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Hey, Hei: Influencer Marketing Case Study

How Hey, Hei broke through with local creators to support its launch in South Florida.
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Hey, Hei: Influencer Marketing Case Study
How Hey, Hei broke through with local creators to support its launch in South Florida.

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Launching a new brand is no easy task — especially when you have a small team, small budget, and big goal. This is the challenge that Hey, Hei, an emerging gin and juice seltzer brand, faced when it came onto the scene in May of 2023. 

The brand had ambitious goals to break into the South Florida market — specifically Miami. This launch was well timed, as the spirits market seems to be having a small glow up. In 2022, the spirits revenue market share grew to 42.1% in the United States, surpassing beer for the first time ever. "We felt that there is a major opportunity in gin right now, as many other brands are focusing on leading spirits such as vodka and tequila," said Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei. "We knew going in that gin is a bit misunderstood - and used that as an opportunity - we set out to bring vibrancy to a traditionally dark and dry category.”

While Anger had extensive history in the food and beverage industry (including brands like Diageo and Rao's Homemade amongst alma maters), resources for Hey, Hei were small. Counting a team of six and a startup-sized budget, the brand needed to use grassroots techniques to quickly build brand awareness, drive sales, and lock in new distribution partners. 

Here’s how this unique team used influencer marketing to achieve its ambitious goals. 

The Influencer Marketing Goal

The team’s goals for this influencer marketing campaign were simple. In three months (roughly May - July 2023) the team wanted to:

  1. Drive awareness and excitement around Hey, Hei's launch to target consumers and distributors
  2. Drive sales and drink trials
  3. Experiment and test a variety of influencer partners, content, and activations in order to identify what works best 

The Strategy and How Hey, Hei Used Traackr’s Influencer Marketing Platform

Before Anger and his team got started on building out its influencer marketing campaign, their first step was to bring on an influencer marketing platform. They chose Traackr to help make the process and organization of influencer discovery and vetting, campaign management, and campaign reporting easier. 

“We knew that investing in an influencer marketing platform could help us achieve these goals with our small, agile team. Both Jackson (Hey, Hei’s CEO) and I were familiar with Traackr from previous stops, so we knew it was the right influencer marketing platform to help us launch our brand. It was super helpful for our team, particularly when vetting influencers and measuring the success of  them.” — Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei

Once the team was set up on Traackr, the real work began. 

Influencer Discovery

“The first order of business with Traackr was to identify new, top performing influencers that would be a good fit for our brand. This included a qualitative and quantitative local search.”  — Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei

The Hey, Hei team kept an open mind when finding influencers, in that they didn’t stick to any specific industry types. Unlike some other brands, they didn’t just look for food and beverage influencers, but instead thought through what kinds of influencer types represented the local spirit of Miami (from shuffle dancing to street interviews to community gatekeepers). Some of the influencer archetypes that the team decided to look for included: 

  • Social mixers. This category included lifestyle influencers (folks in fashion, beauty, etc). Their content could be anything from “get ready with me” (GRWM) videos, to personal videos about local dating.
  • Spontaneous entertainers. This category included street interviewers (which is very popular in the Miami area), shuffle dancers, and more. Their content tended to be more specialized and niche, but highly engaging to their audiences.
  • Casual critics. This category included influencers that are more focused on the local food and beverage scene. They could be classified as “foodies” (not professional critics).
  • Double lifers. This category included influencers that had two or more main components to their content. For example, this could include someone who is a surfer who also has a day job, or a fitness influencer who also likes to go out on the town at night.

In order to find the specific influencers that fit into these archetypes, Anger and his team used Traackr’s influencer marketing platform to search by interests and content and bio keywords.

Influencer Vetting and Outreach

After compiling their original list of potential influencer partners, the next step was to narrow down the list to top performing influencers with a specific audience demographic. In order to do this, the team used Traackr to evaluate:

  • Audience demographics. The team wanted influencers who had an audience that was local to the Miami area — Traackr allowed them to see a breakdown of geographies, ages, and more. 
  • Performance metrics. Anger had a specific performance standard that he wanted all partners to meet. With Traackr, the team was able to filter potential partners by average engagement rates and video views. 
  • Reach. The team used Traackr to find influencers that were in the micro (10K+ followers) or mid tier (50K+ followers) range.
  • Community. Last but not least, the team spent time evaluating each potential partner’s in-feed comments. Specifically, they analyzed the quality of comments in order to get a sense for whether the influencer’s followers were truly engaged.

Once the team had their final list of influencers, outreach began. However, instead of simply messaging briefs and cold emailing them, Anger and his team decided to take a more personal approach. 

“After we identified which influencers we wanted to partner with, we really leaned into some grassroots tactics. A huge advantage for our team is that we live in the same neighborhoods as some of these people, so we took them to dinner, out to drinks, and stocked their fridges with our product. We let them in and showed them that we’re a small team trying to achieve something big. Many of them loved the idea of working with a startup and being able to say ‘I helped launch this local brand’.”  — Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei

The hard work that went into this personal approach didn’t go to waste. In fact, it worked so well that there were several top influencers who were so excited to work with the brand that they lowered their rates or simply worked in kind. 

Influencer Kits

In addition to taking influencer outreach and relationship building offline, the Hey, Hei team got creative with their “PR kits.” 

A speech conversation was presented within - leaning into the fact that “nothing was real in life” - influencers that scanned the QR code were sent to a video with an AI bot giving a satirical presentation. The video ended with Anger and his team on screen saying “nothing in life is real anymore, but we are”. This messaging tied in well with the fact that Hey, Hei’s products are made with real juice and real seltzer. “These kits didn’t shatter the influencer marketing industry by any means," said Anger. "But, it did give us a chance to show (not tell) the tone of our brand. We were able to make a few folks laugh and show that Hey, Hei is a fun and culturally relevant brand.”

Influencer Briefs and Content

“I have to give credit to our influencers for bringing creativity and passion to their content. Our team provided a few messaging suggestions in our briefs, but we really avoided getting too prescriptive. The last thing we wanted to do was dictate what our partners should create — not only did many of them appreciate that, I think this is what helped the content turn out to be so vibrant, diverse, and authentic.” — Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei

Similar to their approach with finding influencers, the Hey, Hei team decided to go for an eclectic mix of content for their influencer marketing campaign. Before making any suggestions to their influencer partners they:

  • Conducted a data analysis to see what was trending on social media, amongst the communities they wanted to reach
  • Defined what characteristics of their brand and product would help them stand out
  • Determined what general types of content they wanted to focus on — in this case they settled on trials (people testing the drinks) and “thumb stopping”, or attention grabbing content

From there, the team carved out a few key messages to include in their influencer briefs. Those key messages were meant to be fun, punchy, and inspirational. Partners weren’t required to utilize all the key messages, but rather pick one of the following to incorporate into their content in their own way:

  • GGL — "giving gin life"
  • SOS — "I’m so sick of seltzers" (because they lack flavor)

With this light guidance in mind, influencers were then encouraged to create their own unique sponsored content. This resulted in a diverse spread of high performing content, some of which included:

The Influencer Marketing Results

Hey, Hei’s launch made a great splash (pun intended), thanks to its influencer marketing strategy. Not only did the campaign earn the brand some great brand awareness, local cred, and sales, it helped the team build great relationships, and gather enough insights to come up with a confident plan for what to do next.

  • 8.41M+ impressions (total follower count/potential impressions)
  • 757K+ video views
  • 136K+ post reach
  • 15K+ engagements
  • 2.03% average engagement rate (not only did this beat out other competitor's average, several influencers beat their own engagement rate personal best)
  • 7.37K total Brand Vitality Socre, or VIT (this was 4.16% higher than the majority of Hey, Hei’s competitors - learn more about the VIT score here)
  • High quality comments from followers, showing intent purchase
“Strong relationship building was such a key factor of success for this influencer marketing campaign. We encourage our team to keep up a steady drumbeat of communication with our creator partners — message them, watch their content, take them out to dinner — even when we don’t have a particular ask. Working on relationships outside the bounds of paid partnerships or content creation builds trust, builds affinity, and most of all opens up the door for impactful and interesting collaborations in the future.” — Matthew Anger, Chief Digital Officer at Hey, Hei

This strong relationship building not only helped the Hey, Hei team earn high marks in their specific KPIs, it also earned them a higher rate of organic posts. Their creator partners felt truly valued and excited about the products, so they often mention the brand without prompting. 

Some other key learnings included:

The power of scientific experimentation.

The team not only experimented with creator archetypes (and learned a lot about which ones work best for Hey, Hei), they also kept a close eye on top performing content themes. This insight will help inform future campaigns.

Comments are powerful tools of engagement.

The team noticed increased engagement on posts where creator partners responded to comments from their followers. Even better? When creators responded to comments validating brand love and sharing CTAs. 

The right creators can provide surprising impact.

More specifically, the right creators can impact business goals that aren’t traditionally associated with influencer marketing. For example, one of the creators from the campaign happened to be followed by some of the distributors that Hey, Hei wanted to win over. In the end, not only did she help the brand reach its target consumer audience, she also serendipitously familiarized those distributors with Hey, Hei — when Anger and his team landed a meeting with them, they had already heard of the brand from that creator’s content. 

Given the success of this first influencer marketing campaign, the Hey, Hei team plans to keep working with creators to continue building out the brand. In addition to continuing partnerships with some of the top performing creators, Hey, Hei will also plans to source new partners, launch gifting campaigns, and implement a local ambassador program. 

If you want to stay up to date on the amazing work that Anger and his team are doing at Hey, Hei, follow the brand on Instagram at @drinkheyhei!

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