Craig Morris, GAPP CEO , July 26, 2022

The Power of Influence(rs)

It’s a strange new world. For years in marketing, we’ve watched as the power of “the brand” has declined, ceding instead to the power of authoritative recommendations, then peer-to-peer social media reviews, and now to the all-powerful “influencer.” So what’s the power in an influencer and why does it matter?

Consider, for a second, the generic marketing campaigns we all grew up with. If you’re a certain age (like me) you can probably remember quite a few of those generic marketing campaign snappy jingles that used to come on the car radio or television. For various commodities, there was an air of “keeping up with the Joneses” about having the best tagline and spending millions of dollars on airtime to get consumers to buy products made with your commodity as a result. Organizations that ran these campaigns liked to think that people would feel good about their purchases and even show them off because of the marketing dollars around the campaign. This was the era of the commodity slogans from ‘Beef, it’s what’s for Dinner’ to ‘Cotton, the fabric of our lives’ and it seemed every commodity was jumping on the branded bandwagon and plowing millions of dollars into running ads to get eyes on their campaigns on the hope that they would build demand for their products.

While those generic ad campaigns remind us of a simpler time, they became nothing more than an outdated fashion just like many other marketing gimmicks. The reason is simple. It became much more cost effective to get people to see, remember, and most importantly, trust your product if you worked with an organization consumers already trust and look to for guidance. Make way for the era of authoritative recommendation. We all remember it: the time when “seals of approval” helped things sell. From Good Housekeeping to America’s Test Kitchen, it was these “seals of approval” that motivated purchase. And many brands responded by trying to get their products reviewed and rated well. I remember flipping through my Mom’s Reader’s Digest and seeing what foods they said I should be eating more often and even who had the best brand of hot dogs. But, that was such an inefficient process. For, as interesting as the Men’s Health story on best brand of bacon may be while I was flipping through that month’s issue, it wasn’t necessarily telling me what I wanted to know right then and there about what should I do for dinner.

With that need came the invasion of the peer-to-peer social media reviews on Yelp and other platforms that were crowd sourced with the ability for everyone to share thoughts on virtually everything and “rate” products or really anything online. Couple that with social media like Twitter and Facebook and away we went. You didn’t have to remember what that episode of America’s Test Kitchen said or even pay to have a subscription to the Michelin Guide on where to eat that night. You could, for free, just Google a food or a restaurant’s name and take a thousand of your friends and neighbors’ word for what they thought. And brands responded by asking their customers to review them, by closely monitoring what people were saying about them online, and even hiring PR firms to help manage their “online presence”.

Now, we’re taking all of that history and adding to it a new element: social media influencers. I suppose, we’ve always had influencers to a certain extent in ads be it Joe DiMaggio touting Chesterfield cigarettes or Martha Stewart talking about K-Mart. The difference now is it’s not only celebrities, it’s seemingly “normal” people who share their lives, publicly, on social media apps. Whether they’re home cooks sharing new recipes and tricks, cleaning aficionados that teach you how to tidy up every nook and cranny in your house or travel gurus schooling you on the best seats on an airplane and how to use your points: we’re in the era of overstimulation, tons of information and trusting complete strangers to lead us to the proverbial promised land.

Scary though it might be, we have to embrace this new wave of marketing and figure out how Wild Alaska Pollock can make friends with the right influencers and have them introduce our fish to their followers. Think of it this way: influencers take out the middle man.

Much of an evangelist as I am, as any of us are, we’re not seen as “credible” or perhaps, more gently, we’re not seen as “authentic” or “unbiased.” And, maybe most importantly, we’re not all seen as interesting enough to have millions of followers who act on every single thing we have to say. That’s true—we’re just not. We love our fish and everything about it and we want to see new—more—opportunities for our fish long term. Trying to spend the time and energy to change that perception and have consumers trust me, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers (GAPP) or even some of our brands is expensive and time consuming. And to make us interesting enough to have millions of followers? That is something that costs more money than we have.

Whereas, if we were to arm some well-positioned influencers to try Wild Alaska Pollock, to learn about the fish, to cook with our products, to create recipes, to tell its story and share its attributes…on our behalf but on their platforms, armed with information and resources we’ve given them the chances that we’ll hit our mark and drive the ultimate response we’re looking for (read: purchase) is that much more likely. And it will likely be more cost efficient and effective. Yes, it cuts us out. Yes, GAPP doesn’t get the spotlight (darn!) but long-term this is the strategy we have to lean in on in today’s day and age.

Case in point: over the last several weeks we’ve introduced some mega social media influencers to Wild Alaska Pollock and asked them to create new recipes for summer with our products. We shared with them our fish and fishery’s story and asked them to include that in their posts to their millions of followers. The response has been incredible. One of our influencers, Chef Antonia Lafaso was featured on multiple morning news broadcasts from coast to coast over the weekend and already early this week making her new Wild Alaska Pollock Milanese with Summer Tarragon salad.

Now, could I have gotten on those same morning shows? Maybe. But who am I (I’m starting to realize this blog post is a bit self-deprecating. Wink) to talk about cooking? Why trust me? Chef Antonia has built up a loyal following through her days on Top Chef, her restaurants in LA and just being an all-around female risk taker and game changer in the food industry. People trust her endorsements simply because they come from her. That is why she has so many followers and I have comparatively so few. So now, they trust Wild Alaska Pollock because of their trust in her. So now millions of eyes are on Wild Alaska Pollock because of their trust in her.

Will it make them try to find Wild Alaska Pollock at their grocery store? Certainly, more likely this way than if I posted about it on my social channels. And we’re tracking the sales data to show that specific cause and effect. But what I can affirmatively say now is that her—and the other influencers GAPP is working with this year—are a lot more likely to push that awareness, familiarity, purchase, that trial, than I or any of the other passionate evangelists we have in the industry (and I know we have many!!) are.

While it’s perhaps a strange new world, I also look at it as an exciting one. One with so much information and intelligence and resources at our very fingertips to excite, educate, engage and inspire us.

So, here’s to the influencers and their power. Long may they reign.

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