You might hate the word influencer and, hey, that’s ok. Maybe it was a bad experience, a high price, or a misconstrued deliverable that left a sour taste in your mouth. But it’s time to shake it off and move on with your life because consumers are connecting with influencers more than ever…and if you’re not leveraging them as a cornerstone of your campaigns, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
In recent years, savvy marketers have begun building their omni-channel campaigns around social media influencers, many of whom have become celebrities in their own right. Influencer marketing began its rise to power a few years prior to the pandemic, but in 2020, this strategy skyrocketed in popularity. It’s the new essential in your brand planning that can no longer be ignored or compromised.
The voice of a new generation
Word of mouth is still the most trustworthy form of marketing. At a time when consumers, particularly younger millennials and Gen Z, have a growing distrust for traditional marketing tactics, they look to people that feel relatable for product recommendations.
“Consumers feel like bait when it comes to being heavily targeted by insincere brands,” says Sydney Tomasello, Associate Strategy Director at SRW. “Influencers have gained the public’s trust because on many facets they are ‘ordinary people’ whose voices resonate with their audience. In many ways, influencers are the new voice of a generation, telling brands what we want and don’t want.”
The TikTok effect
Global quarantines and stay-at-home orders gave huge steam to influencers. Social media usage went up and TikTok sprang into the equation as a dominant force. As consumers were stuck at home, TikTok provided an entertaining escape from reality. It connected users with other “average joes” who are funny, interesting, relatable, or inspirational, and gave them the sense of community and meaningful connection that they were so badly longing for.
“Influencer marketing itself has become such an important tool for brands, and the way we approach it now is much different than it was 3 years ago. The rise of TikTok has catapulted influencer popularity because user-generated content is king on the fastest-growing platform in social,” according to Nicole Teeters, VP of Strategy at SRW.
Influencers are the new gateway to an authentic connection with consumers that brands are trying to reach. Here’s why influencers are so “influential” these days:
Choice. Influencers personalize their content. Consumers personalize their feed. The power is in the hands of the people to curate their own individual newsfeeds so they only follow who they feel truly resonates with them and their own personal lifestyles. People fill their feeds with influencers they feel they can trust to be authentic and offer recommendations that they truly believe in. Consumers choose who they want to see (and there are a lot of options!) and this promotes a greater amount of trust and value in their suggestions.
Vulnerability. Marketers must acknowledge the massive shift in what people want to see from brands and influencers. Americans no longer want to see the perfectly polished, styled photos of an influencer showcasing a packaged product. With the rise of TikTok and short-form video, they crave content from influencers that showcase real-life and vulnerability. Users want their chosen follows to let their guard down and talk about their struggles as well as their triumphs. When it comes to products, they want influencers to talk about their experience, show how they use it, and how it fits into their everyday life. The best brands recognize this distinction and are forming partnerships around authenticity.
Trust. An influencer with two kids, a spouse, a dog, a full-time job and all the challenges that come with it is something we can easily relate to. It’s a life that feels attainable and relatable for your average person. This connection somehow feels like a friend telling you their secrets or giving you advice and it’s advice that you trust.
Establishing meaningful connections
When Kite Hill was looking to increase awareness and trial of their newest line of plant-based yogurts, our teams knew that we could connect with the target audience of millennial female flexitarians through a strong influencer program. Given the January wellness timing, coupled with the rising popularity of at-home workouts, the brand chose to partner with Peloton instructor Ally Love, whose audience is perfectly aligned with Kite Hill’s target — someone who embodies wellness and eats plant-based or dairy-free most of the time. In this case, Ally Love was everything Kite Hill was looking for: she’s a flexitarian, she’s optimistic, energetic, and as a popular Peloton instructor, we knew the spotlight would be on her come January when everyone’s looking to introduce healthier habits.
“Influencer (bordering on celebrity) was the hero tactic of the campaign and a very important one. We started with the influencer component because we knew we could reach our core audience in a way that feels authentic — like something that they’re already seeing in their feeds organically. It made Kite Hill feel more human,” says Teeters, SRW’s strategic lead for Kite Hill. “We supplemented it with other tactics, like giveaways, to maximize our reach and create a ‘surround sound’ of Kite Hill for our consumer target. We also ran paid media across social and digital (FB, IG, Pinterest, YouTube, Display, Search, and even Instacart) to ensure that when our target demo used any of their go-to platforms, they saw Kite Hill and Ally Love.”
Since Kite Hill’s community is especially vocal, creative, and tuned into their health (both mental and physical), SRW wanted to make the campaign interactive to deepen the connection, so the team asked fans to share how they put a new “Spin” on their wellness routine. Users shared the different ways they introduced small changes, whether it was something fitness-related or otherwise.
The 360° campaign, which included social and digital content, paid media, PR, and the key influencer component, generated nearly 500 million impressions and a sizable spike in sales. Hundreds of people entered to win the giveaway, which converted to new email users for the brand, and the partnership with Ally Love resulted in 23 different media placements. The success of this 2021 campaign sparked a second partnership with Peloton instructor Emma Lovewell in 2022 that is currently in progress.
The advice in a nutshell? Start with the strategy and creative that’s right for your brand. Then, define the right influencer to serve as a foundational spokesperson for your campaign. Brick by brick, build up around that with complimentary tactics.
Don’t know where to start? That’s why we’re here.
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