Eighteen-year-old Lily Cozad had no idea she was involved in influencer marketing when she and her college friend started a T-shirt business out of their dorm rooms, but that was when she learned first-hand that people trust people more than ads.
Today, as influencer marketing coordinator at Kodiak Cakes, Lily focuses on cultivating personal relationships with her influencers — members of the Kodiak Den — in order to accurately assess whether Kodiak Cakes wants to work with them and to reinforce authentic partnerships.
So mix up some Kodiak pancake mix, fire up the stove-top, and listen to this mini-episode of our influencer marketing podcast filled with influencer-brand relationship advice for an effective social strategy.
- Partner with like-minded people who share your mission, and work with people who are passionate about their niche — what Kodiak Cakes likes to call their frontier.
- Kodiak Cakes forms a lot of their best partnerships by meeting influencers at events first and forming a relationship.
- Affiliate links can help to determine ROI in influencer marketing.
- As Instagram starts taking away likes, brands are going to have to start diving a little deeper and vetting a little more to find what makes an influencer engaging beyond their engagement rates.
- The Kodiak Cakes Marketing team is looking for influencers to join their Kodiak Den. If you would like to be involved, reach out on Perlu.
Interview with Kodiak Cakes
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined, where we chat with influencer marketing professionals, social media influencers, bloggers, YouTubers, podcasters, you name it, about what has led to their success. Today we will hear from Lily Cozad, influencer marketing coordinator at Kodiak Cakes. Kodiak Cakes is a natural foods company located in the scenic Rocky Mountains of Park City, Utah.
Kodiak Cakes is best known for their 100% whole grain and protein-packed flapjack and waffle mixes. Kodiak Cakes was featured on Shark Tank in 2014 and last year generated well over $100 million in sales. Lily manages the ambassador and athlete program at Kodiak Cakes while working closely with influencers by hosting events and online campaigns.
Lily loves inspiring others to lead a healthier and more active lifestyle through storytelling, while also leaving room for a little bit of humor.
I’m your host, Alexis Trammell. If you enjoy today’s episode, we hope you sign up for Perlu to learn more about how you can grow your influencer marketing career.
Thanks for joining us, Lily.
Lily Cozad: Hi, how are you?
Perlu: I’m doing great. I’m so happy you’re able to join us today.
Lily Cozad: Yes, I’m so excited to talk about everything that Kodiak Cakes is doing and how Perlu has sustained that.
Perlu: Thank you so much.
How did you originally get into influencer marketing?
Lily Cozad: So when I was 18 years old, my best friend and I started a shirt company out of our college dorm room, and we were just a two-person company and handled all facets of the business. Anything from finance to designing the shirts, building the website, creating the content, selling — we did it all. And so not only were we 18 years old using our dorm rooms as inventory closets, but we also had no money to put toward advertising. So we had to get a little creative.
We reached out to a bunch of campus leaders. You know, the people that were really well known on campus. We sent shirts to our university president, the football coach and professors. And our thought was, if people saw these popular figures wearing our shirts on campus, they’d want one too.
And I’m not sure if we knew at the time that we were using influencer marketing, but we definitely were looking back. So that’s kind of wild to think back on that. And that’s where firsthand I started seeing the impact people have on their peers and how their opinion weighed so much more than anything we could have said about our shirts.
Perlu: Absolutely. That is such a cool story. Not very many people can say that they started influencer marketing while they were 18 year olds in college. That’s so cool.
How do influencers fit into Kodiak Cakes marketing strategy today?
Lily Cozad: So at Kodiak Cakes, we have built a partnership program where we’re able to interact with all different types of influencers, ambassadors and super fans. Our biggest priority is that we partner with like-minded people who share our mission, which is to inspire healthy eating and more active living, and working with people who are passionate about their niche — or what we like to call their frontier.
So food, fitness, being the best parent ever, whatever that looks like, we just believe in loving what you do and letting that drive you. So once we narrow down who we want to work with, we will usually reach out to them to come out to one of our events that we’re hosting in their city. Or we’ll ask to partner on a digital campaign like National Waffle Day, or maybe a springtime baking campaign with our muffin mixes.
Sometimes we’ll reach out for both. And we like having influencer events —that’s a little something different that we do. The reason that we do that is so we can meet our influencers before we work with them, and we can build a relationship before diving into a contract. And these have shown to be incredibly successful.
And a lot of our best partnerships have come from just meeting people at events and forming a relationship.
Perlu: That makes so much sense. I haven’t heard a lot of people say that they meet them at events first. That’s so cool.
Lily Cozad: Yeah, it’s something special we do and it’s so awesome just to be able to network with so many people, and it’s a great way to kind of know the city a little better too.
Perlu: Yeah, definitely. Well, thanks Lily. 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 or obligations. Here’s Brent Scott, Perlu’s director of influencer marketing, to tell you a little bit more.
Lily, what are some pain points you’ve experienced with influencer marketing, and what are you doing to address them?
Lily Cozad: Yeah, so a pain point that we’ve experienced — and I think it’s a pain point that has kind of always floated around in the influencer industry — is how can you determine ROI, return on investment, in influencer marketing? Or how do you track if your influencers are really making an impact? The biggest way we’ve been able to relieve this pain point is affiliate links. From our end, we’re able to see how many sales come from a specific influencer’s referral links, or how many clicks they drove to the website.
And so that’s been really helpful in tracking how many sales an influencer is driving. It’s not always exact, but it can give you a good idea.
The Kodiak Cakes Marketing Team is Eliminating their Pain Points with Perlu!
Another pain point that I think our industry has faced is just understanding if an influencer’s engagement is really organic and honest. Since you’ve been able to buy likes and comments and followers, sometimes it’s hard to take an influencer’s average engagement rate for face value.
As we enter 2020 and Instagram starts taking away likes, brands are going to have to start diving a little deeper and vetting their influencers a little more to see what makes them engaging beyond their engagement rates. And I think on the influencer side, this means that they’ll have to be a little more open about sharing their stats, and we’ll start seeing a lot more Instagram stories, maybe fewer static posts.
But I think we’ll definitely start seeing more stories. And I think influencers will have to share more, like I said — their analytics, like swipe up, shares, their click through rates on their stories, story views with the brands that they’re working with. In the past, it’s just been, “this is my engagement rate.”
So I think as we move forward, it’ll be nice to have to dive in a little deeper, because we’ll truly start seeing who has that organic audience. But I think it will just be a little more work and a little more of a process.
Perlu: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. But it’s a good thing though, that it’s not all on the brand. These influencers need to be held accountable with you.
Lily Cozad: Definitely. I think that was a very interesting move of Instagram to go ahead and take away those likes because so many people relied on, for so long, on the likes they were getting on a post. And I think it’ll all come back to what Instagram was originally built for — sharing and connecting.
And now it’ll be the real test to see which influencers can move past that and still show that they have an organic audience.
What kinds of programs is Kodiak Cakes running in 2020, and how should a Perlu member get in touch if they’d like to work with you this year?
Lily Cozad: Yeah, so in 2020 we’re planning to build out our nano influencer program called the Kodiak Den.
Right now we have a really strong group of what we like to call Den Ambassadors, but we want to get them more involved with the brand. So we want to start running more campaigns with them.
And Perlu has been a really great aid in doing that. And that will be the platform we use moving forward to start organizing those campaigns and executing them.
So if you are listening and you would like to be involved in one of our campaigns, we’d love for you to just reach out to us. It’ll be me on Perlu and we can get you set up.
The Kodiak Cakes Marketing Team is Looking for Influencers!
Perlu: Awesome. That’s very exciting. Thank you so much for sharing with me, Lily.
Is there anything else that you want to mention to our audience?
Lily Cozad: I can’t think of much, but whole grains keep us rolling. And if you haven’t tried Kodiak Cakes, we’d love for you to hop on and try. You can order online at kodiakcakes.com and then we also have a store locator on our website so you can see which local retailers near you are holding our products.
Perlu: Awesome. Everyone, if you haven’t yet, go check out Kodiak Cakes. They’re active on Perlu if you want to connect with them there. Thank you so much to everyone listening. We hope you really enjoyed hearing from Lily Cozad at Kodiak Cakes. Thanks Lily.
Lily Cozad: Thank you.
Perlu: 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.