Influencer Marketing: what I learnt by doing it.Sep 08, 2021
By Andrea Tartaglia – Co-Founder/Director @ The Marketing Leaders Ltd.
I have been involved with Influencer Marketing for a few years now. First, riding the wave of interest towards unboxing videos, and then, more strategically, to build interest and generate conversion for brands and products leveraging the audience of relevant Youtubers.
Using Influencers to help with our marketing activations became such an important part of the marketing mix that the company I worked for at the time (Disney) even bought Maker Studios (the then global leader in online short-form video and the largest influencer network worldwide) to bring more expertise in house.
Over the years I have been cumulating learnings, project after project, and will share some throughout this blog post.
Let me start with sharing an example of the work my team and I did in this space.
The project was developed to increase awareness and interest towards one of the recent Star Wars movies (Rogue One – A Star Wars Story).
The challenge to address was the lukewarm interest of teens and young adults towards the Star Wars franchise and its content.
Traditional marketing tactics had proven unsuccessful, and we needed to do something different to be relevant among this elusive audience.
This is why we partnered with an influencer who knows how to talk to teens and young adults. Someone who had a following we could leverage and ‘influence’ positively not only by being associated with the influencer but also by building a relevant, compelling, unique and innovative content strategy which could deliver impact in a relatively cost-effective way. For this we chose Colin Furze.
And given that the Star Wars franchise goes beyond content and delivers revenues through merchandising and licensed products, we pushed the partnership further to promote also the retail side of the business. Hence, we extended our collaboration with Colin to a partnership with ebay.
The video below is just one of the many pieces of content we developed as part of this program:
This was a few years back, so sadly the commercial messages have been removed. However, the program proved to be extremely successful. So much that we partnered with Colin Furze few other times, not only on Star Wars but also on Marvel.
What did we learn from this example and the many other influencer marketing activations we developed over the years?
Here are a few highlights.
- Strategic and operational process
Being active in Influencer Marketing required some significant adjustments in our thinking and operational processes.
We were used to a very high level of control over the creative process, across the organization, with lots of checks and reviews throughout each major marketing activation and their milestones to ensure brand integrity.
Imagine a traditional campaign would have checkpoints early in its development, from idea generation to further development down to storyboards, shooting boards, rough cuts, final cut, etc.
In the case of influencer marketing, we had to adapt and accept the idea that most of the creative process was out of our hands and delegated to the influencers, with several steps completely bypassed (no storyboards for example – just a loose script with essentially some talking points). And operating in this ‘new’ way required a speed of action/reaction that we were not used to.
In a complex organization, with lots of layers, stakeholders and approvers, this adjustment was not easy to make. We had it wrong a few times and even shelved some campaigns that failed to gain all approvals (or became irrelevant once we missed the timelines originally set for the project).
In our example, the entire campaign was developed with Colin. We did not know exactly what he would shoot but we had a good sense of the creative direction and agreed to relinquish creative input and trust Colin to deliver.
- Clarity of objectives
To help resolving some of the process/adjustment issues, we learnt it is critical to have clarity on the objectives to reach as early in the process as possible.
Obviously, this is true for all marketing activities, not only influencer marketing. However, normally this is an internal process, while in the case of influencer marketing, it is a process that is shared with the influencers and the risk of divergence is a little higher.
Everyone must me aligned on the objectives and how to get there. Discussing this early in the process allows to bring to light any issues and/or disconnect that might cause disappointments later during the project. And this helps with minimizing the risk of creative differences.
Again, we have learnt this the hard way, with some projects that turned to be unsatisfactory.
Working with Colin Furze is a good example of a project that delivered thanks to resolving issues upfront at the early stages of development.
- Choice of Influencer
We learnt that there are many things to consider when selecting influencers for campaigns.
The obvious ones relate to the size and kind of audience they can reach, their tone, style and quality of output.
In addition to this, we started paying attention to their broad content and ‘brand image’.
We now spend time researching potential influencers to ensure we do not incur into any problems by being associated to them.
Realizing that our jointly produced content will sit next to the other content the chosen influencer produces, we must be comfortable that there is no negative impact from things out of our control. For example: is the influencer vocal about social issues we do not think our brand should be associated with? Are they producing content which would be damaging when watched next to ours? And so on.
In the case of Colin, we had some conversations about some of his videos showing ‘stunts’ that can be putting people in danger if emulated (‘don’t try this at home’ is a disclaimer we do not want to include in our content…). After sone research, we agreed it was an appropriate partnership and we proceeded, making sure nothing dangerous was included in our sponsored content.
The above is very important for another point: maintaining authenticity.
This goes two ways: authenticity in relation to brand integrity (which I already mentioned above), but also authenticity in terms of the delivery of the influencer.
Influencers have a following because they have a distinctive style, tone of voice and messaging. These should not be changed to fit a commercial message. The risk is that the output of the collaboration feels forced and manipulated rather than natural, organic and authentic. With the result of potentially alienating the audience we are trying to reach. Not good for the brand and not good for the influencer.
In the case of Colin, we wanted to maintain his natural style; let him run with it, while making sure he was delivering naturally and organically some key messages in a way that did not feel forced nor ‘out of place’.
- Generating reach and impact
I mentioned we decided to use Colin to attract an audience that we found elusive. Therefore, reach is a very important deliverable for the partnership.
In this case, we could take advantage from Colin’s audience but also ebay’s. The combination of the two gave us a good level of organic reach. And the creative developed with Colin gave us impact.
However, that is just the starting point and putting some media spend against the campaign gave us the opportunity to amplify further the results.
When we started working with influencers, we underestimated the role of paid media. Now we know that it is likely to be needed and this must be part of the planning from the beginning.
We moved away from the assumption that organic reach was the only way to reach the intended audience. Of course, when that happens, we are happy, and we can diverge funds to other projects of to produce more content.
The example above focuses on video content and YouTube as the only platform involved in the project.
Video and YouTube were what we used early in our Influencer Marketing efforts.
We then learnt that as well as selecting the right influencer for each project, we also needed to select the right platform. They go hand in hand.
This opened up opportunities to use Instagram and more social media and increase reach and impact with a combination of platforms and influencers, creating a mini ecosystem of touchpoints for each project, as needed.
- Localization/International considerations
Final point relates to the complexity of running Influencer Marketing campaigns across regions and countries.
I have run global and international campaigns for over 20 years and am used to producing toolkits that are easy to adapt and localize, generating efficiencies by servicing assets that can be used across the globe with minimal need for changing.
Influencer marketing tested that: most influencers have a local reach. Only a handful of influencers have global following and very rarely language is not a barrier.
So we learnt to adapt things to make sure we do not miss the opportunity to create efficiencies by running local influencer campaigns independently from each other.
Fixes we came up with include:
- Developing formats and templates, creative toolkits that can be used in different countries and allow for some consistency of output
- Inviting influencers from different countries to a single location to shoot all local versions together
- Building one set and the inserting the local influencers in post using green screen technology
- Shooting a good amount of footage that can be shared and used in each country adding with clever editing the footage shot locally with the influencers
These are just the most important learnings, which I hope can help you avoid the same mistakes we made.
There is so much more, and I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
Just get in touch if you have any.