[Editor’s Note: The pandemic has compelled creativity. There are few better examples than the Changs, an octogenarian couple who pose in clothes unclaimed from their Taiwan dry cleaning establishment. The Changs now star in Red Wing Shoes’ first global campaign. They’ve amassed nearly 700,000 followers and are debuting a clothing line, reminiscent of the colorful outfits they model on Instagram.
Creativity and authenticity also are at the heart of Ninja’s social media search for a Smoothie Bowl Sommelier. After a nationwide search in late January, Ninja chose Gillean Barkyoumb, a registered dietician with 8,000 followers on Instagram. She’ll make $25,000 for the two-month stint.
We asked Sasha Hartman, SVP, director, global creative and digital at SharkNinja, about why Ninja chose a micro-influencer and specifically Barkyoumb. Her answers were edited for space and clarity.]
PRNEWS: We know Ninja mostly from infomercials. Why enlist a social media influencer?
Sasha Hartman:At its core, an informercial is about demonstrating how a product solves a consumer pain point. All we’ve done is taken this model of ‘engaging explanation’ to social platforms and extended brand ownership to others who share our passion.
While our past success was planted in using TV to generate awareness, our intention is to reach a point where we don’t have to pay to be a consistent part of the consumer conversation every time.
PRNEWS: What’s the attraction of a micro-influencer like Gillean instead of a celebrity endorser?
Hartman: While it would be easier to borrow the equity of a celebrity or macro-influencer to create awareness, our brand is grounded in authenticity. We deliberately chose Gillean because of her genuine love of the brand.
PRNEWS: Is it risky to go with an influencer who has a social media presence, but is not a creature of social?
Hartman: Social media presence wasn’t necessarily a make- or-break qualification for us; however, we considered [Gillean’s Instagram presence] a value-add since we’re also working with influencers on TikTok and Instagram for the Smoothie Bowl Sommelier campaign.
PRNEWS: Clearly, a relatively small, but dedicated following was appealing.
Hartman:Yes, Gillean’s audience is a small but mighty growing community that is highly engaged with her and her content–so much so that several of her followers actually were the first to notify her of our search for this spokesperson.
That sort of connection we see as invaluable as we are in constant pursuit of balancing large-scale awareness and deep, meaningful engagement with all of our advertising and marketing initiatives.
PRNEWS: I assume you think Gillean’s easygoing style will encourage people to make Smoothie Bowls.
Hartman:Yes. Smoothie bowls can feel ‘out of reach’ for many. So, working with down-to-Earth influencers helps demystify what actually is really easy to make. Instead of just viewing mouth-watering pics of thick, spoonable smoothie bowls on Instagram, we want to give consumers the power to post their own.
PRNEWS: Plenty of companies are seeing success with micro-influencers during the pandemic. Were other companies’ micro-influencer efforts important to your decision?
Hartman: Influencers of all sizes have a role within Ninja’s larger influencer marketing strategy. Working with creators who have a variety of audience sizes...allows us to play with multiple messages and affords an agility in content creation.
PRNEWS: Take us behind the curtain on the decision to find a Smoothie Bowl sommelier. How long did it take from ideation to when you chose Gillean? How was she vetted, and did your team meet her or was the process all virtual?
Hartman:We saw a major opportunity to elevate and own the social conversation around smoothie bowls at the end of .
At the beginning of 2021, we started planning the search for our first Smoothie Bowl Sommelier. Shortly after launching, we had hundreds of applicants.
Though there were many qualified candidates, Gillean went above and beyond. She even creating a dedicated Smoothie Somm Instagram handle to gain our attention. In addition, Gillean is a registered dietician and has an obvious passion for smoothie bowls–she was a perfect match for Ninja. We conducted formal video interviews with top candidates and then virtually extended the role to Gillean.
PRNEWS: Interest in smoothie bowls derives, in part, from people eating breakfast at home during the pandemic. Was the pandemic an influence in other ways?
Hartman: People are bored; they’re trying new things, but need the right inspiration to overcome inertia in the kitchen. As a mom, I’m making almost every meal for my family every day–that’s more than a thousand meals since the pandemic started, and I know I’m not alone.
We’ve been conditioned to sip smoothies; the experience of designing, creating and garnishing a delicious smoothie bowl, to be devoured with your eyes and a spoon, is a trend we wanted to democratize for everyone. Something fun to bring a little excitement to our day.
PRNEWS: How will you measure success?
Hartman:Key indicators of success will include growth through organic reach and engagement rates with content. n
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