It seems that lately, I’ve come across lots of articles questioning, attacking and just generally hating on the Influencer Marketing industry.
This led to myself and the Brand Partnerships team of IMA, having a conversation about the perception of the industry and the way in which it’s been increasingly bad mouthed amongst brands, marketers and consumers alike.
Sceptics have been making it seem like people in the industry are continuously staging (yet again) another influencer, promoting a BS product that they don’t believe in, in a fake life that they’ve digitally manufactured, all for their own gain.
How has this reputation manifested?
On the one hand, you could blame agencies like ours, acting as the catalyst for the never ending flow of sponsored content, having to race against client deadlines and business timelines.
However, in this four sided industry; brands, content creators, influencers and agencies, every party must be accountable and held responsible for how we operate and move forward.
Every party must be accountable
For instance, influencers must be responsible for the creation of their own content, the way that they engage with their communities (sincerely or not), the partnerships they decide to take on, and above all else, the motivation that drives them. Are they genuinely passionate about their topics? Do they have expertise in their niche? Are they after fame or money (or both)?
The followers, turning eventually into consumers, are responsible for deciding what they assess as authentic and valuable to them.
Brands are also responsible for their own strategies. Some companies fail to truly understand the value of partnering with influencers, then rush into meaningless or poorly devised campaigns, all so they aren’t left out of the Influencer Marketing hype. All too often, they approach Influencer Marketing just like any other communication channel within their marketing mix and then deliver poor campaigns as a result.
Agencies are beginning to pop up more and more, having begun to acknowledge the powerful synergism of the above parties. This surge in popularity opens more possibilities for less authentic Influencer Marketing, often holding a damaging profit-first mindset.
Agencies like IMA are feeling more pressure to prove the value of Influencer Marketing. Clients approach us, eager to know about ROI and share their KPIs with us, but are neglecting the essence of Influencer Marketing; which is importantly rooted in the human to human connection. We’re not going to offer you an algorithm based, predictable Google ad.
Unfortunately brands often have rigid expectations that sometimes don’t allow for Influencer Marketing to flourish, with them being far too concerned with data, despite the numerous studies proving the undeniable impact of Influencer Marketing and our advanced data tracking capabilities.
Branded Influencer Fatigue & savvy consumers
There’s been so much distrust and hostility towards the industry, that its resulted in a lack of flexibility in the way that we approach brand-influencer partnerships, leading to a loss of creativity and authenticity. Kantar Media has recently reported on ‘Branded Influencer Fatigue’ that’s setting in for consumers.
But, surely everyone knows by now that Influencer Marketing is another form of advertising - and so what? We still watch TV ads, billboards and the like - they still exist even if we all know it’s an ad right?
Our jobs as influencer marketers is not to find a way to fake authenticity and to attempt to make the audience think it isn’t an ad. Nowadays, paid partnerships are obvious (and increasingly, influencers are obliged to be legally transparent) to audiences.
So what do we need to do? We have to strive to create more authentic connections between brand and influencer. At IMA, we do that by offering a full Influencer Marketing service, managing all aspects of a campaign, from A to Z. We are constantly asking ourselves: does this partnership offer extra value to all parties involved?
I must mention our most recent Under Armour campaign, which is the perfect illustration of this. By carefully selecting passionate, athletic, content creators, they were able to collaborate with the brand that aligns with their own fitness goals. IMA took a group of influencers to FIBO, the world's biggest fitness trade show, involving them with a group fitness challenge to test out a new collection. This helped to create another layer to Under Armour’s brand DNA, provided value to the influencer for being a part of the campaign and gave audiences new product information in an innovative way.
This is how we avoid Branded Influencer Fatigue: by designing influencer strategies that provide additional benefits to all stakeholders : the brand, the influencer and the end consumer.
Why do I follow influencers?
Personally, I follow hundreds of influencers. I scroll Instagram everyday, mainly because I am looking for entertainment, inspiration, education and if they have a similar aesthetic to me. If an influencer provides me with one of these three things, whether it’s a sponsored post or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m always glad to discover a new piece of content on an influencer’s feed showing, let’s say, a new bag from a brand unknown to me.
An influencer might style a bag in a way I wouldn’t have thought about, and wait - now I might actually consider getting this bag? In the meantime I’ll probably follow this brand, visit its website, talk about it to my friends, the whole lot.
Whether you like the industry or not, it can’t be denied that there is exceptional opportunity in approaching influencers as real brand consultants, who are able to innovatively translate your brand’s message to their community, who they interact with everyday.
By mixing data and manual scouting we are able to provide contextual matchmaking with the most relevant talents. By using the right measuring tools we ensure results. And by being honest with clients about their goals and educating them the best way about this new method of communication, we can protect the future of Influencer Marketing.