Is it time to call time up for influencer marketing as we know it?
🔍 The Graveyard Gossip
In the evolving world of digital marketing, the banter in the bars of Shoreditch is that influencer marketing is on its last legs, has joined a book club, or may be about to start sipping piña coladas on a beach somewhere. But hold on to your hashtags. Let's look closer at this mystery to answer the question - is influencer marketing is truly about to start pushing up daisies, just enjoying a midday siesta or experiencing a rebirth.
🤔 So, Why the Rumours?
It seems that just as soon as any marketing trend becomes mainstream, those who want to appear like the smartest kid in the playground start talking about its demise. It’s like a rush to dis the currency of truth, in an effort to make a name for oneself and appear like a modern-day soothsayer.
Rumours are starting to circulate that influencers will soon become as extinct as the fax machine. No doubt, in some quarters influencers are becoming as overused as the term “like” at a 16 year old’s birthday party and losing any semblance of authenticity.
But before we organise a virtual funeral, there are suggestions something else is going on and influencer marketing may be about to get a do-over rather than a defibrillator.
From a recent straw poll of our clients using influencers, all still believe in their power.
However, there’s been a major shift in the type, frequency and style of their deployment AND in the creative that goes with it.
📷 Camera with solid fill Insta Filters are Just Sooo 2023
Sceptics argue, with the rise of authenticity and inherent consumer distrust, influencers are losing their charm. But, if authenticity is the key, then influencers are probably just switching from filter-heavy selfies to #iWokeUpLikeThis pics instead.
At the dawn of influencer marketing, the ‘talent’ (I use the term loosely) in question was often engaged to pretty much hoodwink the audience into believing they were genuinely recommending products and services they routinely used in their very normal personal lives. A public service offered out of pure altruistic generosity. And for a while, we would believe lines like: “I’ve been drinking this almost unknown Himalayan Kale Extract all my life and I’m a 53 year old, working mother of five, and still have the energy of an 18 year old Olympic gymnast”. The product would fly off the shelves.
But we’ve seen through the deceit.
The smart money is now on using influencers with both value to add and something to lose – their reputations and credibility. If they have neither to start with, they’re at best, low-value and at worst, an absolute brand liability.
We’re much more likely to take notice of an existing, genuine, expert with authority in a particular field. People who don’t hide their commercial interest in recommending third party products.
An opening line like: “I’ve been asked to try this product by Brand X, so here’s what I think, warts ‘n all!” is likely to garner way more engagement than the hoodwink approach.
💀 The "Death" Toll
Contrary to the doubters, influencer marketing spending is on the rise.
The global influencer marketing industry hit a staggering $21.1 billion by the close of 2023, surpassing original forecasts of $15 billion for 2024! (insert dramatic gasp). And 2024 is expected to be another hockey stick growth year. So, either businesses are throwing money into an influencer-shaped black hole, or influencers are thriving like social media superheroes because maybe, just maybe, if treated with respect, it’s actually working!
📱 The Living Dead - Influencers Edition
Our favourite social media celebs are far from extinct. In fact, they're multiplying faster than TikTok cat videos. If you doubt their pull, just check out the engagement rates.
But their creative presentation has to be real, authentic and often grounded in entertaining the audience at the same time as peddling product. As a result, ‘creator’ is often preferred as the job title and perhaps the word ‘influencer’ is indeed on its way out.
But what’s in a word? Especially when the primary purpose for the creation is to shift consumer behaviour and encourage purchase decisions. The finest influencers have an intoxicating combo of skills, simultaneously being masters of content creation and sales psychology.
👍👎The Great Brand/Influencer Creative Debate
This is where we creatives get all animated.
What’s more important: Influencer authenticity or being on-brand? There’s no doubt, it’s a tricky balance to strike. Over-brand and you risk losing the very authenticity you’re aiming for. Under-brand and the influencer may get all the content kudos in the world, but your sales needle barely moves. Allow too much freedom, and brand values may be compromised. Impose too many restrictions, and you might as well put out an ad of your own. So, where’s the starting point in the creative debate?
I’m afraid, to make influencer marketing really work, it has to be about them first. In order for your brand to benefit, creative needs to work for the influencer and their audience, and usually, there needs to be some give and take, often with a bit of flexibility at the edges of the brand guidelines without losing fundamental compliance.
If you strategically align with the right influencer, a beautiful, symbiotic relationship will more likely happen automatically. But this takes time and effort.
We’ve worked with brands and influencers large and small to ensure the creativity of content achieves a thumbs-up from the brand police, without the influencer feeling like they’ve sold their soul to the devil! Retaining the influencer’s personality and encouraging it to shine through the content (without damaging the brand of course) will yield results - even if it is often like treading on eggshells to achieve.
🥑 The Avocado Toast Paradox
Influencer marketing is like avocado toast – you either love it or hate it, but it's always on the menu. Brands continue to collaborate with influencers because human beings are wired to believe third-party endorsement of those we trust. Simple.
The power of an authentic recommendation from a trusted expert will often trump a direct sales pitch from the brand in question itself. And with the added layer of FOMO, we may just convince ourselves we like Avocado Toast, if everyone else around the table is tucking into theirs.
🎞️ Big Things Come in Small Packages
If you thought bigger is better in influencer audiences, think again. There has been an increasing trend away from macro influencers with vast audiences to micro and nano influencers, due to their high engagement rates, authenticity and often more niche audiences. These smaller influencers may have fewer followers, but their commercial and brand impact can easily overtake the A-listers when it comes to RoI and sales. According to Forbes, creators with 100,000 to 200,000 followers drive 5.6 times the sales of macro-influencers with 200,000 to 500,000 followers.
Look for influencers who have a following around very specific topics. Check not just follower numbers, but likes and comments. And rising stars on their social media ascendency, rather than stratospheric superheroes of stage and screen, may well result in a bigger bang for the buck when it comes to the final numbers.
🚀 Final Verdict
Influencer marketing isn't dead; it's just evolving – thankfully! It's the Madonna of marketing – constantly reinventing itself. So, if you thought influencers were joining the marketing graveyard, think again! They're more alive than ever, sipping on Himalayan kale smoothies and collaborating with brands that understand their true strategic value.
And in the world of marketing, what appears dead today might just be trending again tomorrow! 💃🚀