Wish I was there: Contiki’s quid-pro-quo approach to working with influencers

In a new local campaign, Contiki has put the call out to Kiwis to join the ‘Contiki Squad’, via Chemistry Interactive, and participate in a Europe Contiki next month. Five people will be chosen for the trip with each fitting a different personality type: entertainer, risk taker, wanderer, classic kiwi and organiser. To promote it, Contiki is working with NZME, which is pushing it through Flava and ZM.  

‘Contiki Squad’ is running alongside a ‘Travel with no regrets’ campaign, in which two influencers, devinsupertramp and Justin James Hughes, are battling it out to expand their comfort zone while on a Contiki. Fans can vote online for their favourite and the winner will pick a fan to receive a free trip.

This is the fourth round of the campaign Contiki is running, which not only encourages people to engage with Contiki but also generates content to be shared on both the influencers’ media channels and those operated by Contiki.

“We have a deep relationship with these YouTubers, it’s not a superficial, commercial one, these are people we have worked with over a long period of time and they love our brand and we love working with them.”

Laskey says a lot of the reputation and rapport it has with the YouTube community comes from the Contiki road trips it’s been running over the last five years, featuring International influencers alongside the local contingent, including the likes of Jamie Curry and Shaanxo.

Sending YouTubers on a trip may seem solely for Contiki’s benefit, but Laskey says it works both ways because the influencers get an opportunity to travel as well as a chance to generate different content from around the world to engage their audience.

And that audiences doesn’t have to fit a certain size. While some brands go after those with the highest followers, Contiki doesn’t have a minimum number of followers. Instead, Laskey says, its focus is on getting influencers from all different regions on the trips and that doesn’t allow for a rigid criteria. He gives the example of an influencer in the US who would have more followers than an influencer in New Zealand.

But that doesn’t mean anyone can be an influencer for Contiki. Laskey says it meets with different influencers every week to sound them out, as well as letting them sound Contiki out. He says this is important to ensure they are a good fit. Then, when a campaign or a project comes up, Contiki can call on those best suited to the role. 

He gives the example of Kiwi singer Jamie McDell, who is passionate about conservation and the ocean. Contiki has worked with her a number of times because it knows she is a good fit for any project revolving around sustainability or the ocean.

Off to the island ?

A photo posted by Jamie McDell (@jamiemcshark) on

As well as making sure the influencer is a good fit for Contiki, one of the key things when using an influencer is making sure the content they produce is natural and organic, meaning Contiki allows them to do what they want with it.

“We are not dictating that we need ‘this’ and we want them to say ‘this’. We back our product and we know they will have a good time, so when they go out, they blog, or film and post what they want to post and it’s a lot more natural,” Laskey says.

He adds Contiki doesn’t want to be seen as a company that is paying people to say nice stuff about them. “It’s just not who Contiki is, we are far more natural than that.”

In keeping with that aim, Contiki sent actress Kimberley Crossman to Japan earlier this year and all posts were at her discretion, with no scripts or requirements of particular images or clips.

Can’t wait to show you what we created in Japan ? #comingsoon #thetravelproject #japanunrivalled #contiki @happywifeinc_

A photo posted by Kimberley Crossman (@kimcrossman) on

Meet our new girl band ??❤️ #contiki #thetravelproject

A photo posted by Kimberley Crossman (@kimcrossman) on

Given it requires the use of so many influencers, you would be forgiven for thinking Contiki is continuously reaching out to influencers. However, Laskey says it’s not necessary for Contiki to make the first contact with an influencer because it gets approached by so many. He says that because it has been working with influencers for so long, it’s well connected and doesn’t have to start from scratch.

“We were one of the first brands to really embrace content marketing and working with influencers, so we are already quite well connected.”

While social media influencers have popped up in recent years, Contiki has been working with influencers for about 15 years.

“This is not something we’ve just started or a fad we have jumped on, it’s something that in New Zealand and around the world we’ve been doing for a long time but it has evolved from working with a breakfast radio announcer to working with a YouTuber.”

During that time, he says the process of meeting with people to make sure they are a good fit has remained the same, but the channels vary these days. 

Before the likes of YouTube came along, Contiki worked with radio personalities who would do live crosses from trips in Europe and Asia.

Given its reliance on social media and influencers is so heavy for its promotions, Laskey says it hasn’t used print advertising for at least 10 years. It’s also never booked advertising spots on the radio. In fact, its latest ‘Contiki Squad’ campaign is the first time it’s had spots on the radio, however, Laskey points out those spots were part of the NZME package and promote the campaign, not Contiki directly.

And when asked why influencers work so well for Contiki, he says it’s as simple as the influencers and their audiences having an interest in travel and fitting Contiki’s 18- to 35-year-old target demographic.

He calls it “word of mouth on steroids”, as the only real difference between an influencer and regular people who go on the trips and sharing their experiences with friends and family, is the audience number. 

“Contiki started 54 years ago and all the way through history Contiki has built the brand on word of mouth. Now it’s almost instantaneous, people can post a picture and say ‘Hey, I’m in Rome, I’m at the Colosseum, look what I’m doing’.”

As well as helping influencers generate new content, Contiki will soon be helping budding Instagram stars through its limited edition summer series, with one of the trips dedicated to raising the Instagram game of those on it.

Laskey says there will be Instagrammers on the trip to share their tips and tricks on how to take the perfect photo.

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