French beauty brand Sephora has been leading the way when it comes to influencer partnerships. Just under two years ago, Sephora took a new approach to its strategy to focus on longer-term relationships, allowing them to build a “longitudinal set of discussion with influencers.”
Recently, Sephora went on the hunt for Instagram influencers to form part of its new #SephoraSquad influencer program, comprising of 24 influencers who will have an ongoing relationship with the brand through the year to create sponsored content.
Over 15,000 influencers applied for just 24 spots in #SephoraSquad. Sephora announced the final 24 influencers, chosen on the basis of two key factors: diversity and authenticity. Last week winners were chosen by Sephora merchant and marketing executives, as well as other influencers that work with the company.
“Sephora’s newly formed #SephoraSquad is a great example of two big shifts we’re seeing in influencer marketing. The first is a shift from one-off campaigns to creating engaged online communities. And the second is a shift from influencer to ambassador, with brands tapping existing bases of super fans vs. simply looking for those with huge followings to plug products,” said Jeremy Haile, CEO, and co-founder, Sideqik.
The #Squad finalists are diverse in gender, age, ethnic and racial background, and nationality. Influencers in the squad include Kali Kushner, who spreads positive messages about acne; Erick Glam, a makeup artist; Grace Atwood, a lifestyle blogger, and Christine Le, a beauty and fashion YouTuber. In order to enter, influencers had to submit testimonials from their followers, which helped Sephora better understand the impact the influencers have on their audience’s lives. Thousands posted on their social channels asking their followers for testimonials. According to AdWeek, the beauty company received a total of 240,000 testimonials over two months.
“Brands like Sephora are placing big bets on the power of building longer-term relationships with online influencers and offering them more autonomy and control over the content they create. And we expect those bets to pay off – if you treat influencers like stakeholders of your brand, they’ll protect it with the same care they take in managing their own online reputation,” continued Haile.
All of the influencers will have a paid contract with Sephora and will work closely with the brand in 2019. They will also receive free products, networking events, peer and professional coaching, and content collaboration opportunities. Apparently, most of the content they create will be native to the influencer’s own channels and audiences, with the hope that each influencer will bring their own creativity to the content they produce for the beauty brand. Sephora hopes that by becoming a larger part of the lives of influencers, the content will be “more meaningful”.
The #SephoraSquad ambassador program will renew each year. The core ambassadors are supported by a roster of micro-influencers to help to ensure that all consumers “see a bit of themselves in the people we work with,” Deborah Yeh, Sephora’s CMO, told Glossy.