influencers need to lean into it. Failure to disclose is a fineable offense and we’ve already seen brands and influencers pay the price. When writing influencer briefs, make sure you include specific instructions for influencers to put #ad, #sponsored, and/or #sp, in addition to any brand campaign tags at the front of a caption, not at the end, or in some cases, five comments down.


The Future of Influencer-to-Consumer (I2C) Brands

The Story

Influencers, because of their rich subject-matter expertise and their deep understanding of authentic communication, continue to grow powerful networks and engaged communities. With these communities, Influencers are now building their own businesses with their own lines of products, representing a new wave of direct-to-consumer brands.


Marketers that fail to partner and co-create with influencers risk seeing influencers run off and create brands on their own, as seen with Danielle Bernstein’s We Wore What collection. The future of product, brand, and comms development is supporting and incubating influencers’ ideas, creativity, community, and vision, like Nordstrom has done with Arielle Charnas’ Something Navy collection. It’s come to the point where some brands have even started thinking about influencer engagement and incentives through the lens of venture capital,  fully investing in long-term relationships with influencers that benefit everyone involved.

One of the most significant benefits companies can provide to Influencers is operational prowess. Over the past few weeks, influencer Brittany Dawn found herself having to publicly apologize for not being able to scale with her success, apologizing on her YouTube channels and on TV. Brands have the opportunity to seek out these Influential entrepreneurs to help them solve their problems. In return, the brand steps into the next generation of influencer marketing: Influencer-to-Consumer (I2C) brands.


Don’t Call It A Comeback: How Legacy Brands Are Regaining Relevance

The Story

Heritage brands in New York City are connecting with consumers using immersive opportunities, exclusive offerings, and purposeful collaborations in order to regain relevance.

Go on.

See how Champion blends the old with the new with a specialized showroom and customization booth; how FAO Schwarz brings a playful interactive retail experience to life through in-store employees; how Filson brings the brand to life through a specially crafted in-store design; and how Levi’s focuses on customization and personalization with on-site tailors and direct-to-garment printing capabilities.


As Van Vahle, SVP of consumer engagement and e-commerce for Clinique put it, “Despite the challenges in retail, retail [itself] isn’t dead. People are spending money, but boring retail is dead.” #RealTalk: it’s up to marketers and retailers to create digital-first, personalized retail experiences for consumers that still honor the attributes that established those brands from the start. This is as true for Glossier as it is for Levi’s.

Experiential retail is growing in importance. Eighty percent of consumers say that the immersive experience that a company provides is as important as its products and services. Additionally, customers are willing to spend up to 16 percent more on products and services with companies that offer better shopping environments.

In turn, marketers have the opportunity to rethink physical experiences and retrain in-store employees, while also leveraging influencers’ expertise and creative talent to increase localization and relevance (as Filson and Levi’s did above). In addition to unique, digital-first, in-store experiences, employees must also be trained so that when they see consumers taking a photo, they can aid in and contribute to the content creation process (i.e., they can help with lighting/props). While designing for the ‘Gram alone isn’t going to cut it for an influencer who is always looking to create new, original content, proactive and thoughtful employee involvement will serve to optimize influencers’ in-store experiences.


The Amazon Effect: Kroger Edition

The Story

Kroger is taking a page out of Amazon’s playbook and building a new retail flywheel to support its next phase of business.

Go on.

The elements of Kroger’s flywheel – physical stores, Kroger Ship delivery service, Kroger Pick Up curbside delivery, an exclusive Our Brands product section, its financial services program Kroger Personal Finance, and retail media business, Kroger Precision marketing – are being reconvened to work together in new ways to bring in new revenue streams, with the ultimate goal of driving consumers to spend more with the company.

Why the sudden change?

Competition is heating up, especially among online competitors like Amazon and third-party delivery services like Instacart. The result? Consumer behavior is shifting (hellooo online grocery shopping) and retailers such as Kroger are forced to develop strategies now to prepare for the future.

As Matt Thompson, Kroger’s VP of Digital, put it: “It’s a lot of complexities that we face, and in response, we’re putting together a new ecosystem that makes it effortless for customers to get what they want when they want it. All the pieces and components have to come together because the customer is demanding it. We’ve moved aggressively because the future is now. It has to be simple and seamless no matter what we’re talking about: in store, pickup, delivery.”


Like Kroger, every company has the opportunity to adapt to these new customer behaviors by taking a page out of Amazon’s playbook. What Amazon does so well – and what elevates it from the rest of the industry – is integrating social proof across every touchpoint of the customer journey, and in multiple formats depending on customer context. TLDR: in Amazon’s opinion, every customer has influence and the company has the pieces in place to provide customers across the spectrum of influence every opportunity to tell the world about the products they love.

For more on Amazon’s influencer marketing strategy, see here.

Alexa, Turn Off Jimmy’s WiFi

The Story

In an effort to strengthen its smart home automation ecosystem, Amazon has reached a deal to acquire Eero, the maker of mesh home routers. Amazon says buying Eero will allow the company to “Help customers better connect smart home devices.”

What’s Amazon saying?

“We are incredibly impressed with the Eero team and how quickly they invented a WiFi solution that makes connected devices just work. We have a shared vision that the smart home experience can get even easier, and we’re committed to continue innovating on behalf of customers.” – Dave Limp, Amazon’s SVP of devices

What’s Eero saying?

“By joining the Amazon family, we’re excited to learn from and work closely with a team that is defining the future of the home, accelerate our mission, and bring Eero systems to more customers around the globe.” – Nick Weaver, Eero’s co-founder and CEO


The acquisition gives Amazon yet another means to gather data in consumers’ homes (see: Ring and Blink). Let’s also not forget about the existing in-home voice technologies that Amazon already owns (Amazon Echo, Fire TV) and that Eero could integrate with, allowing users the ability to control who has access to Wi-Fi through voice (Think: having the ability to turn off a child’s WiFi if they have not completed their homework).

However, most impressive will be Amazon’s new ability to see every website you’re visiting, across devices – something that advertisers cannot currently do with cookies. Although consumers aren’t entirely thrilled about what this means for browsing privacy, this would allow Amazon to advertise cross-device, which would be a first and a huge coup for platforms and advertisers alike.


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