Expanding your brand overseas comes with mixed emotions. It’s exhilarating – congratulations on the growth! – but it also can lead to a lot of new challenges in marketing. How do you know the best way to reach your new audience?
In this episode of our influencer marketing podcast, we hear from Cody Beavers of international, multibillion-dollar car rental company Sixt. Sixt is one of the first and most influential international car rental companies in the world – with over 100 years in the business. They were the first car rental company with a website and the first to accept mobile reservations. They are present in over 105 countries with branches in over 2,200 locations. You can easily find Sixt car rental services internationally in almost every major city and tourist destination worldwide.
Cody shares how local influencers effectively and authentically helped spread the word about Sixt’s expansion from Europe to the States.
- A Perlu Brainstorm can help even the most established brands gain new insights on how to effectively market to target audiences.
- A consistent brand voice and one core audience that is similar in every country helps with marketing in multiple countries.
- Influencers are seen as more valuable and authentic than actors in viral campaigns like Sixt’s 60 Bucks campaign.
- Try reversing the process. Let influencers create content for your brand and then match it to the best outlet – social, blog, etc.
Interview with Cody Beavers
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined, a podcast where we chat with influencer marketing professionals, social media influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, you name it, about what has led to their success. I’m your host Alexis Trammell, and today we are speaking with Cody Beavers who manages social media and communications for Sixt USA. Sixt is a multibillion-dollar global car rental company that recently used Perlu to transform its influencer marketing into a more collaborative strategic initiative.
Cody is a proven marketer for aligning business strategy and objectives with established social media and communication development who focuses on maximum marketing impact with minimum resource expenditures. Cody recently brainstormed campaign ideas for the upcoming season with a curated group of influencers on Perlu. The interactive session led to more than a dozen ideas for Sixt USA to connect more authentically with its audience, excite its customers and generate far more ROI from its influencer marketing. Cody resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his two dogs, and he is a strong believer in the power of branding. Thank you so much for joining us today, Cody.
Cody Beavers: Thank you for having me. Great to be here.
Perlu: You’ve had a little bit of work already happening on Perlu. I’d love for you to speak to us about that a little bit today.
As we all know, Perlu can help you take control and be more proactive when it comes to influencer marketing campaigns, from targeting specific geographies to finding the influencers you can afford to pay or even to get upstream input from an influencer about what will be most effective for certain audiences. And you took advantage of this unique value Perlu has to offer through having a brainstorm session with several Perlu influencers. And I heard that some really cool ideas came out of that brainstorm, from documenting an influencer’s 25th birthday since Sixt is this car rental company, to road tripping across the US.
Could you share with us about that experience and what value it brought to Sixt? What were some good takeaways you learned from that brainstorm?
Cody Beavers: Sure. The brainstorm that I had was a very enlightening panel, actually. Much too often marketers like myself can get tunnel vision when it comes to content and only focusing on content that we see as creative content instead of really looking at our audience and the people who use our product and what they like and what they’re passionate about. Being able to come into the brainstorm with Perlu with an open mind and looking at ideas that the influencers had really shown me: new ways to market Sixt as a company, especially to a growing audience of influencers, especially related to travel. Some good takeaways for me were creating more long-form authentic content for Sixt and giving influencers more control when it comes to how they want to tell their story and really diving in with the influencers and learning everything that they’ve done with other brands.
Perlu: That’s so cool to hear. Sixt has won awards for its influencer marketing campaigns in the past and is well known in Europe. It’s a newer brand in the US so,
Could you share with us what it’s like to trailblaze a brand in a new geography where you’re not as well known?
Cody Beavers: Yeah, so you’re exactly correct where Sixt Rent a Car is the number one car rental company in Europe and number four in the US. We definitely have a bigger brand presence and we’re more well known in Europe than we are here in the States. It’s definitely a challenge for us here. Every day we have to come into the office and it’s always an all-hands-on-deck sort of feeling, which I really like working in that startup-esque atmosphere.
For me personally, honestly I didn’t know much about Sixt and especially I didn’t know how huge it was until I started working here a little over three years ago. But watching the company not only grow in size over those years, but also growing in awareness is extremely rewarding to the company and our marketing team as a whole.
Perlu: Cool. Cool. Well let’s back up a little bit. You manage social media and communications for Sixt USA.
What has been your experience in influencer marketing? And how has that integrated with your role as a social media and communications manager?
Considering, Sixt does have that startup type of culture happening right now.
Cody Beavers: Yeah, so since we’re more of a startup-esque type of company here in the States, our budget can be really cost effective at times, so that’s a perfect opportunity for us to really focus on influencer marketing just because the cost and content that comes out of working with an influencer is far greater than what we might do with billboard advertising – a more traditional type of advertising. Having this new wave of advertising in the form of influencers is really a cost-efficient strategy for Sixt and our brand and the way that we focus on renting out luxury cars. And we’re available in many locations here in the US and worldwide, in over 100 countries. It’s really easy for us to get on board with influencers and offer them a trip in a nice luxury car in exchange for some really great storytelling and really great content. I believe where our brand is and the products that we have to offer really align with what influencers want to do, which is travel.
Perlu: That’s so cool.
Rethink Your Brand’s Influencer Marketing
How is influencer marketing in Europe different than what you’re doing here in the US where there’s less market awareness? How does that affect your day to day?
Cody Beavers: Our tone of voice here at Sixt is really constant in our communication channels across all of our corporate countries. Because of the consistency of our brand voice, all of our marketing really revolves around one core audience that’s really similar in every country. Every country is going to have travelers between the ages of 21 to 60+, so that’s really what our core audience here is at Sixt globally.
There’s many campaigns that we work with internationally in Europe that really help raise brand awareness here at a cost-effective scale here in the States. There are niche audiences in every country that each country will market to so the integration is very time effective as well, especially when there’s one country.
Let’s say UK comes up with a really cool piece of content that can work internationally here in the States since there’s no language barrier there. And even if there is – let’s say Germany comes up with a really cool social media post – it’s easy for us here in the States to adapt in regards to influencer marketing, and how that’s different. It’s usually much easier for Europe to work with large influencers because of their name. Sixt in Europe weighs a lot heavier over there than it does in the States. Here in the States, there’s probably only one in ten people I would say that really know what Sixt is as a brand, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing for us. We just take it more as a challenge, and that just means that Sixt in the US has to be a little bit more creative and more grassroots when it comes to influencers and storytelling.
Perlu: Could you tell us about some ways that you align Sixt business strategy and objectives with the established social media and communication development?
Cody Beavers: Sure. Of course at Sixt USA, our main focus is car rental and in regards to that, marketing for car rental might not seem like a very fun thing to market for. We know in the customer journey, car rental is the thing that people worry about the least, and they really look at pricing more than anything else. We’re not like airlines where everyone has their preferred airlines. No one really has their preferred car rental company. As the goal for our marketing team, that’s the goal that we want to strive for. We want Sixt to be the customer’s preferred car rental company. If they go online and they see based on our competitors, they would still want to go with Sixt because that’s the brand that they’re loyal to now.
That’s the question that we ask ourselves when we come in the office every day. And my role specifically is to figure out ways that we can fuse our brand channels with our communication channels in order to create a cohesive and successful story that will hopefully drive revenue and raise brand awareness.
Perlu: Thanks so much Cody. I’d like to take a quick break to talk about Perlu, the platform that all influencer marketing professionals should be using to connect with influencers. It’s not a subscription based directory. It’s a professional network of active influencers ensuring that brands partner with only the best, and you can sign up and try the platform for free today. No commitments, nor obligations. Here’s Brent Scott, Perlu’s director of influencer marketing to tell you a little bit more.
Perlu: Well cool. And so you really pride yourself on achieving maximum marketing impact with minimum resource expenditures.
Could you tell us how you go about doing that and how that ties into your influencer marketing initiatives?
Cody Beavers: Sure. As I mentioned earlier, being kind of new in the States and still growing, we don’t have the marketing budget that our friends in Europe might have. We have to be a little bit smarter when it comes to our marketing issues. And one way, as I touched upon earlier, is influencer strategies, but it also comes down to being a little bit more creative in terms of content, looking at new niche platforms. We’ve been looking at platforms such as Twitch, TikTok, Chinese social channels as well, since Chinese travel is growing here in the States. Just kind of being a little bit smarter in our marketing strategy is a really good way for us to create cost-effective and efficient campaigns on a minimum budget.
Perlu: Awesome. And so I’ve got to know,
What are some of the most creative things that you’ve been doing for Sixt lately?
Cody Beavers: Yeah, here at Sixt I think it’s one of the best brands to market for right now. There’s so many exciting things happening and so many exciting things in the pipeline for 2020. Right now is a really good time to be a marketer at Sixt in my opinion. Our 60 Bucks campaign is something that we’re actually working on right now. And I think that’s one of the most creative things that happening at the brand so far. Basically what it is, is we’re giving two influencers $60 and a car rental to explore a specific city that we have set out for them and we film everything that they buy and their travel. And it’s funny. We did our first one in LA and it’s basically just using influencer marketing in a smarter way by giving it some sort of gamification.
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And also with the video that we did in LA and the upcoming video, which we’ll have launching in November, we collaborated with BMW to really help do a really well-rounded brand collaboration between Sixt and our car manufacturer. For Sixt with a brand collaboration like that with BMW for this video, for this campaign, Sixt is able to build more brand awareness and reach in the States just by having BMW in the name. And then also for BMW I think it really helps them reach a new niche audience, which might not think of BMW as a fun brand. They might think of BMW as a little bit out of their price range. Something that they can only dream about, but with Sixt it’s really about making that dream a reality. And I think that’s what the goal of our 60 Bucks campaign really is.
Perlu: Oh, so fun. That sounds so fun for the influencers and what a smart partnership with BMW.
Cody Beavers: Yeah, yeah. Thank you.
Perlu: Was that something that came from the brainstorms with influencers on Perlu?
Cody Beavers: I definitely think that brainstorm kind of kicked off or made the creative gears turn. The idea actually came from our ad agency in the US, Superheroes, but definitely we had that in the pipeline. I thought we were just going to have regular actors doing it. But with the brainstorm that I had in Perlu, I really thought that influencers were more authentic and would give us a different feel than what our competition is doing in terms of social media.
Perlu: Cool. Yeah, and I saw these posts on social and I thought, how creative.
Are you seeing a lot of positive response from it?
Cody Beavers: Yeah, yeah. A positive response from not only our customers, but also new people who might not have heard of Sixt before, have really been excited about the first video that we launched. That makes us even more excited to show everyone the second video that we have coming up in November. Also on our side in terms of metrics, it was considered a success and BMW loved it as well, so I think it was a win all around.
Perlu: Oh, that’s so great to hear. I love that.
Looking back on all of the social media campaigns that you’ve done with Sixt, which one do you feel like you’ve got the most return on your energy and resources?
Cody Beavers: That’s hard. That’s hard. We try to do that with every social campaign that we do, but one that’s probably the most momentous would be when we took over NYC and we were celebrating the launch of our first downtown location in New York City, which is located in Battery Park. And we wanted to make something really special for it because it was our first location in New York. New York is all about the big lights. It’s kind of, if you make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Having a branch open out there was really a special – a momentous time for us. And being able to work with Cadillac and creating the brand activation and setting it up from start to finish was really a great way for us to learn as a marketing team on how to handle national brand campaigns, but also as a company to show that we can actually do something like this on a limited budget and without a lot of resources, but a whole lot of energy.
And by the end of it, I really think we hit the nail on the head. We partnered with Cadillac, so we were able to get their event venue in Manhattan for the night to host a celebration where we invited influencers so they can be creating content. We had journalists, we had bloggers, we had a Q&A with our stakeholders of the company. And all that was done on a very limited and tight budget and the energy and return on it was tenfold. I would definitely say that when we took over New York City for a day, that was one of our biggest social media campaigns. But it’s really hard for me to pick.
Perlu: That sounds so great. Love New York City. Love that you guys are making that happen. That’s so cool.
Could you tell us about how you’ve integrated influencers into your social media content?
Cody Beavers: Yeah, so at Sixt we’re all about really authentic experiences. When you’re on a road trip, not every road trip is the same. We try not to market it like that. When we look at influencers, we really let the influencers kind of decide their own road trip because the best way that they can tell a story is if they do it their own way and it’s authentic. And for us, I believe that it brings a lot more value to a company when you have authentic influencer content like that. The way that we integrate influencers is basically they send us an itinerary of their trip, the details of it, the aesthetic of what they’re trying to accomplish on the road trip. And we just let them go.
And they go out, do they do their thing, they create great content and when it comes back to us, that’s when our team looks at it and decides where that content should live in terms of the Sixt world. There’s some content that we say, “Oh man, this is really great for an Instagram strategy.” Other content, we feel like it would be better suited in more of a blog format so we put it up on our Sixt magazine. But really it all starts with the influencer and how they want to tell the story.
Perlu: Oh my gosh, how fun. You’ll partner with an influencer, they give you what they’ve got and then you figure out where it’s going to fit into your social media strategies or your blog strategy.
Cody Beavers: Exactly. Yeah. We really try not to direct them in any sort of way because at Sixt we have so many branded channels that we own and all those channels need content. Of course there might be some instance where we’re like, okay, we need a little bit more Instagram content so we’ll focus on a more visually professional influencer. Sometimes we need blog content, so we’ll kind of focus more on a blogger type influencer. But really,
It’s all about the influencers and them giving us what they like to do and what they’re passionate about because that’s when we get the best content.
Perlu: That’s beautiful. That’s a great way to integrate influencers. And it’s very unique too.
What is your favorite influencer that you’re following right now?
Cody Beavers: Being a marketer, I always have to look on the more upcoming platforms. I’ve been around on TikTok for a while now just kind of learning the platform and seeing ways that Sixt can maybe be integrated into that. But there’s some influencers on there that I really think are really creative. But one influencer that I’ve really enjoyed looking at his content for the past years has been Zack King, I’m not sure if you heard of him. He does illusion type content. With camera angles and really creative stuff. That’s really the type of influencer that I really like. Just influencers who do something different, who can push the bubble a little bit and also have that creative mindset. Definitely Zach King would be my favorite influencer right now.
Perlu: Cool. How fun. I was pretty removed from the brainstorm that you had with the Perlu influencers. And so, I just love to hear that it was eye opening to you and that you felt like you learned a lot from it. And then that inspired future influencer marketing campaigns.
If there’s anything more that you would like to add to that, I’d love to hear it.
Cody Beavers: I thought it was really an eye opening experience. Always being a marketer, you’re usually behind your computer screen doing more of the boring side of things when it comes to marketing. Really being part of a creative brainstorm again was cool and I think beneficial. It’s something that definitely every marketer should try and get together at least once or twice a year, probably more. But having some sort of time to sit aside and brainstorm ideas, especially with influencers, leading influencers in your industry is a really smart way to market.
Perlu: Love that. That’s so great.
What influencers did you get to brainstorm with?
Cody Beavers: The influencers that we brainstormed with, I believe they were all working with Perlu and they were all travel based. That’s definitely the type of influencers that Sixt is looking at right now. Being able to be part of a brainstorm with influencers that you want to work with helps you gain perspective on not only kind of the trips that they’re looking at taking, but also looking at the content that they’re wanting to create, and the content they’re passionate about. Just because they’re travel influencers, that doesn’t mean that’s the only thing they’re passionate about. Looking at travel influencers, I’m looking at what their niche might be, whether it’s traveling with family, solo travel, adventure travel. It put things in perspective. We shouldn’t only be looking for travel influencers, we should be looking for travel influencers with a specific niche attached to it because that gets us really into a new type of audience and brings in a new set of eyes.
Perlu: Cool. Cool. When someone is looking for a car rental company, it’s great for them to have an influencer that they’re following already promoting it so that brand awareness also exists. But even if they see there was a really positive experience with Sixt and they got to drive these cool BMWs around and all of that, are you seeing a lot of brand loyalty tied to those campaigns?
Cody Beavers: Of course that’s a great way to start a relationship with a customer and build brand loyalty with them. But in terms of if the customers see that someone they’re following, someone that they’re influenced by is renting with this great company, they want to look more into it. So we feel like that just doesn’t stop there. It takes a lot to build brand loyalty. It might even take longer than we anticipate to get a customer loyal to our company. But influencers are a great way to start that building process to reach that sense of brand loyalty that so many customers have with so many other companies in the space. But definitely influencer marketing is a great place to start when it comes to building brand loyalty.
Perlu: Awesome. Awesome. Well thank you so much for joining us today, Cody.
Thank you to everyone listening. We hope you enjoyed hearing from Cody Beavers, the social media and communications manager for Sixt USA. If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, check out our blog at blog.perlu.com for more podcasts and blog posts. And sign up for Perlu at perlu.com to meet, mingle, connect, collaborate, and grow your career. We hope you join us for our next installation of the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined.