General Mills invests a third of digital spend in influencer marketing

General Mills brands
General Mills now invests a third of its digital spend in influencer marketers but to ensure content is authentic and effective it measures it against six criteria – the three T’s and the three R’s.

The brand’s Europe marketing boss Arjoon Bose says: “We’ve dedicated more spend toward influencer marketing. It’s about a third of our digital spend right now.

“It’s a licence to go and figure things out because we haven’t got all the answers, but equally it’s something that we can bring back to the business with clear recommendations. Essentially we’re on a journey here.”

Speaking at an Oystercatcher’s event this week (14 May), Bose said General Mills decided to “embrace and commit” to influencer marketing when it set up its organic business unit, which is dedicated to its growing range of organic and health-focused brands.

“We needed a new business model that had to be really targeted, precise and laser-focused. We are speaking to a new age consumer who is digital first. It was necessity that influencer marketing was a touchpoint. We had to embrace it fully and commit to it,” added Bose.

The company, which owns brands including Häagen-Dazs and Betty Crocker, used influencers for the launch of Larabar in the UK in February. The gluten-free fruit and nut bar now sells in Sainsbury’s, with General Mills wanting to mimic its grassroots heritage in its home market of the US through word-of-mouth – making influencer marketing essential.

READ MORE: General Mills focuses on building digital IQ as it looks to take more strategic approach

To develop authentic and effective influencer marketing, General Mills has six simple criteria: the three T’s – truth, transparency and trust – and the three R’s – reach, relevance and resonance.

Despite these clear goals, Bose admitted there are “many ways to skin a cat” when it comes to deciding how to pick the correct influencer. However, he believes being able to hand over control is key.

He explained: “The best content and storytelling authenticity [comes from] letting go of control and letting your influencer be their own creative director.”

The challenge of measuring ROI

Bose was candid about the lack of knowledge around influencer marketing and that General Mills is on a “journey”, adding that as the discipline grows so will the need for data.

“There’s going to be more reliance on data when it comes to influencer marketing,” he explained. “A lot of us are seeking out data metrics for more transparency and the need for ROI.”

READ MORE: What’s the ROI of influencer marketing?

Bose admitted that “initially it’s a more expensive investment” but that “the line flattens out” over time. As influencer marketing is still a relatively new discipline, deciding how much to pay influencers can be complex but General Mills’ Bose asks three questions.

He explains: “It’s the who, how and the what. How much would it cost me as a brand to produce that piece of content with an agency or anyone else? How many people do I want to get that message out to? That’s how we would arrive at an ROI and then apply index, whether there’s a one off or a long-term benefit to it.

“It really depends on what metric you are seeking whether it’s engagement or conversion but the best influencer marketing is where you go all the way down the funnel to advocacy.”

Bose believes that influencer marketing will become important in a range of industries, not just obvious areas such as beauty or fashion: “Industries like beauty are going to lead the way but we’re going to see it across every brand and touchpoint. People don’t just buy products, they buy benefits, values and passion points.”

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