By Lamin Turay
Dawn Jackson is a marketing professional working for WTRMLN WTR, a health-focused hydration product available in Ralph’s, Whole Foods, Costco, and Sprouts. The company is only a couple years old, yet it has strong social awareness, and is endorsed by many of the most influential members of the health, fitness, and wellness communities. This is due in large part to the efforts of people like Dawn, who have embraced and innovated the influencer marketing strategy that the company employs. Dawn spoke to me about how she took the initiative in her role at WTRMLN WTR to grow in both station and responsibility, while making the most of how the company promotes its product.
How did you become involved with WTRMLN WTR, and what do you do for them now?
While living in New York I was recruited to do some work for a modeling agency, which was owned by my friend Katherine. After moving to Los Angeles, Katherine sent me information about how WTRMLN WTR was looking for Brand Ambassadors. I decided to go and check it out. It sounded like a great company, and the philosophy was interesting. I ended up being hired as a “Baby Doll." That’s the official title for the female Brand Ambassadors that the company employs for their summer marketing in SoCal (Southern California). The company is based in New York.
So I started as a Baby Doll working at events. The company would sponsor these various events put on by fitness studios or gym owners. There’s a focus on athletes and people interested in athleticism. In addition to the event sponsorship, we would do demos so that people could try out the product by giving it a taste. There are also what’s called “seeds” or “seeding,” this is where you visit a business that might be a good distributor, and you give them a sample of the product. Once the business has tried the product, you see if they’d be interested in distributing or if there’s potential to have an event there in the future. Those are the particulars of the “Baby Doll” position.
Eventually, after showing some initiative on the Brand Ambassador side, I was able to transition into a more corporate marketing behind-the-scenes position. In this new role I execute what we call “Drops.” This is a practice where we work with a PR agency who helps us identify influential people that we can deliver product packages to. The Drops are hand-delivered because the product is perishable. We never mail Drop packages. They’re also hand-delivered because that gives us an opportunity to educate the people we are sending them to. It’s about having a conversation. We let these influencers know what the product is about, how and why to use it, and answer any questions they may have. In the past we’ve made Drops to individuals who are popular social media influencers, and also maintain a healthy lifestyle. We hand deliver the product to their homes. By doing this we give them a reason to share WTRMLN WTR on their social media feeds and provide exposure for the company.
How was it that you were able to transition from Brand Ambassador to a corporate marketing role?
It was an observation actually. I had done Brand Ambassador work on and off for about 10 years when I was living in New York. I worked while I was in college. I’m an Economics and Political Science major. I worked in commercial real estate and for a hedge fund for a while as well. I was also a little older and more experienced than most Brand Ambassadors, so I brought a wealth of knowledge to the position. When I would go about doing my job, I would also come up with new ideas, recommendations, and utilize my contacts in the area to spread awareness. For example, I’m a member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, who I contacted and ended up brokering my own sponsorship event with on behalf of the company. They ended up featuring us on their Twitter feed, and now we have a scheduled meeting with them to discuss product distribution. Brittney Newman is the manager out here for the Southern California region. She noticed my experience and the initiative I was taking, and moved me into a role with more responsibility.
How has your experience been working through the ranks, and being where you are at now?
There’s been a bit of a challenge since the main corporate headquarters is in New York. It’s much more cohesive in that area, especially since it’s the type of company that has a real family feel. However, one of the Baby Dolls that’s based in New York traveled out to Los Angeles to do the training for the Baby Dolls here. Here name is Tara, and she’s involved on a deep level with the company. Her energy, and comprehensive knowledge of the business was helpful.
How effective has influencer marketing been for WTRMLN WTR?
It’s been very important. It’s almost exclusively what the company does for advertising. There are no paid advertisements in magazines, on television, or radio. If we are ever mentioned on one of those mediums, it’s because we executed a drop to an influencer, and that was the result. Recently Jody Levy, the WTRMLN WTR C0-Founder, has been doing more press. She was on the Today show in New York, and she’s getting more interviews, but the company does not do any paid traditional advertising. It’s also important to note that WTRMLN WTR does not pay for the social media mentions that we get. A lot of companies will pay thousands of dollars to have a celebrity mention their product. We don’t do that. It has to be their choice. It comes from the strength of them actually enjoying the product, and wanting to be involved in the brand. WTRMLN WTR also has an environmentally conscience and conservationist component to it. That adds incentive for influencers to spread the word.
Do you only target celebrities, or do you engage other types of people when you are executing influencer Drops?
We don’t just go after celebrities. Our main celebrity push was around National Watermelon Day, which was August 3rd. We also engage with experts in their particular market. We’ll talk to fitness experts or wellness gurus who have a big, engaged following as well. We want quality of influence and not just quantity. Don’t get me wrong, there is a threshold for the amount of followers a person needs to have, but we also want them to have an audience that is very interactive.
When it comes to the celebrity end, I was tapped to interact with those influencers because of all the Baby Dolls, I was well suited for that role. This was mostly based on my level of experience and ability to communicate or engage these people in the best way possible. You have to maintain the right touch, because if you rub a celebrity influencer the wrong way it could have very bad ramifications for your brand.
What actual materials go into a Drop?
We’ll provide branded cooler bags to keep the product cold, there’s also a tri-fold that’s in the shape of a WTRMLN WTR bottle and has all of the product information on it, there’s even a postcard with a greeting that displays the fitness and wellness brand messaging on it. Of course there’s a bunch of the actual product in the package, and business cards with follow up contact information as well. Depending on how much product we are giving away we’ll wrap the package differently with a nice bow and some cellophane. The company provides all of the materials for the Drop packages, and training on how to present them.
There are also very specific strategies for executing the Drops. It’s an entrepreneurial endeavor in itself. Beyond hand-delivering the packages, we also have to meet certain time windows based on availability of the influencer or their reps. So you have to keep a schedule. In addition, we use our own vehicles and have to pick up the product from specialized cold storage facilities. You also have to dress appropriately, as you are representing the company, and managing your own business within the company. The Drops aren’t just a drop-off, they’re like a small business meeting. When you arrive at the influencers location they are expecting you, they’re excited, and you need to be ready to sell them on the experience.
What’s the biggest impact that has been made from working with an influencer?
We’ve done some work with a female former star of the show “Seventh Heaven." She’s a big influencer in the Southern California region. Her endorsement of the product was huge for our exposure. One of the Kardashian sisters also Snapchatted about the product on National Watermelon day. That provided another big leap in awareness. Both of those engagements were directly attributed to Drops that I made.
We also had an incredibly well-known pop singer and performer make mention of the product on her Instagram feed during the National Watermelon Day push. There was an image posted of her backup dancers drinking the product that ended up getting a lot of buzz. She’s also invested in the company.
It’s important to keep in mind that not every Drop we make results in someone posting or sharing on social media. They always think the product is great, and give us positive feedback on our engagement with them, but it still may not end up in our company gaining any sales. So we make sure to be strategic with the Drops.
What methods do you use to identify the influencers that you want to work with?
One of the main things we look for is healthy living. People who have embraced a lifestyle of health, fitness, and wellness. We look out for people who have that health-focused mindset. They don’t smoke, they don’t go out and party a lot. They’re usually fit on some level. We don’t target a specific body type, but we do look out for people who take care of their bodies and advocate that practice. If they’re living a fitness-oriented life, then they’ll have the results of that life. Additionally, we look for people who not only workout, but workout as a part of their overall lifestyle. They may be into biking, or swimming, or a number of other activities.
We also engage with people or companies on the beauty or wellness side. That includes salons and spas. Most likely these organizations have customers who are into health and fitness. It goes back to when I mentioned the concept of “seeding." We’ll identify a yoga studio for instance, because that’s an ongoing activity where customers continually visit the location. We’ll talk to the studio owner, introduce them to the product, and if they like it, they’ll roll it into their offerings.
What areas are you and the company looking at in order to grow your reach?
I know that there was a company presence this year at both the Burning Man and Wanderlust music festivals. Personally, I’ve been trying to place some focus on the “Mom” market. The product is very low in sugar, gluten-free, vegan, and GMO-free as well. It’s all those things, plus it’s a product that pregnant women, or women with children can feel confident about sharing with their child. It’s something that's tasty enough for children to want to drink and healthy enough for moms to want to drink.
In order to tap that particular market, I’m targeting fitness groups as well as workout groups that are specific to women who have children. It’s about getting into those avenues. The fitness activities or wellness groups that are directed at young mothers. I find them and figure out a way that the product can bring value to their community.
What advice do you have for anyone out there working as a brand ambassador or looking to take initiative in their marketing representative position?
I’d definitely encourage people who are working for a brand to utilize their personal networks. Think about the events that you put on or attend, and see how you can incorporate the brand that you're representing. Birthday parties, get-togethers, whatever social activities you’re into. Have your friends post about and take pictures with the product. Integrate the brand into your personal life and provide opportunities for it to shine in an organic way. Of course you’ll want to make sure that the company you represent is good with that.
Where can we follow WTRMLN WTR and your own involvement in the company?
The company has a primary website at https://wtrmlnwtr.com/. They also have an instagram at @wtrmlnwtr. Their facebook is https://www.facebook.com/wtrmln.wtr. All of the social feeds are updated daily.
I’m also available to work with potential influencers or if anyone out there is looking to work as a brand ambassador. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We want to thank Dawn for spending time to share her experience with us. We appreciate the knowledge she has shared about growing in a brand ambassador role, and utilizing influencer marketing. Do you have any questions about these concepts? Please let us know your thoughts or feedback in the comments below.