CleanCo, an innovative company offering full-strength alcohol alternatives, leverages influencer marketing and an ambassador program to enhance its digital presence. Founded by reality TV star Spencer Matthews, the brand uses authenticity and personal connections in the influencer space to promote a more positive attitude towards drinking.
With the help of Brandbassador, CleanCo successfully cultivates a creator community to generate high-quality user-generated content, simultaneously expanding its reach and bolstering the brand’s value.
In this interview, we’ll talk with Jennifer Lambert about CleanCo and its initiatives on influencer marketing. Robert Fox and Jenny Madison from Brandbassador join us for the interview.
Who is Jennifer Lambert, and what is CleanCo?
CleanCo, a company offering full-flavor, reduced-alcohol alternatives, is capturing the world’s attention. At the helm of the brand’s digital domain is Jennifer Lambert, the Global Head of Digital. She spoke to us recently about her work and the story behind CleanCo.
Having joined CleanCo at the end of 2021, she has been tasked with managing all of the e-commerce platforms. With the brand operating in the UK and the US, Jenni has also overseen the integration of social media into their strategies.
“The role has been challenging but exciting,” Jenni says. “CleanCo is a young business. Lots of change has occurred over the past few years, but it’s always very exciting. Always keeps you on your toes. Never a dull moment.”
CleanCo’s mission is grounded in providing consumers with a moderate and healthy relationship with alcohol. Jenni explains, “Our founders are sober, but our message is one of moderation. We provide easy, direct replacements for full-strength spirits – alternatives that are still very tasty and reminiscent of the full-strength cocktails they enjoy.”
The brand’s history is as unique as its mission. Founded in late 2019 by UK TV and podcast personality Spencer Matthews, CleanCo made a name for itself with its distinct, non-alcoholic beverages. As a former party boy turned family man, Spencer brought his personal journey with alcohol moderation into creating CleanCo. “When his now wife Vogue became pregnant with their first child, Matthews decided to stop drinking. That decision laid the foundation for CleanCo,” Jenni tells us.
But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. CleanCo had just launched when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Initially, the plan was to introduce the product through bars and restaurants. “However, COVID-19 changed that direction. Our sales team has done a phenomenal job of getting us into all major retailers in the UK. In late 2020, we started moving into the US market, working with Southern Glazer to develop our distribution strategy,” Jenni shares.
CleanCo has also made waves in the influencer marketing space. “With Spencer as our founder and Vogue with her influence, we’ve naturally leaned into their network. This network has become a key part of our brand advocacy strategy. The work we’ve done with brand ambassadors has further amplified our reach,” Lambert shares.
As the brand continues to grow, Lambert remains enthusiastic. She says, “CleanCo isn’t just about providing non-alcoholic alternatives, it’s about giving people a choice – ensuring that in social situations, they don’t always have to drink, and definitely don’t have to drink to excess.”
CleanCo, under Lambert’s digital lead, is paving the way for healthier drinking habits, one full-flavored, non-alcoholic beverage at a time.
When did CleanCo start working with influencers?
CleanCo working with influencers seemed natural, given Spencer’s profile. The company has always done some kind of outreach. “We were working with a PR agency and doing monthly seeding kits. We were putting together packages to send out to influencers to taste everything they needed to put a drink together, including the drink, the mixes,” Jenni adds.
They did these PR packages following a theme on a monthly basis, but they were costly. Fortunately, the platform that Brandbassador offered allowed CleanCo to tap into individuals who were naturally talking about the brand, which was more cost-effective, too. As a result, they founded their ambassador program and launched their community, called The Clean Crew.
Could you provide some specific examples of how CleanCo has effectively leveraged Spencer Matthews and Vogue Williams’ following to align with the company’s business campaigns and overall marketing strategy?
“Everything that Spencer does is naturally connected to CleanCo. We have our CleanCo social media profiles, Spencer has his separate ones, and he does have his other kind of business endeavors, particularly his podcast, but CleanCo is definitely a running theme through those because he created it to suit his lifestyle,” Jenni says.
Spencer and Vogue also do frequent Instagram lives for CleanCo. Being a mother herself, Vogue gets heavily involved around Mother’s Day. CleanCo has a strong pull for mothers and parents but wants to emphasize that pregnant mothers can drink their products throughout their pregnancies without any risk at all. This is something that Vogue leans into when gifting during Mother’s Day. She even helped the brand release Clean V products to the market.
“And I’d say with Spencer, it is really just the day-to-day. Just yesterday, he jumped on and did a Q and A on a store, so it’s really nice for people who are curious about the brand. But also, those who are curious about sobriety and moderation, to be able to reach out to someone who’s had that journey and directly speak to him and get an answer,” Jenni says.
Can you share an example of a particularly impactful influencer campaign that CleanCo has executed and the results it achieved?
Some of the projects CleanCo did in the past were around specific events taking place in the market. “I know with the UK; we did a really successful Wimbledon one last year. So send out a really nice package that supported that kind of summer drinking campaign, and that got us a lot of reach and awareness of the brand, particularly around an occasion where people will tend to lean into drinking,” Jenni recalls.
They also did something similar with Cinco de Mayo that people will heavily resonate with clean tea or tequila alternative. To celebrate the event and market CleanCo’s products at the same time, the brand sent out miniature lime trees at one point.
CleanCo also made the most out of Dry January by launching a campaign. Jenny from Brandbassador tells us, “Dry January in the UK is so massive, and what was something that was easy for us to display campaigns internally. But what was really great is that we could extend it further because the awareness that was spread around January was something we could continue to capitalize on in the later months.”
CleanCo decided to continue the campaign into Dry February because once people got a taste of the idea of sobriety, they could continue to share more news and content about it, particularly the benefits of cleaFbrandn drinking.
What criteria does CleanCo consider when selecting influencers to work with?
“The majority of the brands now, it’s real authenticity and looking for people who makes sense to work with. I think influencer marketing definitely got to a point where people were fatigued by it because everyone was just promoting everything, and it didn’t always make sense,” Jenni shares.
“We definitely want to lean into people who have a genuine interest in the brand and in the space and are curious about it in a way that is open and positive. The most important thing is people don’t have to be completely sober. Our message is to drink in moderation and promote a more positive attitude to alcohol and not feeling like every time you drink, it has to be too excessive, and you have to hit a point of being drunk,” Jenni continues.
How does CleanCo nurture and maintain relationships with its influencers?
Jenny does a phenomenal job of managing the community. CleanCo is on a fully managed service plan allowing them to have frequent catch-ups and look at the number of individuals they’re working with.
“Something that we’re able to do because we’re a scalable platform and we work with such a big community is lean into the different strengths or reasoning for people’s alignment with CleanCo throughout the community,” Jenny says.
Because of this, CleanCo can create specific campaigns for people who are sober or drinking moderately because of their fitness goals or who would want to get out for the first time. This means that CleanCo can have a large community but still be able to have more individualistic relationships and target people based on their reasonings.
Could you provide details about CleanCo’s ambassador program and how it contributes to the company’s success in the creator economy?
“It’s very much about taking the heavy lifting off of content creation internally. It’s something that for a business our size — we’re still quite small — and if we produce a high volume of content, if we had someone full-time doing that in-house, costs could add app quickly,” Jenni explains.
CleanCo being able to lean into Brandbassador and get some high-quality UGC really helped them with their content production overall. This partnership also gave them a lot of variation, too. “I think when you just do everything in-house all the time, you can end up with a lot of stuff that ends up being the same,” she tells us.
Brandbassador focuses on gathering authentic content from ambassadors for CleanCo as they have seen that authentic content works wonders for brands across all industries. They concentrate on getting content from the community that tells stories and the personal journeys of individuals who use CleanCo’s products.
What benefits and opportunities does CleanCo offer to its ambassadors, and how does it differ from working with individual influencers?
“If we ever make a decision to work with a specific influencer, that would be something probably very specific, and that would probably be an exchange for a cash payment and would be focused around a particular campaign,” Jenni says.
The community focus of CleanCo’s ambassador program is that the brand can provide submission ideas and guidance, but ambassadors have the freedom to get creative within that. They’re also quite creative with how they reward their ambassadors — some tasks give cash rewards, while others give gift cards or even freebies.
These are lower-cost rewards, but the requirements from the ambassadors are also low, plus they have more flexibility in terms of the content they produce. It opens opportunities for ambassadors in the community to get really creative, too.
What are your thoughts on the evolving role of influencers and content creators in shaping consumer trends and preferences?
“It’s been really interesting to watch. I’ve worked in the digital space for almost ten years, and I’ve not always worked with influencer programs in all of my roles, but I have kind of at different points over the years,” Jenni says.
“I think we’ve reached a point now where it does look like it’s a lot more genuine. I think it was a bit of a wild west at one point. I think many people were just pushing out many things, and nobody really knew how much to charge, and people were getting crazy money.”
For Jenni, the industry is now at a point where creators are very much in charge, meaning they know what they’re worth and know what works for their content and page.
From a brand’s perspective, having this much control provides reassurance because they know that they’re working with creators who are serious and want to be authentic and genuine throughout their own content and aren’t doing anything solely for the money.
For young brands like CleanCo, Jenni recognizes how important is it to grow their offerings by leaning into what influencers and ambassadors can offer. They don’t have unlimited budgets as established brands to put into phone marketing campaigns, which is why word of mouth has become their most valuable and reliable marketing channel.
Brandbassador has also seen the importance of authenticity in content creation and how it’s crucial across all platforms. “We give broader guidelines as to what we want to see them create. A lot of ambassadors interpret this as they wish, and because of that, they know it works for their channel,” Jenny adds.
Jenny talked about a particular piece of content that went viral. It was created by a woman known to make comedy skits, and she included the product she was endorsing in one of her skits. As a result, the content looked and felt authentic to her. This content generated about 400,000 views, which is a massive return on investment.
“It’s good to know that, especially when you’re working with an ambassador community, you can let the creative strengths roam free because there is less of an intense investment from your side, and the return on that can be great,” she says.
How has the rise of the creator economy influenced CleanCo’s marketing strategies and approach?
When CleanCo was still starting, they had this mentality of needing to go against established brands. Their thought process was they needed to do TV campaigns and billboards, which they eventually realized wasn’t scalable or economical for where they were at that time.
CleanCo switched its focus to those more below-the-line channels and put heavier investment into the digital space. This doesn’t only include influencers but across paid socials, PPC, and affiliate marketing.
“I think it’s important for brands our size to just be aware that that’s a channel on the table because you don’t have the same budgets. And I think you can do a lot more cost-effectively online than you can offline. So, it’s an important strategy to keep in the mix. And as we continue to scale up in the US, it’s something that we will keep looking at and keeping our back pockets because the scale of trying to advertise in the US is huge,” Jenni explains.
In your opinion, what are the key challenges and opportunities in the influencer marketing space today?
“Sometimes it’s education upwards towards the kind of leadership and C-suite and people that tend to be later on in their careers and haven’t necessarily been hands-on with influencer marketing in the early stages,” Jenni tells us.
How does CleanCo stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of the influencer marketing industry?
“To be honest with you, it’s not something I think about much at all. I think that staying true to the brand and knowing what it was, what we want to push out, and what we want to do is more important rather than trying to be changed in trends,” Jenni says.
What metrics does CleanCo use to measure the success of influencer campaigns and assess their impact on the company’s goals?
At the moment, CleanCo is looking into UGC and is using this content to post on their own branded social media as it receives more engagement due to its authenticity.
Moving forward, CleanCo aims to measure its brand awareness, growth, and recall on social media. In 2024, they’re considering measuring the influencer piece within the broader social media ecosystem.
Can you discuss any innovative strategies or tactics CleanCo has employed to engage with the creator economy effectively?
“I think that’s something we’re leaning into to Brandbassador for, so Jenny is the one that has a direct relationship with the ambassadors and influencers we’re working with. But I think the key thing is just to keep them engaged, and we’re just thinking about our organic social media management,” Jenni says.
They often receive tons of messages on social media but still make sure that they respond to all of those. They’re also happy to send out a free bottle and do giveaways to engage with their community.
Where do you see the future of influencer marketing heading, and how is CleanCo preparing to stay at the forefront of this industry?
“We’ll continue to see the shift to more online purchases. Consumers will lean into influencers and will look for word-of-mouth recommendations and authentic reviews. Having people who are credible specialists in the space will become more important because of the speed at which it evolves,” Jenni says.
Can you share any upcoming or ongoing projects that CleanCo is excited about in the creator economy?
CleanCo will team up with Brandbassador for a UK campaign focusing on the spritz. The campaign is omnichannel, meaning it will be paid across social media and CleanCo’s website.
CleanCo will also be present in many UK festivals and is even eyeing to offer an all-expenses paid trip to one of those festivals through their ambassador platform.