The subscription streaming service Hulu has used compelling influencer marketing campaigns in a number of ways in the company’s marketing strategy. And it’s paid off in a big way. Hulu has more than 25 million subscribers as of mid-2019. Take a look at the following campaigns to learn more about what made them successful — and how your brand can replicate that success.

The “Casual” Campaign

Hulu worked with influencer Andi Dorfman, who appeared on the TV show “The Bachelorette” and lifestyle website Thrillist to promote the Hulu show “Casual” to Dorfman’s and Thrillist’s social media followers. Dorfman appeared at an event to promote the new show. She posted about it on social media using hashtags and attracting more than 13,000 likes. The campaign ultimately reached an audience of more than 1.3 million.

Something that made the campaign successful was that Dorfman was known for starring in a TV show about dating, and “Casual” is a comedy-drama about dating. Partnering with relevant influencers to appear at your brand’s events is one way to get the word out. It helps boost the connection between what your brand and the influencers represent.

One way the campaign can be viewed as unsuccessful was that it just featured one influencer. It potentially could’ve reached an even greater audience by using more influencers or influencers with larger followings.

The “Sellouts” Campaign

One of Hulu’s more recent influencer marketing campaigns was all about transparency. Its Hulu Sellouts campaign featured top athletes, like NBA star Joel Embiid, promoting Hulu’s live sports streaming. The athletes in the ads are completely upfront about the reason for their involvement in the campaign: money.

It’s a refreshing take on influencer authenticity that resonates with an audience that’s grown tired of hidden sponsorships. The audience can’t question the motives of an influencer who’s totally honest about the reasons for promoting a brand. The campaign was successful because it created an even greater sense of trust with its audience.

The takeaway for brands is that keeping your influencer marketing campaigns open and transparent shows respect for consumers, which they’ll appreciate. The campaign might play unsuccessfully for other consumers though, especially those who don’t like that it doesn’t seem to take the issue seriously. Another potential downside: when the buzz is about how tongue-in-cheek the campaign is without focusing on the product, the brand gets lost in the shuffle.

Hulu and eSports

Hulu influencer marketing took another tack when Hulu partnered with the electronic sports league ESL on four series about eSports. One series called “Player vs. Player” features panelists, like online gaming influencers, debating different online gaming topics. By putting influencers front and center in its series, Hulu was successful in maximizing the growing popularity of influencers in gaming. Hulu might have leveraged the popularity of gaming influencers even further by promoting the show and its stars more extensively on its social media platforms.

The “Better Ruins Everything” Campaign

Hulu featured celebrity influencers like Joe Manganiello, Sofia Vergara, Sarah Silverman and Samira Wiley in its Better Ruins Everything campaign. This was timed to debut during the Emmy Awards. The campaign was a powerhouse for Hulu, generating over 20 million views in 24 hours and boosting Hulu’s social mentions.

The ad featured a diverse range of top stars and ran during a show that honored the best actors and actresses in the television industry. Both of these factors contributed to its success. One positive takeaway for brands? An ad campaign featuring influencers who reflect the content the placed in can maximize the impact of the campaign. In this case, star power on top of more star power meant a big win for Hulu.

What are potential downsides of this type of influencer campaign that could make it unsuccessful with some audiences? Some viewers might find the campaign to be an example of celebrity overexposure and out of touch with the everyday people who comprise Hulu’s market.

Brands should be cautious about using celebrity influencers, making sure to choose those that resonate with their target markets and won’t turn consumers off. Cost-conscious audiences also might question brands spending huge amounts of money hiring celebrities for these types of influencer marketing campaigns.

Hulu and the Fyre Fraud Documentary

Hulu has been pretty fearless about looking at the different sides of influencer marketing, as it did with its “Fyre Fraud” documentary film. This movie explored the way social media influencers contributed to the scandal around the deceitful Fyre Festival. Hulu knows that audiences love to watch documentaries about scams. As influencer marketing has come under increasing scrutiny, Hulu created content that reveals the practice’s dark underbelly.

Creating content about influencer marketing that takes risks helps brands build a sense of trust and transparency with audiences. But an unblinking examination of influencer marketing may cause audiences to lose trust in the practice altogether. That makes it difficult for the brand to continue using the strategy. It’s all about striking the right balance.

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