NOTE: This audio was recorded before social distancing regulations were implemented, and since the spread of COVID-19, your influencer marketing is probably looking a little different these days. We think you’ll still find Jenn’s information valuable, and we look forward to seeing how you support your audience and your influencers and adjust your influencer marketing to stay safe during this crisis.
We’ve talked a lot on this podcast with brands, influencers, and agencies about influencer marketing success strategies. But we’ve yet to hear a consumer speak on their experience with influencers. Do the pretty photos and brand endorsements work? Even for the generations older than Gen Z or Millennials?
Jenn Leedy was a skeptic — wary of influencers and their platforms. In this episode, she shares with us how she found an influencer she feels close to, what makes one connection with an influencer last where others don’t and how influencers can lead your brand to more sales.
Beyond Millennials and Gen Z, influencers can drive Gen X purchase decisions too.
- Don’t underestimate influencers: relationships with their followers can go far beyond what outfit to buy.
- Creative brand partnerships with influencers can build highly personal and intimate connections with consumers, and even affect personal change.
Interview with Jenn Leedy
Perlu: Hello, and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined. Today we have a very special guest, Jenn Leedy. Jenn works freelance PR, marketing and events for a number of passion projects, and previously she worked in the NASCAR industry for nearly 15 years.
The reason we’re speaking to her today is for her perspective on influencer marketing as a consumer. Jenn is a Gen Xer who, outside of NASCAR drivers, never followed influencers and was barely even using social media outside of work… until she found Maddy Gutierrez.
Maddy is a Manhattan fashion and beauty influencer and an uplifting body-positive mom who has been influencing Jenn’s purchasing decisions for quite some time. Today we’re going to dive into what makes Maddy such an engaging influencer.
Jenn, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jenn Leedy: Thanks.
Perlu: Could you share with us how you found Maddy and what your relationship with her looks like today?
Jenn Leedy: So about a year ago, I moved from San Diego to the Washington DC area. My husband is in the military, so we do move a lot, but we’d been in San Diego for about four years, and I had my son while we were out in San Diego. I had a really strong group of women that I hung out with in San Diego. I was moving away from them, and I found myself in a rut.
In DC, you have the seasons, so we moved at the end of the summer, but it was starting to get colder. I found myself not really loving how I felt about my body, and my lifestyle wasn’t really allowing me to work out all the time. I just felt like I went from constantly having activities and being active outside in the sunshine and coming to a place that didn’t necessarily allow for that. You have to find more indoor activities as the weather gets colder.
I was feeling a little down, and my friend Kate, who has been really good about helping me in each part of my life, was telling me about some of the influencers she was following on Instagram. Maddy was actually one of the three names that she gave me.
I started following the three people that she told me to follow. And I don’t know — it really started small. I found myself checking Instagram here and there. I’d see all their stories but for some reason I really gravitated towards Maddy and her story. And I think over time I reached out to her once or twice. You just become engaged and more interested in being more connected to her life.
She’s really authentic, and she does a lot of fashion try-ons and different things, but she’s very body positive, which I thought was really helpful. And she’s also a mom in New York, so she’s living in a city where she’s constantly got things going on. She was relatable, and I felt like it was something that I could connect with.
Every time I asked her a question or every time I reached out or every time I needed clarification on something she was posting or wanted to know more about, she would respond. So I thought, I know how busy influencers are, and it just struck me that she was responding back to me and that we were having these conversations. Even though I didn’t know her, it felt like I had someone who was in it with me.
Perlu: That’s awesome — like a distant friend that you hadn’t really connected with before in person. So you’ve gone through some personal transformation as a result of your relationship with Maddy.
Could you share with us what that transformation has looked like?
Jenn Leedy: Absolutely. It’s still hard for me to really say “relationship” because I don’t know her, and I see her online. So that’s something that is new for me —
for influencer marketing in general — is it feels strange to be able to say that I have a relationship with her, because really it’s just me watching her share her life and the occasional feedback that she and I have.
But I will say I started noticing — and this is what I was telling friends and family — that I was getting more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I really started changing my mindset. She’s helped me a lot to change my mindset, and I’m just happier in my own skin and I’m happier with my body size and I’m finding myself more comfortable in my journey.
I’m not always able to work out, or I’m not always able to eat the right foods, but I don’t feel as negative about that thanks to some of the messages she puts out there and how real she is about her own journey.
And with clothing, she’s really helped me find things that fit my body size and fit my hips. I have different curves that maybe not everybody has, so it’s hard when you’re looking at ads or you’re looking at things in the store you wouldn’t even pick up. She’s really helped me find different items that make me feel more confident.
Perlu: That’s so great. Because if it makes you feel like you’re not the only one going through this — and I feel like women especially, we’re always the hardest ones on ourselves — and to know that someone else is going through it and we don’t need to be that hard on ourselves is really encouraging.
Jenn Leedy: You don’t always share your journey. It’s so hard. I found this just from so many different angles. Women, as much as we have emotions and we might share some of those, we don’t share our feelings or our thoughts on some things that have been swept under the rug. And body-positive messaging is something that’s really important. Because I did — I started realizing I’m not the only one that’s feeling this way.
Maddy in particular is really honest about how she’s feeling that day, and sometimes she’s not feeling 100%, but she doesn’t just go radio silent. She doesn’t just disappear off of Instagram. You see that she’s going through that.
The other influencers that my friend Kate told me about do some of the similar things, but for some reason there was this connection. Maddy’s also really good about promoting other influencers in her space — people she has followed and that have helped her. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve gone from not really following that many influencers to following a lot more just based on recommendations that she’s made.
There’s a whole community that I’ve found that speaks more to what I’m going through. Freelancing and working from home can be isolating, and you don’t always get out and see people or talk to people.
Motherhood — sometimes you just get wrapped up in picking up or dropping off your kid or spending time with them or your family that you don’t always get a chance to see other aspects.
It was nice to have someone that you felt was going through very similar things as you.
How has Maddy’s online presence affected your buying behavior?
Jenn Leedy: I’ve never been a huge fan of shopping. I’m not a big shopper for myself. I like a deal, don’t get me wrong, it’s just it can be very frustrating and it can get you really down sometimes when you have to go shopping and nothing’s fitting you or you’re not finding it. And to be honest, at this point right now in life, after the way that my body has transformed after having a baby and not being able to work out as much and the transformation that my body has taken, not every store has my size. So that’s really hard, and it can be very depressing to go into a store and not find your size and think something was cute.
So what I think has been great is Maddy does try-ons. Honestly, half the things that I think she tries on that look super cute on her I don’t know that I ever would have picked up in the store. Anthropologie is a great example in particular. So Anthropologie is a store I’ve always drawn to.
I’ve had friends that have found really great things from it, and I’ve always been interested in it, but I’ve never been able to put anything together or find anything to buy.
I have spent more time in store and online at Anthropologie in the last six months since finding Maddy, because she just shows you how pieces look and she talks about the sizing. She talks about the pluses and minuses to each piece. So my buying behavior has actually increased a ton. When I sat down and started thinking about it, I realized that I’ve probably purchased no less than 10 to 15 items over the last year because of her.
They are all things that I’ve been really happy with, but they’re things I wouldn’t have found otherwise. For example, I’ve always liked wearing dresses, but I don’t like them in the heat of the summer. Sometimes they’re not always the most comfortable. But she posted these bike shorts that work really well under dresses, and now I spent most of the summer in dresses.
She pairs items that you wouldn’t even think about with tennis shoes because she walks around the city so much, so there’s been different brands of tennis shoes that she’s talked about.
She just did a big swimsuit try-on that was fantastic. I had had to try on swimsuits a couple of days before she posted it because I was going on a trip, so I sent her a couple of recommendations of things that I had found at some of the stores she was highlighting. I sent her a couple of notes on things that I found that were really cute that I thought she hadn’t even gotten a chance to see.
My buying habits have definitely increased, so I’m sure if you ask my husband, I’m not sure how excited he was. I’m just joking — he’s been very happy, and I’ve been really happy because I’m finding things that fit me that I’m happy about and pieces that really make me happy when I put them on.
Perlu: That’s wonderful.
Perlu: I love hearing how these try ons and different recommendations from Maddy have really changed your buying behavior and made you feel more confident and just happier overall. I’m curious,
What about Maddy’s content keeps you so engaged?
Jenn Leedy: She is relatable. She’s real. She’s honest with the journey that she’s on. She has good and bad days, and she doesn’t try to sugar coat, but she does it in a way that still makes you feel happy that you found her.
Also, I think the other thing that’s been interesting is you find yourself rooting for her. So there are certain things that she may be going through, like she has some things she’s wanted to accomplish as an influencer. So she will post or she will share with the group, and sometimes there’s things that we can do that help. And you find yourself wanting to do that and cheering her on, again, even though you’ve never met her.
I’m finding others like that too. But for her, the journey that she’s on with her motherhood and being a mom, being in the city, talking about everything that’s going on in her life — it almost feels like she’s not holding back.
Also, she’s consistent. She covers her everyday, even if it’s something that she hasn’t necessarily covered on there before. I think just this week she was putting wallpaper up in her bedroom and she said, “I don’t normally share home stuff. Do you guys even want to see more of this?”
You find yourself getting up in the morning and going, “okay, I wonder what she’s up to today,” or you’re going through your journey and sometimes it coincides. She went to Walt Disney World two weeks before my family went to Walt Disney World. Obviously I didn’t plan the trip around her going, but once she came back she posted some blog posts and she had tips and information about the trip. And I found myself being able to take some of that into my own trip a couple weeks later.
So the real and relatable side to her is what I think I connect with the most.
Have you encouraged your friends and family to look more closely at the value that influencers can provide since this experience with Maddy?
Jenn Leedy: I definitely tell people about her, and that’s how I ended up here.
Over Christmas, I was talking to my uncle about it and he got excited about it like I did. So it’s definitely something that I’ve been sharing. There will be things I’ll tell my mom or my husband about or I’ll say “Hey look at this.”
But I also share with my friends. My friend Kate and I talk about the different influencers we follow. She’s been bringing me different ones all along the way.
You start to realize that there are others. Maddy is probably the number one influencer right now on my Instagram feed, but I also find myself really engaged with other influencers. There’s Busy Toddler, she does a whole section on sensory bins and different activities you can do with your young kids. Anytime I know I’m going to have a break coming up or something where I’m going to want to find some cool activity to do with my son, I check out her feed a lot.
There’s BRB Going to Disney. I started following her because I knew I was going to Disney, and I was going to get tips, but she’s similar. She talks a lot about her life, and she’s got two kids and lives in Florida. So you get to see a lot of her life outside the Disney stuff. But also every once in a while when you need a good pick me up, who doesn’t love watching kids at Disneyland? You can’t help but smile and be excited for somebody.
It’s definitely something I’ve talked about with my friends and family, but it’s also something I’ve started to look at and see where there are more influencers for things that I might be looking for. There are influencers out there and there are people that are like me that are doing this, sharing their life on social, that are moms or freelance moms, small business moms, stay at home moms — people that I can relate to and I’ve definitely seen more of that.
Perlu: What advice do you have for brands as they consider influencer marketing older than millennials and Gen Z?
Jenn Leedy: I think there is a market for older watchers. Everybody’s looking to be heard, to be seen.When you find someone who’s relatable to you, relatable to a mass amount of people, that’s something you really cling to. And just showing them every day that they’re not something that is just a niche, showing influencers that are more consistent with their posting. I think those influencers are the ones that really grab people and bring them in because you find yourself at least four or five times a day looking at your social media. You are checking out what’s going on; you’re seeing what people are thinking.
Inclusivity is important. I think you’re starting to find brands that are more inclusive for body sizes, but I think that’s a huge market that has gone untapped for a really long time. Mostly because not everyone’s comfortable sharing that or talking about it.
I’m not super comfortable about it, but it’s something that more people are looking for. So a lot of influencers who are body positive talk about the different sizes of the brands and show that there are stores out there. Maybe you can’t find your size in the store, but you will be able to find them if you go online and they show you the best way. They show the sales and some of the items.
I think that’s a huge — like I said, it’s a huge market that goes unnoticed right now, but it’s rapidly growing.
Perlu: Absolutely. I know the pain that my husband goes through because he’s 6’6” — he’s just a really tall guy. Nothing fits him properly. I wish I could find somebody to help him find some clothes.
Jenn Leedy: It’s funny you say that because I think guys, in different ways, experience the same thing. My husband is over six feet and skinny. So 90% of the time we have to go online to find the right size for him. And I’m starting to see that in my son.
It happens on all ends of the spectrum, really. I think that being able to find people who can help you or direct you in that place so you don’t feel so lost or confused is essential. And not everybody has a lot of time, so being able to go to one place or find one influencer that talks to a large amount of what you go through is easier just because people don’t have a lot of time these days.
Perlu: Well, awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining today, Jenn. It’s been such a pleasure speaking to you and hearing about your experiences with Maddy and influencer marketing in general. Really appreciate you being on the show.
Jenn Leedy: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Perlu: If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, we hope you subscribe to our podcast at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, wherever you listen to your podcasts, and give us a five-star rating and we’ll give you a virtual high five.
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