While gifting may feel tedious and tiresome to coordinate, it was a core component of any successful earned media strategy long before the age of social distancing, and the return of parties and events hardly means that “unboxing” content will lose its value. Rather than tabling mailers as an artifact of the Covid-19 era, brands should work to supplement in-person activations with product sends that are not only strategic but also sustainable.

So what does a deliberate, manageable approach to gifting actually involve?

Drawing from recent case studies in beauty, I’ve outlined three steps any brand can take to streamline mailers while optimising impact: planning multi-tiered campaigns, conducting targeted outreach based on influencers’ preferences, and re-engaging advocates to foster long-term product loyalty. Let’s dive into what each of these steps entails, and what they look like in action.

1. Incorporate gifting into multi-tiered campaigns

While events may prove more enticing to influencers than product mailers, brands can only feasibly accommodate a relatively small group of attendees at an in-person gathering. Because guest lists for events are inherently limiting, when celebrating an important brand moment, brands can amplify conversation by activating a broader swath of their fanbase via gifting.

Multi-tiered campaigns also enable brands to simultaneously engage different influencer cohorts, with different types of relationships to their brand. Events tend to be resource-intensive—both in terms of cost, and the effort involved in planning—so it’s wise to reserve these splashy get-togethers for a small group of loyal, impactful champions. Meanwhile, brands can nurture their relationships with promising new advocates via a mailer, creating meaningful touchpoints with influencers while conserving limited resources.

Clean skincare brand Versed became the poster child for a well-executed, multi-tiered activation in December 2020, when it launched the Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum. To fête the new product, the brand treated seven longtime supporters to an indulgent “Sunday Morning Staycation,” in which influencers received room-service style breakfast at home, a Versed newspaper, and an invitation to a workshop with the brand, along with the new serum. Meanwhile, Versed seeded the product to over 600 smaller-scale content creators. The thoughtfully orchestrated initiative paid off, accounting for $1.1M of the brand’s net $1.8M Earned Media Value (EMV) in December and fueling a 64% month-over-month growth in the metric.

2. Conduct targeted outreach based on influencers’ preferences

Frustrated that only a fraction of the influencers who received your latest product posted about it? One way to improve the rate at which mailer recipients mention your offerings is to curate targeted PR lists. You’re probably more likely to talk about a gift you actually enjoyed than one that missed the mark, and the same goes for influencers. For that reason, brands planning to send out a product should first identify recipients whose past behavior suggests that they’ll appreciate this new offering.

If you’re seeding an older product, you could prioritise content creators who have featured this item in “favorites” round-ups and could use a refill. Or, if you’re hyping a new release, opt for influencers who have endorsed offerings similar to yours. Familiarising yourself with the likes and dislikes of different content creators in your community, and aligning your gifting with influencers’ preferences, increases the chances that your mailer will wind up in the hands of enthusiastic fans.

Sometimes, targeted gifting is as simple as sending products to content creators with a proven affinity for your brand. For example, back in January, Kopari drummed up excitement for its new Paradise Pout Lip Kits by mailing the offering to a community of loyal supporters. Prior to the initiative, the brand looked at content creators’ previous activity and compiled a list of influencers who had mentioned its products at least once per month for the past three months.

Because these influencers had already demonstrated a consistent preference for Kopari, the brand could feel confident that they would post about a personal gift. The plan worked: 100% of the content creators to whom Kopari mailed the Lip Kits shouted out the new release, helping the brand close January with $2.3M EMV, its highest-ever monthly total.

3. Re-engage advocates to foster long-term product loyalty

While the initial flurry of activity sparked by a successful product send is certainly worth celebrating, influencers’ memories are limited, and conversation can quickly fade. Brands can prevent their gifts from being forgotten by re-engaging recipients to parlay early excitement into lasting loyalty. Gestures as simple as sending a thank-you note to the content creators who posted about your mailer, or offering to provide a refill, can rekindle enthusiasm for a product, boosting its staying power.

Wander Beauty understood the importance of continued outreach this past summer when the brand gifted fans newly launched shades of two complexion products: the Dualist Matte and Illuminating Concealer, and the Double Date Lip and Cheek. Following the send, the brand monitored recipients’ activity and noted content creators who were posting about the offerings less frequently than they had previously, or had stopped mentioning them altogether. The brand then personally followed up with these influencers, stoking ongoing conversations that extended beyond preliminary launch buzz. Ultimately, Dualist and Double Date generated a combined $762.0k EMV for Wander Beauty from June through August of 2021.

Cumbersome as they may seem, product sends remain a cornerstone of influencer marketing, and their utility is unlikely to fade even with the return of in-person events. However, the perennial importance of gifting doesn’t mean that brands can’t work to make mailers more sustainable—and more impactful. By using gifting to supplement buzzier initiatives, sending products to influencers who are primed to appreciate them, and following up with recipients after your initial outreach, you can ensure that your next mailer garners the appreciation it deserves while minimising the strain on your team.

Here’s a quick recap of the strategies you can use to optimise your product sends as events ramp back up:

  • Layer gifting into larger activations. When hosting exclusive events for prominent fans, leverage product sends to simultaneously engage a broader swath of your influencer community.
  • Curate targeted mailing lists for each send. Identify influencers whose posting histories indicate they are likely to appreciate the products you’re gifting them.
  • Reach back out to recipients when posting flags. After your mailer goes out, keep the conversation alive by re-engaging influencers who have begun posting about your offerings less frequently.
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