Reimagining authentic experiences
Too much choice has become the bane of consumers’ lives, and they are desperately looking for someone who can offer genuine advice. Online influencers answer that call, helping consumers navigate a morass of decisions. This is often a murky world, however, in which all things real are not necessarily good, and all things fake are not necessarily bad. Big is not always effective nor small necessarily efficient. Is there is any clear path for creating authentic experiences for the hopeful consumer?
Influencer marketing is the partnering of brands with influential and popular individuals on social media who share the same target audiences, to deliver a branded marketing message and content. It can help brands communicate with their audience in an authentic way and win distracted customers’ attention. Influencers are most effective at driving consumer action in the first 90 days of a campaign. Over half of brands (57 percent) have an influencer marketing program under way, and 21 percent planning to invest in one over the next 12 months. The market is set to be worth over $10 billion by 2020.
Historically, influencers have been classified based on the size of the audiences they command – mega, mini and micro influencers, going progressively from the millions to the thousands. It is becoming clear that big is not always better nor small always more efficient. In general, smaller influencers deliver higher ROI as they are seen as more authentic, but they are difficult to aggregate and need heavier content direction.
There is now a rising breed of influencers that can be tapped into – “rising creators”, “conversation catalysts”, and “everyday influencers”. As with micro-influencers, brands can expect more targeted engagement, more credibility, and a greater likelihood of getting their message than with large-scale influencers.
While influencer marketing offers opportunities, it also has challenges relating to trust. Growing fatigue with celebrity influencers’ “perfect” lives and the not-so-honest practices of some influencers means their credibility is increasingly being questioned. There is a rise in “fake influencers” and bulk buying thereof. It is imperative that brands need to be vigilant as to who their influencers really are. Lil Miquela is an LA-based teenage model and musician with a fashion and beauty influence among her 1.5 million followers. She also attends events, supports social causes … and is a completely fictional VR creation!
The fake phenomenon has also seen the rise of a more authentic influencer, one who has a genuine voice and connection with the audience, abjuring commercialized marketing from big corporations. Many influencers are inspirational figures delivering authentic content on important issues, such as “period instagrammers” who are celebrating their right to show female blood. Other influencers, such as plus-size Indonesian beauty blogger and cross-dressing comedian and LGBT activist celebrate diversity. This new wave of activist influencers hold sway. They can rebalance power from the elite few and open people up to new ideas – political, cultural or personal.
Building authentic experiences
In this context, how can brands ensure that their influencer choices are the right ones to provide authentic engagement? Consider:
- Investing to find an influencer who fits your brand values
- That micro influencers offer higher engagement vs big celebrities and at lower cost
- Investing in rising-star creators as a medium-term investment
- Giving influencers a clear brief, but don’t force them to do something they’re uncomfortable with as this diminishes authenticity
- Tracking awareness, reach and engagement metrics fully to gauge your ROI
- Investing in a calibration model that tracks relevance, credibility and shareability
Beauty brand Pond's used an influencer strategy to launch a new skincare product in Indonesia. Pond's entered the micellar water segment via a simple yet daring approach: authenticity. Using Mindshare’s calibration model, the brand chose to work with a single influencer, a local beauty guru and beauty-preneur, to convince the audience of its superior proposition. All the influencer’s posts were as natural as possible, in her own style. The product sold out online on National Online Shopping Day, and became the second-most -popular micellar water brand.
Look to the future
It’s possible that, as in the series Black Mirror, online review culture will move past the screen into the real world, impacting not only on what we buy but even our social status and employment opportunities. Everybody will be an influencer, and everybody will be influenced. The current craving for authenticity will become a deep longing and will turn into a universal review culture. Be ready, you can’t fake it to make it!