11 Questions With Ben Higgins: Generous Coffee, Influencer Marketing, & Advice for Influencers
While you may know him as a former Bachelor, we know him as coffee connoisseur and Co- Founder of Generous Coffee. Since his run on ABC’s The Bachelor, Ben has used his platform to leave a positive mark on the world through his “for purpose” company as well as his meaningful relationships with other brands and products that he believes in.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben to get his thoughts on marketing his own business, working with brands, and all things Generous Coffee. Watch the video below, or keep reading to get the full interview, including Ben’s advice for other businesses and influencers.
T: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
B: My name is Ben Higgins. You probably best know me from The Bachelor, but that’s not what I’m doing today. Today, my full time job is operating a company I co-founded called Generous Coffee Company.
T: How have you used influencer marketing and your personal platform to boost your brand, Generous Coffee?
B: Generous has used my brand and my platform to increase our following and our visibility in a unique way. We are a coffee company, and we sell products in the developing world - t-shirts, coffee, and leather goods. We have the highest-quality products, but we’re really selling our story. So for a consumer to actually buy Generous, they’re going to have to buy into the story we are telling. Becoming visible, promoting our products and promoting what we’re doing in the world is our most important piece. There’s no easier way to do that than through social media. With one click of a button, somebody can see a video or a picture, or read a caption and get the picture of what the business or person is doing.
I think for me, as the current President of Generous, having the platform I was given is really helpful. We do a lot of influencer marketing and most of it comes from me! It’s a free and easy way for us to promote the product. But the relationship between Generous and myself doesn’t work any differently than an influencer relationship I would want to work with. I believe in the product, I believe in the story, I believe in what we’re doing as a business. And because of that, I am very willing and excited to promote what we’re doing on my own social channels.
T: What role does content play in sharing your brand story?
B: Generous is a story-telling company. We sell products with stories behind them. Our coffee is brought in from 9 different countries around the world - all single origins, all traceable, so you can go to the farms themselves and meet the producers and meet the people growing and harvesting your coffee. There are unique stories being told through each cup of coffee that you’re drinking from Generous. Our t-shirts are made out of plastic water bottles by single mothers in Haiti in an air conditioned facility, and they are paid well above minimum wage plus retirement insurance. Our leather goods are made in India by people previously incarcerated or homeless. So all of our products have stories behind them. There’s a reason why - because we believe that for-profit business can make the world a better place. So we have to tell these stories clearly and find ways to do that. We use our content to do that in the best way possible, especially on social media. We create short videos that are clear and concise and to the point.
I think one of the biggest struggles with content that any business or any influencer will run into is becoming oversaturated. Not in a bad way - [oversaturation] is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only a bad thing when those stories are inauthentic. When your stories are authentic and genuine and they’re telling your truthful story, then great things can happen! Beautiful things can happen! But when we start oversaturating ourselves with inauthentic content, then it just becomes air and it just becomes unpurposeful. So for Generous, we really try to be clear and concise and connect the consumers to the story by showing that it’s real, genuine, truthful. I think most of our success will come from telling those stories in the best possible ways.
T: Now switching over to the influencer side, how has your experience been working with brands? Can you share any particular experience or brands that you’re fond of?
B: So from an influencer perspective - way outside of Generous - my experience working with brands has been really positive. Since the beginning when I was given this platform, I made the conscious effort to only promote things that I really do believe in and that I know are good products. If not, I feel like I lose myself a bit, personally. I feel like I lose my legitimacy. And I hope that 10 years from now, when social media still exists, or there’s another platform that exists, or whatever that looks like for how we market to the consumer, I hope people can still look at me and say, “what he speaks, he believes.” I want that in everything I do. I want purpose to come from every aspect of my life, and that doesn’t change for how I’m promoting myself on my own platform.
So working with brands, I’ve had great experiences. My best experiences are the ones I really believe in what they’re doing also, so I feel like we’re in it together. I feel like we are trying to promote a product that the consumer will be better for having. The highest quality brands that are helping the consumer the most - those are the experiences and the relationships that I can get behind. Those are the only ones I’ll accept.
T: Can you think of a specific brand that you really enjoyed working with?
B: Capital One was an incredible brand to work with. They bent over backwards to make sure that I knew what they were promoting and what they were doing. They also made it fun and exciting for me - they gave me the plan and the strategy way upfront, so I knew what I was walking into. They also had a team around me that never made me feel like I was doing anything incorrectly. Right? I’m walking into their story. They’ve been planning this for months, so when I come in at the last minute to help promote or host or explain what their strategy is, they had a team around me that always made me feel like I was educated on what was happening. I think Capital One is one of the brands that stands out the most for me.
I also have a great relationship with Generous. Generous Coffee does a really good job at handling their influencers haha!
T: Can you tell me a little bit about the shoot you did with our Aspire team? What was your experience?
B: I recently did a shoot with Aspire, and it was the first time working with the organization. It was really fun! It was an afternoon that definitely felt like work - but it felt like a fun way to work! I think one of the pros of working with Aspire was that I was given the content way upfront. I was given the choice of how the content was going to be created. So I wasn’t walking into something blindly. I knew 2 weeks in advance what the shoot was going to look like, what the campaign was going to look like, what everyone was trying to get out of it. I was also very familiar with the company that we were promoting. I was given the resources available, the websites, the back-end stories, the way the brand helps people, the competitive advantages over their competition - I was given all that so when I walked into the shoot I felt educated and informed, which is important for me. I think it’s important for every influencer today. It might not happen every time, but I think it’s important that every influencer puts their stake down and say, “I need to be informed on what I’m promoting if I’m going to promote it.” Yes, the job is still there and the payment is still there - and that’s great! But if I’m going to promote this with my name on it, then I want to be as educated as possible. So Aspire did a good job making sure that I knew who I was promoting, what I was promoting, and how we’re going to promote it.
T: Compared to some of the other shoots or partnerships you’ve done, was there a difference having a creative team onsite to help you shoot the content?
B: When I did the shoot with Aspire, there was a creative team onsite to create content. I remember at one point looking at the team, they were standing behind the camera and I was like, “I could have never done this alone. I could have never captured what you were hoping for, and what the brand was hoping for, unless your team was here to guide me through this. If not, I would have been stressed out, I would have been confused. We probably would have done it incorrectly and had to re-do it, or somebody would have felt like they didn’t get the full benefit from the campaign. This is important to me, and I find it to becoming more and more important in the world of business. When you make a deal, you have a partnership. You don’t want to see either side fall short. You don’t want to see any side getting taken advantage of. You want to feel like both sides are benefitting from whatever relationship exists. And having the creative team there made me feel like the brand was going to be benefitting just as much as I was to be doing the influencing, because the creative team led the direction. I never felt like the creativeness fell on me, or that I was going to be falling short because of my lack of creativity. That was already done so I could focus on how I was promoting the product, what I was saying, and how I was saying it. And if I believed in it or not.
T: In general, how involved do you like to be in the creative process when you’re working with a brand?
B: I like to stay really involved, but kind of in an umbrella perspective. I don’t want to get the leads, I don’t want the details. I want somebody else to tell me what I should be wearing, kind of the non-necessities. But I want to know what I will be saying, and why I’m saying it. I want to know what we’re trying to promote and what we’re trying to communicate to the consumer. I want to know why this brand believes they’re better than other brands. I want to stay involved in the process. But when it comes to the non-essentials, the creativity, the outfits, the clothing, even the location - it’s not that important to me. What’s important to me is that when I walk into a a set or a walk into a campaign, that I know what I’m saying and why I’m saying it. I don’t want to just show up. I don’t want this to be another day where I speak like a robot. I hope to never become a robot.
T: Do you feel that the Aspire team was a good partner to create authentic content?
B: 100%. I definitely do! I think it was refreshing. When I walked into this campaign with Aspire, and there was a team there to support me, there was the creative directors, there was the camera, and there were people on the team that were making sure that everything was set correctly and that we weren’t crossing any boundaries that the brand asked not to cross - all that made it refreshing for me because i knew we were going to produce something that was of high quality. So for me, personally, the stress of ‘am I doing this right?’ was taken away, which is a big stress at times. And I could just focus on doing it, making sure I was communicating, making sure I was saying it. So yeah, I think it was refreshing to work with the team. I think it took a burden off my shoulders that I typically don’t like to carry when I come into a campaign.
T: What are some things that brands can do to make these partnerships feel more natural for influencers?
B: If I was to give these brands advice, it would be to make sure to do your vetting upfront. When you’re picking your influencers to do these campaign, make sure you’re picking influencers that match your brand, that will believe in your brand, that probably use your brand already...those are the most natural relationships, because it’s not hard to convince somebody to promote a product they already use. So try to find that - do the vetting upfront so on the back end you’re not trying to convince an influencer to enjoy a product that they’ve never heard of. That would be my first key piece of advice.
The second piece of advice is I think anybody has more emotion and purpose in what they’re talking about when they feel like they have ownership in it. So try to make your influencer feel involved. Make them feel like this isn’t just them being used to promote or being used for their name or their face or whatever it is. Make sure they feel involved and make sure they know why you want them to promote this product or why you want to do this campaign. I think giving a piece of ownership or making the influencer feel like they have an influence is really important. I think the influencer would give it their all when they feel involved in the campaign.
T: If you were to give someone advice who’s trying to be an influencer or is already an influencer, what would it be?
B: My advice to anybody that wants to be an influencer or is an influencer - to make your campaigns the most successful and to make your career feel the most purposeful, make sure that you’re vetting the brands that you’re promoting. Make sure that you have a purpose behind it. If you just want to be an influencer for the sake of being an influencer, I feel like that is an unfulfilling pursuit. I think the question you have to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to influence? What am I trying to promote? What is my purpose behind the voice that I have?”
Once you find the purpose, and you find the long term goal or the vision of who you’re trying to be and what you’re trying to be, then the brands can kind of come behind that. And it’s never about just promoting one brand. It’s about promoting a story that’s a lot bigger and better and far beyond any one campaign. I think that’ll make it all feel a little bit better, be a little bit better, and, I think, a lot more successful. People will feel that passion. They’ll feel that purpose. They’ll feel that you have an energy behind this that is not just for that one campaign but for something a lot greater. So I guess, in short, my advice for influencers is: make sure you have a purpose on why you want to influence.