How Walmart and Interac Used Local Influencers to Power their Branded Web Series

Presented by InfluenceTHIS

What’s a millennial to do in 700 sq ft? These two brands have the answer.

Imagine this: you’ve given up your stable corporate career to document your experience as a young person trying to thrive in the big city. And on top of all that, you’re living in a space no larger than 700 square feet.

It’s a narrative that many millennials relate to, as they often sacrifice square footage to be closer to the people and places that they love. Living in small spaces presents significant challenges, but it also provides marketers with an opportunity to help a demographic that many companies want to connect with.

Companies like Walmart Canada and Interac, for instance. In fall 2017, the two major brands came together to co-executive produce and create an original digital series, called Upstairs Amy. The goal was to seamlessly blend entertainment with subtle, yet effective, brand advertising and reach young adult audiences.

 

The incredible success of Upstairs Amy is partly due to its unique integration of influencers into the content, a strategy meant to drive viewer engagement. “Branded content isn’t new, branded series aren’t new, and collaborating with influencers isn’t new. However, we knew we wanted to include influencers in a slightly different way,” explained Jen Stein, Vice President of APEX PR, whose company curated the digital influencers for the series.

YouTube served as the main platform for the videos, which were produced as a sitcom web-series that featured Toronto actors. Local influencers with an established following were also added as extras in non-speaking cameos throughout the series.

In this way, the brands were able to capture the power of their own audiences, YouTube’s audience and the influencers’ audiences. “Many hands make light work” might just be the new recipe for successful consumer-driven content.

Creating Relatable Content for Millennial Viewers

Walmart and Interac knew they wanted to target millennials — the question was how.

They determined that one of the starkest differences between millennial consumers and their Boomer and Gen X counterparts lay in their wage earnings and cost of living. Millennials find themselves living in smaller and more urban spaces, so this became the natural setting of the brands’ story, Upstairs Amy.

The team created content that follows a millennial mother leaving her corporate role to pursue her passion as an influencer. This life change coincides with moving upstairs into a new condo in her building where she develops a community of friends over the holiday season. In this environment, we see the character shape a new life into which product integration and brand identity are seamlessly woven.

The series largely takes place in Amy’s apartment building, where she encounters quirky characters on her quest to become an influencer.

“From a brand perspective, Upstairs Amy is so well targeted to an audience that we really wanted to be able to engage with. But I think also, Amy is very relatable. The characters, the storylines, it really could be you, me, or anybody. It’s very everyday. And I think that Walmart and Interac truly are brands for the everyday person,” explained Andrea Danovitch, Associate Vice President, Marketing and Brand at Interac.

Harnessing the Power of Influencers

Influencers are a proven asset in the business of selling to millennial consumers; they are the modest celebrities who represent the “everyman” figure and have earned their audience’s trust. It’s through influencers that brands can harness a captive audience.

The brands hired professional influencer @AmandaMuse, a Toronto-based mother of two with a modest following of 20,000 viewers, to play one of the show’s main characters. An influencer with a smaller, more local audience may be able to impact their audience more significantly than a more popular influencer who regularly posts endorsement deals. When Amanda posts a product, it’s likely due to a genuine motivation to provide value to her adoring and trusting fan base.

Through Amanda, the two brands speak directly to their consumer with a final takeaway and product recommendation that feels like two girlfriends trading secrets over brunch. The message is a gentle nudge that endorses the brands and directs the viewer to investigate further, either by watching more videos in the series or by viewing the influencers’ recent posts featuring Walmart and Interac.

“We worked hard with our PR partners to build a hustling ecosystem around that content as well, and that’s how we’re generating our ROI,” Heather Loosemore, Senior Director of Marketing Communications at Walmart Canada, explained. “What you don’t see directly is all the digital marketing efforts behind it – the influencers, the social media, the direct lines to sales and brand adoptions – because you just enjoy the show.

“And that’s exactly what we want: great content with a powerful ecosystem behind it that has been proven to get customers interested in what we have to say, without having to use every piece of content to say it.”

Collaborating with Other Brands

Finding another brand to partner with can be a tricky process. It helps if each collaborator is results-driven and has the same goal in mind, whether that’s to convert customers or raise general awareness of their brand.

“Initially we had been building out what does our influencer strategy look like and we knew that finding a like-minded brand that was committed to a similar audience would provide a richer experience,” shared Loosemore.

“Our internal team worked hard to think about what a perfect brand partner would look like and we knew Interac would be our number one fit. When we had our first conversation with Interac, it validated that we were both after innovative, influencer-driven marketing that would be mutually beneficial.”

Loosemore and her team laid the groundwork of the campaign before the first meeting with Interac. Preliminary research found that both companies wanted to present themselves to a collective target audience in a similar way.

“It was a very complementary relationship: we weren’t competing in any way and we saw a lot of shared values between our two brands. In the end, this means that the audience isn’t getting competing messages or values, but more seamless associations with the brands,” said Danovitch.

The Results: 6.6 Million Views and 9000+ Subscribers

The success of Upstairs Amy proves that no matter what channel you’re creating content for, authenticity is incredibly important if you want to engage with an audience. By introducing the brands later in episodes and in non-intrusive ways that flow with the narrative, the series feels less like an advertisement and more like a program that viewers can relate to.

For today’s millennial, the struggle to get by in a cramped urban environment is real — but by creating thoughtful content, brands like Interac and Walmart can help.

Are you interested in learning more about influencer marketing? Everyone interviewed in this story will be attending InfluenceTHIS, an upcoming conference where you can network and learn with marketers and agencies that are running influencer marketing campaigns in Canada! 

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