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How a Food-based Media Company Builds Mutual Trust with Major Brands

Jul 21, 2017

Marketers face many hurdles when attempting to resonate with their audience. However, one thing is certain: partnering with influencers is a surefire way to overcome this hurdle. But only if it’s done right, and that’s not always so easy.

In my role as Influencer Marketing Manager, I constantly hear the same question from brands: How? How do you partner with engaging influencers to reach an audience with incredible content? How do you understand the difference between authentic sponsored content and buying advertisements? How do you let go of creative control and trust influencers to tell your brand’s story? And how do you measure success across different content mediums?

In order to peel back the curtain of what brands need to do in order to work with influencers, I got brunch with Jeremy Jacobowitz (an influencer in his own right), of New York City media company, Brunch Boys. With over 411K followers on Instagram and a drool-worthy feed, I knew Jeremy could shed some light on how he works with major brands including Delta, Macy’s, and New York Sports Club (NYSC).

We met up at NYC hot-spot ATLA, both with a content creation mission. Jeremey needed stunning food photos and I wanted to walk away with a captivating influencer interview. I’d like to think we both had a successful morning. Read on for insights that help to solve the influencer marketing puzzle plaguing even the best brands today:

What inspired you to start Brunch Boys?

The first show I got hired to be a part of was Worst Cooks in America. At the time, Bobby Flay was the host and when the show wrapped he asked me to work for him. For the next two years, we traveled and I worked on his shows including Three Days to Open, Bobby’s Dinner Battle, and Brunch @ Bobby’s. Other shows I worked on include Celebrity Cook Off, Kids Cook Off, Deep Fried Masters, and Food Porn for FYI.

After working in food TV for years, I had been capturing food content as a creative project and decided to make some brunch videos. The original concept was simple, there was no thought of it being a “food instagram” because those didn’t exist back then. So Food Porn wrapped, Brunch Boys was already started and I decided to start doing that full time.

What is the best way for brands to build a relationship with someone like you?

I think partnering to come up with engaging sponsored content. It’s great when a brand can give me the resources and budget to be creative. I like the brands that give me creative freedom to do something fun. There is a distinction between buying an ad on my feed, and really integrating your brand into what I do. Brands need to understand they are not buying ads when they partner with influencers.

What factors do you consider when a brand reaches out about a potential partnership?

I consider if the brand fits Brunch Boys and what we post about. What kind of creative are they looking for? Is this a one time thing, or are they looking for a longer term relationship? What is their budget?

How do you work with brands to negotiate compensation?

I collaborate with many other food bloggers in NYC, so we all get approached by a lof of the same brands and can compare deals to understand what the fair market rate is. Brands don’t really know exactly what the right prices are. In the past few months, the money being offered has skyrocketed. I think it's due to the fiscal year changing and brands allocating more budget to influencer marketing.

What are some of your favorite brands you’ve worked with? Why do those stick out?

I really enjoy working with brands that wouldn’t necessarily fit with a food Instagram because I have to come up with cool ways to get their message across. Macy’s and Joffrey’s Coffee were both great to work with.

New York Sports Club (NYSC) and Thrillist have been awesome to work with because they helped with the content production. We produced a high quality video, and paid me to host it and promote it. Everyone wins in the end because we both have great content to share.

Delta has also sponsored a lot of the traveling I do. I am able to take a 4-5 day trip and explore restaurants in another city because they will sponsor the flights.

What brands you would love to work with that you haven’t yet?

New Era. When I was growing up, every city I would travel to I would buy a hat. So now, I have a massive collection and I only buy the authentic hats that the team actually wears on the field, so they are all New Era. I would really want to work with them.

Or maybe something in electronics. Microsoft would be great to partner with because I’m obsessed with my Surface Pro. It’s powerful and super light. I run around all day with my gear and it’s been amazing.

Canon would be another one, because I shoot all my pictures on my camera and love it. It would be a natural fit to start talking about the equipment I use to shoot all my content.

What’s the biggest mistake brands make when reaching out to an influencer?

Not doing enough research to understand the content that the influencers creates and what their true engagement and reach is. Partnerships don’t work if brands only look at who has a ton of followers and blindly pay them to push out whatever message they want out there.

As your audience and brands you work with grow, how do you balance providing trustworthy content with paid engagements?

This is my biggest job creatively with Brunch Boys. My job is make sure that my content is engaging enough, where it doesn’t matter if it’s paid for or not. Even though I #ad, my audience shouldn’t be able to tell a visible difference between sponsored and non-sponsored content. They should just be excited by the photos and videos I post. Finding that true balance is key, and is something I work on all the day.

How do you capture amazing pictures when dining out at restaurants?

I look at food shots as professional photoshoots. I’m used to being in restaurant and being a disturbance with multiple cameras. I look at what I do as still producing, but now rather than producing for TV, I’m producing for Instagram.

What type of content does your audience want?

Brunch! I always joke around, if I only posted cheeseburgers my followers might go through the roof but I think about my feed as being distinctive. The struggle on Instagram is to stand out. One of the ways I try to stand out is shooting on a camera rather than an iphone so my picture quality is really high. I don’t think there is one account that looks like mine. I’ve been able to find my distinct style. So, when people ask how I’ve been able to experience so much growth, I always attribute it to being different. I’m willing to sacrifice likes and comments for truly standing out.  

How do you see your audience engaging with video and photo content differently?

Impression wise, videos are always higher. The highest number of impressions I’ve ever received on a photo was 450K, the highest on a video, however, was 3M. There is a huge gap. On the other hand, I find photos are more consistent in terms of likes and comments where some videos just die for some reason. Videos will have less likes than photos, but the views are usually higher. Right now, I’ve been trying to do about 4 videos per week.

Where do you think Brunch Boys will be a year from now?

I would like to grow the team and focus more on video content. Last year when Instagram changed the videos from 15 seconds to 1 minute, that was the moment I realized I would never have to go back to TV. If I wasn’t able to produce videos, I would have got the itch for TV again, but the fact that I can produce short 1 minute clips opens the doors for content production. You can’t do anything in 15 seconds, even a minute is so hard. Having 60 seconds is challenging but has ultimately made me a better producer.

How much has timing played a role in Brunch Boys’ success?

I used to get 1000 organic new followers per day. This went on for about 6 months, then when Instagram updated their algotrim and started shadow banning for duplicate hashtags, it dropped to about 300 per day. Now, over time, I’ve been able to build that back up, but it is much harder.

I always tell other influencers to get a time machine. The number of accounts is saturated now. There are over 250 food blogging accounts in New York City alone.

Final question, who is the other Brunch Boy?

I always joke that ‘Brunch Boy’ sounded sad, like one boy eating alone, but the real reason why it’s Brunch Boys, is originally there were two of us. My friend and I shot 3 episodes then went back to working in TV and forgot about it. For a year, I didn’t do anything with it. Then my TV job asked me to take photos for digital content so I started to post them to the Brunch Boys handle. At this time, food instagrams were starting to become a thing, and I started posting everyday. Then the account started to grow into what it is today.

I would like to give a huge thanks to Jeremy for his time and for sharing real-world insights into his evolution from food blogger to influencer and pioneer of modern media.

Are you ready to start partnering with influencers like Jeremy? Download the newly updated Guide to Influencer Marketing for an enterprise-grade blueprint. After reading this new guide, you’ll walk away with the tools to build your influencer network, engage your influencers effectively, and measure ROI.