Something odd happened recently. We noticed that there was a massive premium slumber party at Sandals water bungalows, but we were not invited?”  Then it hit us! That is exactly the response Sandals’ marketing team wanted.

How could Sandals’ marketers predict that we would be jealous of random vacay posts from seemingly random people. Well, that’s just it, it’s not random at all, but a systematic approach marketers take. Marketers have used influencers for brands for years. But it only became very popular recently. These influencers are hired to share their experiences with the brand to their followers who then respond, share or in our case, get totally jealous. In the last two years, more brands have begun using influencers to promote products, some of which we hope to leave in the past i.e. FitTea or SugarBearHair.

We should explain about influencer marketing. Influencer campaigns work because they sell content, not ads. This strategy works because their material entertains, educates or evokes emotions, and the influencers have large devoted fan bases. With the gradual rejection of traditional ads by audiences, brands everywhere are using these trusted online personas to get the attention of their audiences.

Credit: Yendi Phillips Instagram (@Yendizzle) 279k followers

How and why does this work? Influencers use their Instagram fame, likeability and knowledge of their audiences to sell or create desire for a branded product or service. Brands can then use branded keywords or hashtags to measure the impact these influencers have on the campaign and of course, measure them against the company’s KPIs. Locally, in the 12 Sandals bungalows, we’ve counted five Jamaican and seven international influencers. They all happened to be vacationing at the same time. Their followers  are from 19k to 1.5m, and their perfectly captured photos carry the same two branded hashtags, #SandalsSuiteLife #SandalsSouthCoast. Influencers usually receive awesome experiences, high social media engagement (that are attractive to marketers) and financial benefits.

With so many influencers, there must be a method in choosing the right one. Some websites, like Upfluence and Tapfluence, rate influencers using algorithms. In the Caribbean, we found one company that uses a less scientific method to do the same. Your local digital marketing company, however, may be best suited to connect influencers to brands as they will be more familiar with the cultural dynamics - which brand is best suited to which influencer’s audience.

Why is this happening now? Marketers realize there was a market shift where audiences no longer fully trusted traditional advertising (though it still has its benefits) but prefer peer reviews and referrals. After all, we are all more likely to pay attention to real people with whom we are familiar than an ad that keeps popping up.


Credit: Alyssa Bossio Instagram (@effortlyss) 1.5M followers

Social media popularity opened a new door for influencers and marketers alike. It’s a win-win situation where influencers can produce content for brands they already love and brands get honest reviews shared to large audiences.

Let’s look back at Sandals. Reviewing the campaign, the obvious question is “did it work?” Well, they would have the actual KPIs behind the campaign. The audience response however, shows us that because we love our country, seeing images of these beautiful people enjoying it brings us pride, joy and satisfaction; everyone wants to visit Sandals south coast:

Also, there were those who used the opportunity to piggyback on the posts or promote everything else like…

Of course, there are other popular local influencers we absolutely love. The always funny  Dutty Berry and Bella Blair who currently work on the Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica Campaign are examples. But there are many others who we follow in Jamaica.

It’s a useful strategy. We’ve found that this works best, however,  when we are unaware of the details behind the arrangement. But with the US FTC regulations you’d find that influencers are required to state if it was a paid partnership. No one wants to be given a review and not know the motivation behind it. That being said, pay more attention to your influencer feeds. Is there something new that they seem to be sharing? Does seeing your favourite social media influencer affect the things you like, buy or associate yourself with? Tell us who is pulling your strings.