To achieve relevancy with consumers, brands must exhibit authenticity and a clear mission, although what this looks like can vary from brand to brand. For example, Elie Seidman, former CEO of Tinder and current interim CEO of Fast Growing Trees, explained in a recent interview with PYMNTS that his company is emphasizing education and expert advice as part of its approach to serving customers.
While some brands may opt to handle this in-house, others are outsourcing to influencers in a more mindful approach that doesn’t necessarily involve shelling out large sums of money for the most talked-about celebrity or influencer of the moment. In fact, many brands and retailers are turning to influencers, such as doctors and specialized experts, to help create relevancy and educate consumers.
So a skincare brand may collaborate with a dermatologist to develop content that highlights the significance of using sunscreen, while a meal kit delivery service may partner with a nutritionist to create wholesome and appetizing recipes.
For example, twentysomething chef Meredith Hayden, known as “WishBoneKitchen” on TikTok, has garnered over 1 million followers by showcasing her always-fresh dishes. One of the main draws is her chronicles of the long and unusual hours she works as a private chef in the high-end beach towns of the Hamptons in New York.
Hayden’s main client, which she confirmed to be Joseph Altuzarra and his family in the comments section of one of her TikTok videos, has been joined by additional employers seeking her services for one-off catering events. Additionally, Hayden has authored two self-published cookbooks.
Now, Hayden is teaming up with Mediterranean quick-service-restaurant (QSR) Cava to launch a limited time spicy lamb bowl. Through the partnership, Cava now gets in front of Hayden’s 1.4 million TikTok followers.
Last month, The Fresh Market launched its annual partnership with Boston celebrity Chef Anna Rossi, who took on the role of brand ambassador and spokesperson. In this capacity, Rossi will be responsible for creating recipes, lifestyle content, and hosting a monthly shoppable event on the company’s website via livestreaming.
To kick off the celebration, Rossi hosted “Plan an Easter to Remember with The Fresh Market & Chef Anna Rossi,” where she shared chef-inspired recipes and tips. During the event, guests had the opportunity to shop live.
The collaboration between The Fresh Market and Rossi had already gained national attention, as evidenced by the recognition they received at the Digiday Video and TV Awards last year. The Fresh Market, in partnership with Firework, the video commerce leader, was awarded the Best Live Video Strategy Award. During the livestream held in November, where Rossi prepared The Fresh Market’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Meal, over 845,000 viewers tuned in, making it one of the most viewed episodes.
Figs, a direct-to-customer (D2C) healthcare apparel brand, reported a 61% reduction in customer acquisition costs from 2018 to 2020 to $39 with the help of its healthcare professional ambassador program, according to its S-1 filing.
“All of our ambassadors are medical professionals, not professional influencers who earn a living by posting selfies,” said Trina Spear, co-CEO and co-founder of Figs, in 2021. “They are real doctors and nurses who work 12- or even 16-hour shifts.”
Figs achieved profitability in 2020, with a net income of $57.94 million and net revenues of $263.11 million, marking a 138% growth from the prior year. The pandemic-induced surge in demand for scrubs and face masks was a major contributor to this success. Furthermore, the heightened attention toward essential healthcare workers during the pandemic provided Figs with additional exposure and growth opportunities.
Beyond food, healthcare brands are also increasingly using strategic and purposeful partnerships to convey a larger message beyond just product sales. One such brand is Batiste, a U.K.-based haircare brand, which has recently partnered with Active Minds, a mental health awareness nonprofit, for a yearlong collaboration. The aim is to provide resources and education to support the well-being of Gen Z members amid the ongoing mental health crisis, which has far-reaching implications.
In addition, Dr. Courtney Tracy, popularly known as @the.truth.doctor on TikTok with 1.8 million followers, has partnered with Batiste to address the challenges surrounding social media and mental health. Batiste has appointed Tracy as its mental health specialist, where she will share her expertise and skills in advocating for social media behavioral changes among Gen Z and millennials.
But thoughtful partnerships aren’t anything new.
Back in 2019, Amyris, a company that develops and produces sustainable ingredients for various markets such as health and wellness, clean beauty, and flavors and fragrances, made an announcement about “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness joining Biossance as their first celebrity ambassador.
Van Ness, who is a well-known television personality, podcaster, comedian and beauty expert to celebrities, also played a key role in one of Biossance’s educational initiatives during the summer. This partnership with Van Ness was an important step for Biossance in terms of raising brand awareness and promoting its mission of making clean beauty the norm.
In 2018, Dr. Mehmet Oz made a dramatic entrance at Salt Lake City’s Vivint Arena, rolling onstage inside an inflatable orb and wearing a hydrating face mask. He proceeded to pitch a new line of skincare products to a convention of supplement distributors, which was hosted by Usana Health Sciences, a Utah-based supplement manufacturer.
While the celebrity surgeon’s appearance seemed like an extension of his daytime TV show, it was actually in service of Usana, a company that has been investigated by federal authorities, sued by its own shareholders, and accused of operating like a pyramid scheme.
According to records reviewed by The Associated Press, the company was a significant advertiser on Oz’s show, paying a minimum of $50 million to be a “trusted partner and sponsor” and often blurring the line between medical advice and advertising in regular segments. Additionally, the company donated millions of dollars to Oz’s charity.
With that in mind, according to Alessandro Bogliari, CEO and co-founder of marketing firm The Influencer Marketing Factory, brands should be cautious and look for red flags when considering partnering with physicians as influencers.
“You don’t want to look for someone that is endorsing just everything because then the value of your product is going to go down to zero. You want to be sure that this person didn’t have any scandals in the past,” Bogliari said.
This advice is especially relevant in the context of the rise of “docfluencers,” where D2C brands are increasingly tapping medical professionals as influencers in the healthcare industry.
In 2022, the influencer marketing industry reached $16.4 billion, and 67% of brands and retailers reportedly intend to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2023, while 23% plan to spend more than 40% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing.