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From Controlled to Creative: How Magnum Transcended Conventional Marketing Tactics

Jonathan Elliott

Key Takeaways

  • Influencers are different than creative agencies – they have to interpret briefs according to their own rules and considering the fit to their creative platforms
  • Selection is key – work with good influencer agencies and choose your influencers carefully
  • Alignment of values is vital – influencers have to be naturally on message and not feel they’re being coached into saying the right thing
  • Brief the big picture, but let the creators work on their own details
  • For an annual campaign, keep some essentials in place, but give yourself a margin for experimentation

Jonathan Elliott: Magnum's influencer work is very well known and broad-ranging – there is product co-creation, meme pages, and an annual event in Cannes each year, to name just a few…is there a unifying theme to this work?

Tugce Aksoy: We believe in fandom and creating fans. It was not long ago that we were only working with incredibly stunning models and actresses in a very controlled and scripted world, depicting Magnum perfectly, Then, we started going into music and partnering with people like Miley Cyrus who have a very strong point of view on the universe they want to create with lots of freedom, which is very hard to grant from a brand point of view. However, through taking a leap of faith with that partnership, we discovered the power of fandom. Because we realized via trusting a talent, and giving them freedom to take our product/ brand in their own universe, we also opened our arms to their fans. 

What was amazing was that it was not only the artists but their fans who were creating a big impact for us because there was so much user-generated content coming from them. So it was logical that we engaged with them, and once we started doing that, we started thinking about them like influencers. 

And our strategy developed into a bid to encourage these artists’ fans to think of themselves as fans of Magnum as well. So now we work with a wide range of micro influencers from fashion, music, food, film, etc. We are trying to be responsive to culture and see what our audience is interested in, and by engaging, we’ve had some big successes. 

One interesting example of this is K-pop fan pages. Magnum started to get extremely strong engagement from Korean band NCT fan pages and because of that, we reached more than 200 million people coming to us, and the influence was huge. And it all started by NCT member Jisung sharing a picture of a Magnum saying it looks like a lamb chop. Normally we’d be super uncomfortable with this as we would want a Magnum to look perfect. But we found it interesting and engaged, ending up having millions of interactions from the K-pop community. So, this is almost a milestone moment for us, where we reframed our thinking to be more authentic and to listen to our community and react to the conversations they start.

JE: How do you manage to appear authentic in these communities? Is there a risk for a large brand of looking exploitative?

TA: That's a really interesting one. We've changed our approach. It used to be that we wanted to be really controlling, and we were clear about "this is how we want to depict Magnum, these are the guide rails, this is how you bite a Magnum, and so on." Then, we discovered that real power is when we let influencers and creators tell our story as if it's their own story. So they translated in a way. That was important because then we started to give them more creative freedom, and it resonated with their fans. 

The most important thing for us is the selection. We're very careful to select people who share values similar to ours, and we have something in common. We want to work with people who genuinely love Magnum. 

Once that selection process is in place, the brief is essential for us. We aim to give them creative freedom and equip them with the tools they need to be creative so they can leverage the brand. And then we let go and trust them.

And we really value it when they do something unexpected because that's why we're working with them. Otherwise, we would just do our own content.

JE: Tell us about your annual event in Cannes and how that fits into this strategy.

TA: We've been going to the Cannes Film Festival for the last ten years – it's where we launch our campaigns, and for us, it's where all the media of the world meets and where the world's top talent comes. And there are creators who are really excited to go and join in the atmosphere and the culture there. So every year, we go to Cannes, and we style it "it's where the friends of Magnum meet." 

We launch big campaigns – one of the most celebrated was with Kylie Minogue and house DJ Peggy Gou in the Classics Remixed campaign in 2022. 

In addition to our world known talent partners, we also have more than 60 influencers from across the world, people from Brazil to the US to the UK to Turkey, and the key thing is that we want to bring everyone together like they're at a big studio.

Our influencers love it because they can do shoots in their own style but in a nice branded world that's light enough to make it feel experiential, as well. 

And we don't try to be too controlling, because we have friends of Magnum who come every year and people really love it, they stay for the party, for Peggy DJing, for example, or Burna Boy’s incredible performance last year. It's important that they become part of our community. And then it becomes less transactional and more passion-driven. So I think that's one of the reasons behind the success of Cannes.

JE: Tell us about your work with less well-known music stars and TikTok.

TA: For the first time in 2023, instead of working with a big global music star, we worked with JVKE, who rose to fame on TikTok, where he had a hit song, "Golden Hour." 

We'd been thinking, "Okay, we knew that we really wanted to do something in Tiktok that would engage an audience. And we found ourselves thinking about, you know, the big names like, "Oh, should we be doing something with an icon like Miley Cyrus? Or like," and then we were like, "Why don't we work with someone who is native to TikTok, who actually became famous on TikTok?" We decided to work with JVKE, and our campaign was for our new product, Sun Lover, so we did a remix of ‘Golden Hour’, and JVKE launched that on TikTok. The remix was imagined as a summer anthem, and JVKE used NASA's data library to create the sounds of the sun. That's a good example of how far we've come: from using influencers to amplify a campaign, to be happy that they are the center of the campaign. 

JE: How did you get senior leadership to agree on such a wholesale handover of creative content to influencers?

It's an interesting one because I think it's also a journey. Throughout this journey, we noticed that we could be very prescriptive on the content, but it became obvious after a while that this would be very limiting for the influencers, and we wouldn't be getting the best out of it. 

Eventually, everybody realized that it was a no-brainer because if the content feels authentic in the channel and feeds of the influencers, it feels wrong for the fans, too. And our objective was to convert the fans of Magnum. 

For the business case, we felt really confident and strong in our point of view. And we did a lot of test-and-learn as well. And it was very obvious what worked. And since our brand-essence is all about inspiring people to be true to themselves, and this is how we feel to unlock the power of people, whether it's in our team or in our partners or influencers, the story, and the case were pretty clear in that sense. But the results also backed us up and confirmed that this was the right thing to do. 

JE: How are you testing, especially the experimental material, and how do you know what you should be testing next?

TA: We have a well-developed model, so we're not testing everything all the time. There are fundamentals – Cannes, for example, is a regular fixture, and that stays. We also work with someone who is the face of the campaign every year, and we need to make sure that all our countries – more than 50 countries are on board with us and that they're finding creative influencers that are linked with the attitude of that campaign – so that is in place.

But every year, we need a margin for experimentation to create new tools. So last year, for example, we did live-streaming using TikTok for the first time, with someone natively from TikTok as the big ambassador. Then, we still had the model, the paid media model that we trusted to get us the reach, but we also made time to experiment a little bit with that as well. Every year, we make space for innovation and experimentation, and then we can learn from the results. If it works, we replicate it the next year and build that into the model, so we create a snowball effect. But yeah, we will keep testing and learning, and that will be a big part of that.

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