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Hosted by:

Katya Allison

Director of Marketing
Content at GRIN

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About GRIN Gets Real

Welcome to the GRIN gets real podcast, the show for people who want to maximize their marketing potential. From influencer marketing to eCommerce strategy and everything in between, each episode will feature industry experts that share their insights and provide actionable tips to help you achieve your marketing goals. Subscribe and stay tuned!

Subscribe Podcast Customer Spotlight w Inkbox's Cindy Tran & Lara Cardoso

Learn how brand-aligned influencers create value across the entire marketing mix.

In this episode:

Cindy Tran & Lara Cardoso

Creator Marketing Manager & Community, Content, & Creators Lead

Inkbox has been producing semi-permanent tattoos and accessories since 2015 and is constantly working on new ways to empower the ever-changing story of “you.” With over 10,000 artist-created designs, a freehand tattoo marker, and a custom platform, millions of people from 190 countries have gotten inked with new-fashioned accessories that last up to two weeks.

Podcast Customer Spotlight w Inkbox's Cindy Tran & Lara Cardoso

Full episode details

Don’t put your creators in a corner.

Breakdown of the GRIN Gets Real podcast: Season 2, Episode 20

You work with creators for a reason, and you want to use their unique voice and their unique way of creating content. You’re making TikToks, not ads. So it still has to feel authentic to their audiences.— Cindy Tran, Inkbox creator marketing manager

To get the engaging content brand-aligned influencers are known for, brands need to give them enough space to be creative. In this episode, Cindy, Lara, and Katya discuss the delicate balance marketers face when it comes to giving influencers creative freedom while providing enough structure to ensure their brand reaches its campaign goals. 

 

Brand-aligned influencers & content creators

In this episode, you’ll also get insight into:

  • How to find the right creators for your brand.
  • The numerous ways creators drive value.
  • The importance of long-term relationships with brand-aligned influencers. 
  • Critical factors to consider when launching your program.
  • The keys to managing successful campaigns.

 

Quotes from the episode

Learn how brand-aligned influencers create value across the entire marketing mix. 1

“There are challenges as well. But you need to provide just enough guidelines so you are getting a video that hits all of your key messaging and showing the product in the light that it needs to be shown. But it shouldn’t take away from the creative freedom.” — Cindy Tran, Inkbox creator marketing manager

“It all comes back to authenticity. And you really can’t put a number on authenticity. But we can all feel it.” — Lara Cardoso, Inkbox community, content & creators lead

“At the end of the day, it’s about building those long-term relationships because that’s what is going to build your customer loyalty and retention.” — Cindy Tran, Inkbox creator marketing manager

“Finding someone who is comfortable with the product and finding someone who is truly jazzed about the product because they are already using it is huge. That way, it’s more like a testimonial because they are true users of it.” — Lara Cardoso, Inkbox community, content & creators lead

Katya (intro):

The Customer Spotlight Series of the GRIN Gets Real podcast is really meant to highlight GRIN brands who are successfully leveraging creators as part of their marketing strategy. Each brand shares their brand’s story and insight on how creators add value to that story. In each episode, we dive into who the brand is, their customer creator program, and the impact the creator economy has on their brand. 

 

Today, I am chatting with Cindy and Lara from Inkbox. Now Inkbox has been producing semi-permanent tattoos and accessories since 2015 and is constantly working on new ways to empower the ever-changing story of ‘you.’ With over 10,000 artist-created designs, a free-hand tattoo marker, and custom platform, millions of people from 190 countries have gotten inked with their new fashion accessories that last one to two weeks. 

 

So sit back, relax and get ready to listen to the Inkbox story of influencers and creators as a strategy. 

 

Katya:

Lera and Cindy, welcome to the GRIN Gets Real podcast. This is a special customer spotlight episode where we get to dive into Inkbox.

 

Lara:

Yes, thank you so much for having us. We are so excited to be here.

 

Katya:

Well, I’d love to get started with just learning a little bit more about your brand. So, how did Inkbox get started?

 

Lara:

OK, so who are we? We create semi-permanent tattoos with plant-based ink that last on your skin for one to two weeks. We actually started around seven years ago, which is crazy. We were started by two brothers out in Toronto who have been able to bring this amazing organization up to around 160 employees. Fun fact, we’re still based out of Toronto, so Canada represent!

 

A little bit more about our product. Basically, users can choose from about 10,000+ designs on our website, all designed by artists around the world, as well as the option to customize your own tattoo however you like it. So you can essentially turn any sketch into a tattoo format. And then, we also have a new product called the free-hand tattoo marker for those who want a little more instant gratification with our semi-permanent ink. Because with our traditional tattoos, they take about an hour to apply and then 24 to 36 hours to fully develop. Whereas with the marker, you just grab it and draw it on your skin. 

 

What we strive toward is to create a product that really lets our customers express themselves. 

 

Katya:

How do they even come up with the idea of creating these temporary tattoos?

 

Lara:

I think they were just tattoo-curious and wanted a way to make tattoos more accessible. Obviously, not everyone can get a tattoo or wants the permanent effect. It’s taken many years to develop into what the product is today. I’ve been here for four years and have seen the first product, which you basically had to hold on with a warm towel for 15 minutes. Now it’s more like a sticker application. But to answer your question, it was more just tattoo curiosity and how to make them more accessible. 

 

Katya:

Now, who are the tattoo competitors in your space? I always think of Henna. Those seem to fall in the same area. 

 

Lara:

Yeah, we have Henna. We also have more of your traditional temporary tattoos that everyone, I’m sure, is familiar with from our childhood, where you apply them with a paper towel. 

 

Where we fall different is basically that our tattoos last one to two weeks, and the look and feel of the tattoo is very similar to that of a permanent tattoo. And so, that’s what sets us apart from our competitors—the longevity and the quality of the tattoo itself. 

 

Katya:

And you said that you can get custom tattoos. So maybe I want to test out a design before I get a real tattoo. Is that something I can submit, and then it will come back to me?

 

Lara:

Totally. Yeah, we have a custom platform on our website, so you can just upload whatever you want, and our in-house team turns it into whatever would work best with our product. Sometimes there are some tweaks in the design, but you can definitely keep the integrity of your design and have that fully translate into a tattoo. 

 

Katya:

Could you potentially use that as a stencil for a tattoo artist?

 

Lara:

I think the way people are going about it if they want to use Inkbox to test permanent tattoos is more going to a tattoo artist and asking for permission to use their designs. Then from there, they can test it out and see if they like the placement or the design itself, and from there, it would go back to the artist. Not necessarily recommending they use that as a stencil. We recommend you let the ink fully fade first. 

 

Katya:

Yeah, that makes sense. But it does feed into my next question: who are your ideal customers?

 

Cindy:

Well, we are trying to target Gen Z absolutely. So we are really trying to position ourselves as that fashion or beauty accessory, so when you are picking out your outfit for the morning, what Inkbox tattoo do you want to put on your body to compliment that? So we are targeting Gen Z, but ultimately we can be a product for everyone.

 

Katya: 

So who are the tattoo-curious? And how do you promote out to them?

 

Lara:

The ethos of the brand is really using Inkbox tattoos to express yourself. And when we look at society today, what is the generation that is expressing themselves the most? It’s Gen Z. That is our target market, and that is absolutely who we are going after. 

 

Katya:

I love it. So it’s kind of like you are just scratching everyone’s itch, in a sense. It’s a great way to express yourself, and it’s like, what would a tattoo even look like on me?

 

Cindy:

Exactly. And I think Gen Z is really having a lot of fun with their looks and their self-expression. And at Inkbox, you have the ability to switch that up, and you don’t have to be tied to one thing. So I think it really does tie into that generation. And to also express your true obsessions and belonging to a community. Like, if you like certain art or fandoms, you can express that through an Inkbox tattoo and connect with your community that way. 

 

Katya: 

Now, how do you use this ideal customer to help find the right creator for your program? 

 

Lara:

Totally. I think when a brand thinks about their ideal customer and trying to find a creator that speaks to them, I think the first question is, who are they watching? Who are they turning to for inspiration? We’re in an era of micro creators being more efficient for brands, as well as TikTok creators, where they value authenticity and connectivity. And so I find that when looking for the right creator, they naturally have to fall into our target audience because that’s really who our ideal customer is looking to. They are looking to their peers and their friends for inspiration, and I think that is a starting point. 

 

Then there is also looking at their content and if that aligns with our brand values and if it amplifies the message we are putting out for whatever product.  

 

Katya:

How long have you been leveraging creators?

 

Cindy:

OK, so I started back in 2018. We really didn’t have a program back then. We had a partnerships program, and it started more as a product gifting tactic. But them myself, alongside other team members of the social team at that time, we decided to build out the program a bit more. The main focus at that time was driving more brand awareness and having more of a presence on platforms that our target demographic was spending a lot of time on, which, at the time, was Instagram and YouTube. 

 

So that’s how it started. We started pushing a more evergreen approach to it. Obviously, it has evolved over time, but it still holds true in the sense that we are trying to create a community to inspire those within our community as well as bring in new members to our community and show them how Inkbox is used. So I find creator marketing as a great way to produce social proof for our brand. And bringing in more of the human element for people that land on your brand’s account for the first time. 

 

Katya:

Nice. I heard you say that you started from those one-off partnerships and product gifting. Would you say that your objectives have changed? Like, have you developed the program beyond product gifting? Or are you still seeing a lot of success with that product gifting strategy? 

 

Cindy:

It has evolved a bit. There is still a lot of focus on brand awareness, and we still do heavily utilize product seeding and gifting campaigns. But we have also found it very valuable to be working with creators in a pay-to-play capacity, especially with macro and mid-tier creators. That typically helps us find and test audiences and create content that is useful and applicable across multiple marketing channels because working with creators in a paid capacity, you’re often able to provide a brief with key messaging, and you’re able to really use the creator’s voice to amplify the key messaging. Whereas with gifting, as we all know, it’s not always 100% what you do receive. It’s moreso maintain that relationship and introduce the product to potential prospective users. 

 

Katya:

What do you mean by using macro to test new audiences?

 

Cindy:

As Lara had mentioned, tattoos could honestly be for anyone who is tattoo-curious. Obviously, we want to narrow it down, but there are also different communities within that. For example, we’ve always been interested in the gaming and anime world. So to be able to tap on to creators who captivate those audiences to create content, it’s a great way to test that audience. Are they really resonating with our product? What’s working with the content? What’s not working? 

 

Then also, when you look at the comments, I think that is great insight into the sentiment of the collaboration. And also insight into the product development. You know, what people want to be seeing down the line or what they are amped about. 

 

Katya:

So it sounds to me like you are working with creators beyond that one-to-one sale. Do you find that you do have to continuously prove that this is a good strategy for your marketing team? 

 

Lara:

There is a lot of belief from our team. And there is no questioning that influencer marketing is a great opportunity. And again, it gives us insights for teams across the board. If we have success working with a creator in the anime space, how do we translate that into an email or tactics working on performance? So they definitely see the value there. Now it’s such an integrated approach where we are all working together on campaigns that reflect something that is more 360. 

 

Katya: 

So how would you say that creators are driving value for your brand? How do you articulate a question like that?

 

Lara:

Quality content that is useful across multiple channels. We’ve been finding that UGC is a high-performing piece of content. Not only on our social channels but on our email, web, and performance. 

 

Two, I’d say that bringing in brand awareness and driving traffic to our website. Especially with the rise of TikTok, we’re finding that it really does pay off to have a lot of eyeballs on your social channels. So working with a Rolodex of creators and having a strong gifting program really amplifies our presence in those spaces and continues to feed traffic to our website. 

 

Three, I think the social listening aspect of it. That really helps drive the marketing strategy moving forward. What can we do better? What are we missing? What are things our audience is naturally asking for? And how to spot trends within that. 

 

An example of this is when we are working creators. Each tattoo is very individual for the creator. You can see the creator selection. We allow creators to choose up to six tattoos that really resonate with them. And over the past few months, you can really see a trend with what the creators are picking and what is working with their content. So this also helps inform what is happening on email or performance or web, so they can put out a landing page about specific tattoos, or there is an email to showcase all these tattoos.

 

Katya:

Are you guys concentrating on very specific platforms? Are you still really heavy on Instagram? Have you dabbled in TikTok? I’d think YouTube creators are great too. 

 

Lara:

I honestly will say TikTok. What I love about TikTok is that I think we are moving to a space where we don’t have to be working with mega influencers. TikTok values the content that is entertaining, insightful, and resonates with their audience no matter the reach. So I think we are finding more success on that platform, and it’s also seen through our growth tactics as well. When you see one of our videos, you can see the real-life business impact via the traffic on our website. So when everyone talks about TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, it’s true. It does work. 

 

Cindy:

I was just going to say our leadership team is focused on growing the TikTok platform. So a lot of our creator gifting efforts are heavy on that platform more than Instagram and YouTube.

 

Katya: 

What would you say is the biggest difference in executing your program between Instagram and TikTok?

 

Cindy:

I think it’s very different. It is a short-form video versus a static image. There is a lot more that goes into it. And there is a lot more dos and don’ts of how to interact with the product. 

 

Something I’ve learned over the past few months, too, is don’t put your creators in a corner. You obviously work with creators for a reason, and you want to use their unique voice and their unique way of creating content. You’re making TikToks, not ads. So it still has to feel authentic to their audiences. I’ve definitely seen other brands bomb this aspect where it looks so inauthentic to the creator. It’s a very stale video. And there is just so much more room to play on TikTok.

 

There are challenges as well. But you need to provide just enough guidelines, so you are getting a video that hits all of your key messaging and showing the product in the light that it needs to be shown. But it shouldn’t take away from the creative freedom. 

 

Katya:

I love the authenticity piece. Is there something else to creating authentic content besides just giving the creator enough space to do their thing?

 

Lara:

I’d say there is a multitude of ways you can do that. With people you activate who have already used your product organically, I think there is a natural interest in authentic use there. 

 

There is also the concept of the brief and who the creators are that are creating that type of content. Because naturally, if you are looking for a get ready with me or a transitional piece, go to the people who are killing it on TikTok with all of that versus going to a content creator that doesn’t have any skill set in that but you think they have a high reach and that they have a lot of influence, but they don’t have the natural ability or skillset to work into that brief. It won’t feel authentic because that isn’t something they are used to doing. 

 

So finding someone who is comfortable with the product and finding someone who is truly jazzed about the product because they are already using it is huge. That way, it’s more like a testimonial because they are true users of it. 

 

Katya:

Do you leverage your creators for helping you answer some of the FAQs you get about your product? 

 

Cindy:

So when we are building our briefs for creators, there is the key messaging aspect and then the product benefits, and that is usually what is answering a lot of those FAQs. You know, whether our product is vegan, plant-based, waterproof, and that it lasts one to two weeks. So it has all of those elements. It’s not necessarily going to message every single point, but with that information, it will be put through the video a lot of times, and if something is missed or there is a question in the comments, the creators will jump in and answer that. 

 

Katya:

So they are out there educating the audience on top of providing that brand awareness. How large is your program? It doesn’t have to be an exact number? I’m just curious about the tactics used by different program sizes. 

 

Lara:

We definitely try to gift X amount of people or X amount of creators per month like net new. And then, ideally, you can funnel those creators into our brand advocacy program and then potentially work with Cindy on paid partnerships. So that part of it is a numbers game. 

 

But then, when we look at the creators we work with on a monthly basis, essentially on a retainer, that number is really anywhere between 15 to 30. I’m thinking gifting and paid. So the number is small and concentrated. And those creators absolutely know our brand. They’ve worked with us on multiple campaigns, their content is fire, and we can count on them. We know exactly which creator on the roster we can put on a specific campaign. 

 

But it’s a delicate balance. When you look at it purely from numbers, you’re not always going to get quality content. And that is really important for myself and Cindy and for our team to fill all of our marketing channels. Inkbox is a vibe. It’s a mood. So our content does need to look a certain way. But at the same time, we do have pretty high-volume KPIs. 

 

Cindy: 

And at the end of the day, it’s about building those long-term relationships because that’s what is going to build your customer loyalty and retention.

 

Katya: 

I’d love to hear how you are defining success in your program. What is a successful campaign or program for you guys?

 

Cindy:

For me, success for an influencer marketing program is a multitude of things. First, it’s the traffic. That’s definitely one of our KPIs over here. And the content that is produced from our community. How that’s measured and how that would have shown up on traditional forms of media. Sometimes it’s hard to articulate to leadership, but it’s definitely something that has been part of how we showcase the true value of our program. 

 

Then there is another part that we are still working on to define and putting a value toward. But that is the quality content aspect. Seeing the content that is performing or outperforming in-house content through paid media and email and having higher click-through rates. So I think it’s the quality of content that is really coming through, but it’s also like a qualitative check of how the program is going, as well as the numbers game of impressions and seeing where our hashtag inbox has grown. 

 

Lara:

Just to round that out, it’s so interesting because I’m coming at it from a community perspective. So my answer would be seeing people get funneled through from the gifting and seeding stage all the way up to working with Cindy on a paid promotion. And even to have them potentially be gifted and to have no idea and never used the product and to have them fall in love with the product and post again and again and again on their channels without even being asked to. And to build those relationships and see that community grow, for me, I would say that is how I deem success. Obviously, you can’t put numbers to that. It’s a feeling. But I do think that is such an important element to creator marketing as a whole or community marketing. Ultimately, all of the content is making you feel a certain way when you watch it, so it really comes back to authenticity. And you really can’t put a number on authenticity, but we can all feel it.

 

Katya:

I love it. Well, thank you both so much. I appreciate you coming on here and sharing a little bit about Inkbox, as well as sharing some insights in regard to your creator program in general. 

 

Cindy:

Thanks for having us. 

 

Lara:

Yeah, thank you. So fun. Truly. 

 

Katya (outro):

As a fan of Inkbox, this was a really fun one for me because their story is really built on the expression and really scratching the itch. I love their approach to working with creators. It is definitely not a one-size-fits-all. And it means to me that they are consistently turning over rocks to find out who that next great creator is for their program. 

 

Now, remember, you’re always going to get brand awareness, revenue, and content from implementing a strategy with creators. How much of each takes a strong relationship between creator and brand to achieve mutual success? Treat creators like your brand revolves around them because, in the creator economy, it does. 

 

Now be sure to subscribe to the GRIN Gets Real podcast for more customer stories and marketing strategies. Give us some stars and write a review. Tell me your favorite episode. And feel free to connect with me on social. You can find me on LinkedIn. If you’re interested in learning more about GRIN, visit our website at grin.co.  

 

And until next time, keep grinning.

 

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