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How Covid-19 has propelled brands into the era of ‘talent marketing’

By William Soulier, CEO and co-founder

Talent Village


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May 21, 2020 | 6 min read

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Coronavirus has slowed down the pace of the world but it has accelerated the growth of our social media habits to the point some of us rely on it completely for human interaction. Talent have taken the lead by becoming live broadcasters, entertaining millions of people and creating bonds with audiences who enjoyed their content.

Talent Village

Brands are now part of a global conversation more than ever along with millions of fans

Brands are now part of the global conversation more than ever, along with millions of fans expecting them to step up and do the right thing. In order to federate communities and stay relevant, they will have to demonstrate a sense of purpose, unified voice and shared values. Welcome to the era of ‘talent marketing’.

For too long now, influencer marketing has been treated as a new, standalone marketing channel capable of yielding unprecedented returns. It’s time to set the record straight once and for all: influencer marketing is actually the name we recently gave to a marketing principle that’s been around forever, whether you call it word-of-mouth, celebrity marketing or brand endorsements – the only difference being we are now leveraging social media as a channel to reach audiences.

Marketers often use the word ‘talent‘ to refer to influencers but make no mistake – Jane, 27-years-old who shares her travel adventures with her 500,000 followers is no talent. A talent is defined by its skill in a particular craft, a passion that drives them creatively. They benefit from a gift that not everybody has and that extends outside of social media, which is what makes them so credible.

Carolyn Moneta, an agent in the digital group at WME talent agency who spearheads initiatives in digicomm – the subgroup at the intersection of digital and commercial at WME comments: “We have always been focused on signing and developing talent that have a unique story and craft above all else, and it is fantastic to see our approach validated by current trends. That being said, the ones who have been savvy enough to also develop online audiences around them will benefit the most from the direction the industry is taking.

Influence and notoriety are two key concepts not to be confused but it is the talent’s credibility, their voice and authority in their field that we are looking to leverage. This will ensure message memorability delivered to a receptive audience thus improving ad recall. Influence will capitalize on reaching the highest number while notoriety ensures people are paying attention when solicited, and that’s what we’re after.

The democratization of content creation has led to an abundance of mediocre, meaningless assets with a growing gap between editorial and commercial content – a phenomenon which platforms are working hard to offset.

Court Williams, creative lead, luxury and fashion at Instagram’s Creative Shop says: “A lot of brands struggle with how promotional their content should be. The key is to stay agile and to always focus on adding value for your audience. Sometimes that’s going to mean drawing people into a story and sometimes that’s going to mean showing them how to access the products and services they want.”

By weaving a brand’s narrative into a talent’s lifestyle, one is able to co-create ‘edu-tainment‘ storytelling sitting at the crossroads of editorial and commercial content – thus delivering a higher return. Talent are only good influencers if they are creating and being artists, rather than influencing. It’s the creative, the collision of two ideas that don’t usually belong together, that will force the audience to think about it and in doing so assimilate the concept. If you couple that with a credible voice, people will not only pay attention but remember what you have to say.

From now on, people will expect a more cohesive consumer experience as relationships to brands become increasingly digital. If you look at this from a ‘conversion funnel‘ perspective, a talent’s reach will you give you awareness, and their engagements will show consideration but these indicators have lost meaning as double taps become automatic valueless behaviour we do without thinking. In order to get to the “intent” phase, we’ll need to consider harder engagements such as post saves or story taps backs which are buying signals indicating high desirability from the consumer. It is at this point that we typically expect to see organic conversions occur when we haven’t actually paid attention to this last critical phase. We know organic social content is rarely the last touchpoint for ‘conversions‘ and it is therefore key to implement a paid media strategy to achieve ROI.

Adrien Figula, digital director at JC Decaux, considers on the first social-out-of-home campaign executed in partnership with Talent Village: “Out-of-home and in particular digital-out-of-home is a tremendous amplifier for content developed for social media. The digitalization of shop windows in industries such as retail enables brands to be close to their customers at the point of purchase by featuring contextualized content.”

As we emerge from this global crisis, societal habits will remain. People will look to talent as a voice of authority above and beyond brands and institutions. They have become live broadcasters in their own right during this pandemic and we will increasingly see them evolve into powerful media channels. The era of talent marketing is upon us and those who don’t jump aboard today run the risk of not being part of tomorrow’s culture.

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