Key Takeaways From the ANA Influencer Marketing & Activation Conference

December 15, 2020

By Mike Kaufman


The ANA just held our Influencer Marketing & Activation Conference, the unique combination of our popular Brand Activation Conference (which had to be cancelled in April) and our second annual conference focused on influencer marketing. Despite being virtual this year, the conference was filled with rich learning.

There were five consistent themes throughout the conference:

  1. Working with influencers is a two-way street – engage/involve
  2. Content is intricately involved with good influencer marketing
  3. Storytelling is important to engage the audience, especially when activating through brand purpose
  4. Authentic influencers that fit with your brand are best received by most consumers, especially the most loyal and passionate
  5. Agility and flexibility have been and will continue to be important as the industry and society are constantly changing

Below are specific takeaways for the sessions.

Stephen Cassell, SVP, chief brand officer at Cigna: To get to the strategic sweet spot, you need the right messenger, right community/audiences, right objectives, and right insights. The Principles of Community Influence are insights first, influencers second; coordinate across communities to build trust; fit, not fame; influence the influencers across touchpoints; and don’t just preach, practice.

Suzanne Fanning, SVP, chief marketing officer at Wisconsin Cheese: The four keys to improving awareness of a high-quality brand are know who you are and who you want to become, be better storytellers, invest in content, and find your people. Everyday influencers are real people that fit with your brand and have true passion — get them talking.

Delali Kpodzo Conrad, head of marketing at UOMA Beauty: For Gen Z, you need to win their trust, loyalty, and participation. The five keys to winning trust:

  1. Be brave. Engage community with ways to be involved
  2. Make space. Active co-creators help shape conversations
  3. Welcome all. Stand up for those who are left out or marginalized
  4. Mean it. Gen Z knows when you’re genuine or not
  5. Take action. Go beyond listening and learning — be active, not passive

Tom Rossmeissl, head of global marketing at Eat JUST, and Leah Logan, VP social commerce at Inmar Intelligence: Some key takeaways learned from launching a new product in a pandemic with using influencer marketing include stay agile — have a process to do it, stick to your goals, lean on partners, and keep it simple — execute a few things well.

Ursula Ringham, head of global influencer marketing at SAP: B2B customers take more time to decide — innovative content needs to help tell the story. Good storytelling is authentic, leverages relatable storytellers, stays innovative using different types of content (video, blogs, podcasts, etc.), and uses different vehicles to distribute effectively.

Josh Hackbarth, VP, franchise management and marketing at Warner Bros. Consumer Products: New generations require new methods of marketing. The old formula was based on Content, Marketing, and Product. Now it involves Content, Community, and Commerce. Brands need to execute in all three areas, or they will have issues:

  1. Content: Brand content is most important
  2. Community: Drive cultural conversation — don’t force a brand message
  3. Commerce: Product, services, and experiences are all important

Jamie Richardson, VP marketing at White Castle and Tiffany Stavrianos, director, client leadership at Blue Chip: When marketing to loyalists, be transformational, not transactional. Go for long term relationships, not short-term sales. Make friendships, secure a bond, and get there together. In the face of unprecedented change, market to loyalists by being flexible and feeding each other’s souls. It takes a village to create an idea, and creativity is the great equalizer, no matter the size of the budget.

Tressie Lieberman, VP of digital at Chipotle: Another brand with super fans, Chipotle works with influencers to amplify their activations. Their approach is to deliver news in unexpected ways to get people talking. They believe in having a fan focus — treat them like royalty. Listen and move fast, driving culture, and cultivating a better world. Use platforms for good.

Krishna Subramanian, co-founder and CEO at Captiv8, and Maya McDonald, brand activations lead at Kraft Heinz: Keys to successful influencer marketing in 2021 include aligning on objectives, fitting with your brand purpose, using influencer marketing to help build trust, getting high value content that is authentic, leveraging data beyond what’s available on social platforms, and extending brand values with representation.

Marissa Solis, SVP, core brands, partnerships, media at Frito-Lay North America: Frito-Lay’s business is not snacks, it’s joy. They talk about creating smiles with every bite and bringing people comfort and normalcy. Their focus is being about people, and adding content and programming to support their marketing. Frito-Lay’s marketing is about connections and bringing people together, as well as empowering youth to be themselves.

Kristin Hallenga, the founder of CoppaFeel!: In a serious category, they have generated significant awareness (and fundraising) by delivering a message that isn’t dry/lifeless — it’s innovative, brash, colorful, and brightens your day. With a goal of wanting people to have a life beyond cancer, CoppaFeel! has encouraged young women to check, educate, and empower to have the courage to speak. Activations are targeted, timely, and true and are designed to stop and engage.

Jim McCoy, VP, sponsorships, meetings and events at Nationwide, Ian Trombetta, SVP, social and influencer marketing at the NFL, and David Lynch, VP, sponsorships and partnership management at the NFL: The NFL relies on influencer marketing to help grow its audience. The lessons they have learned include using facts, not feelings; focus on analytics; influence is intertwined across the league — leverage fan and player shared interests, don’t be transactional; and empower players’ voices — support causes important to them. Nationwide has found that by supporting the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award they stay true to their purpose by working with a property whose essence is consistent with Nationwide’s DNA. They spread their activations throughout the year, developing curated content and engaging the fans with activations around the Super Bowl and throughout the season.

Sinead Norenius-Raniere, VP of influencer marketing and paid social at Valassis, Matthew Tilley, senior director, content marketing at Valassis, and Tony Tran, co-founder and CEO of Lumanu: Influencer marketing is not a silo, but an integrated marketing strategy. A successful influencer marketing strategy involves:

  1. Getting a strategy. Don’t “spray and pray”
  2. Letting go of biases
  3. Leveraging content variety
  4. Targeting to audience
  5. Embracing smart technology
  6. Testing, finding success and then taking to scale

DyShaun Muhammad, global head of brand marketing at Uber Eats: Uber Eats thinks differently about endorsements. Contrary to others, they don’t care so much about the “fit,” but instead creatively leverage celebrities by culture shaping. Some keys:

  1. Hack local culture. Don’t just reflect culture, shape it. Be a spark
  2. Cast for cultural impact NOT brand fit. Use variety to reduce risk
  3. Embrace collision. Don’t avoid but lean into tensions
  4. Blur the lines between culture and advertising
  5. Make stories, don’t just borrow stories

Donny Jensen, VP, head of marketing at Spartan Race: Spartan has focused on its most influential customers to expand their universe while being forced by the pandemic to transform from an event-based company to a content and fitness platform, from a race company to a mindset company. To build for influence, work with passionate people, empower creators, develop social products, create services that inspire, and harness the community.

Wendy Wojdyl, senior director, content marketing at Prudential, and Sarah Cucchiara, SVP of channel marketing at BrandMuscle: Prudential has been challenged to develop information and tools to help people deal with pandemic related issues. Instead of focusing on saving tips for retirement, they’ve pivoted to help customers make smart decisions with the least negative impact. Their templated information system succeeds by keeping internal resources focused on strategic execution, allowing limitless versioning and personalization, and providing flexibility to local advisors.

Casey DePalma, senior director, head of public relations, influencer marketing and digital engagement at Unilever: The new ANA Influencer Marketing Advisory Board has been developed to help the industry make progress primarily in measurement (influencer metrics need to be consistently defined and consistently available — set standards for the industry) and representation. The benefits of standardized measures include better detection of fraud, increased potential to solve for the impact of measurement, better comparison of campaigns, and to better identify influencers for brand campaigns


Thanks to Bryan Clurman, associate director, brand engagement at Clorox, and Leah Marshall, director of Influencer Marketing at the ANA, for co-hosting the event.

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