Four Seasons shifts its global influencer strategy

The company's "Envoy" program takes a "follower-blind approach" that prioritizes content quality over quantity.

The popularity of influencer marketing – accompanied by a growing number of people identifying themselves as content creators – poses a number of challenges when it comes to campaign “efficacy and authenticity,” says Sarah Tuite, senior director of corporate public relations at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, the Toronto-based hotel and resorts company operating in 47 markets globally.

As the influencer space has grown more competitive, especially in categories like fashion, beauty and hospitality, content has begun to feel repetitive and familiar, hindering efforts to engage with consumers in authentic and interesting ways, she says.

It’s in response to those challenges that the hotel chain has launched Envoy by Four Seasons, a new program to leverage creative storytellers and artists across mediums (videos, pictures and words) through stories about their unique and curated travel experiences. Influencers are chosen based on the quality of their content, as opposed to the size of their following.

Even though “numbers still matter,” as CMO Peter Nowlan noted in a statement accompanying the announcement, the company has come to believe that “content quality is the new measure of value in the realm of influencer marketing.”

Moving forward, Four Seasons will continue working with influencers that offer greater scale to meet some of its other marketing goals. But the idea of Envoy is to move towards “transformative travel narratives,” says Tuite, knowing that the most effective kind of influencer content “has a distinctive point of view, tells a compelling story and highlights an authentic, personal experience with our brand.”

The company is currently accepting applications for the program, with a selection process expected to begin in December. Every year, it hopes to work with four to six “Envoys,” who will select their destination and receive a personalized and immersive Four Seasons travel experience, from which they will create content using their preferred form of expression. That content will then be pushed on their own channels, as well as Four Seasons’ social channels.

The program launched with the help of spoken word artist Marshall Davis Jones, who created a spoken word poem inspired by his stay at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii. Campaign assets include Jones reading his poem aloud and a behind-the-scenes look at the travel experience that was customized to match his creative interests.

Tuite says Four Seasons has long incorporated influencers and content creators to reach digital audiences. But Envoy’s new “follower-blind approach” will help ensure creators are selected based on their ability to tell a compelling narrative.

“While there is certainly a benefit in partnering with influencers who have broad and expansive reach,” she says, “we have found that micro-influencers tend to have highly engaged and devoted audiences that are passionate about the nature of storytelling.”