Less than a year after calling for "urgent action" to restore trust in influencer marketing, ex-Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed has become an angel investor in influencer marketplace Tribe.
The veteran marketer has given his financial backing to the self-serve platform, which connects brands with suitable micro-influencers and lets them deliver content at scale across platforms like Instagram.
Tribe recently raised $7.5m in Series A funding from investors including Weed. Though he didn’t disclose how much he’d personally invested in Tribe, the former marketer told The Drum that what interested him about the business was its potential to "solve the challenge" his peers face in delivering increasing amounts of content, quickly in a cost-effective way.
Giving brands access to some 53,000 influencers with followings of 3,000 or more, Tribe pitches itself to brands as a cheaper alternative to other influencer networks by letting marketers see branded content executions from creators before they pay for the work: if they don’t like it they’re not committed to buy or run it.
The investment in the service marks Weed's first big play since leaving Unilever at the end of last month after 35 years with the business He said he has plans to invest in other startups as well as taking on director and trustee roles at other businesses and charities.
"[Tribe] fits well into that brief that builds on the insights that I've learned and keeps me in the market,” he explained.
Tribe, which was founded in Australia and has expanded into the UK, has already worked with the likes of P&G, L'Oréal, Marvel and Mars.
Weed too has experience working with Tribe. The platform helped Unilever with a Halloween brief for Vaseline last year.
“We briefed on Wednesday for something on Saturday and by the Friday we had that content up and live for Saturday. I think that reflects the speed and cost-effectiveness marketers need,” he revealed.
For now, Weed will not consult the business in an official capacity but he’s not ruled out becoming an active investor in time. “I’ve already given them some friendly advice,” he said, noting that after a short break from the world of marketing he’ll come back to that conversation with Tribe in September.
Ensuring influencer integrity
Though Weed has singled out influencer marketing as an increasingly important channel for global marketers, his investment in an influencer platform may surprise some within the industry.
Last year at Cannes, Weed was one of the first marketers to publicly call out the sector for its practices, asking fellow marketers and agencies to take “urgent action now to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever” on issues like follower fraud and a general lack of transparency in the space.
At Unilever, he spearhead efforts to improve the integrity, transparency and measurement of influencer marketing.
Since then, the marketer has praised Instagram and Twitter for their efforts in purging over one billion fake followers, even though some data suggests these culls haven’t been particularly effective.
“If we can keep this momentum, I think this time next year the influencer marketing industry will have been transformed,” he said last year.
He said Tribe’s ability to effectively screen influencers to ensure their audiences was one of the criteria he used to assess his investment.
“The whole area of fake followers and fake engagement is one of the bad parts of influencer marketing. It doesn't surprise me. There’s always a few bad apples, a few bad actors in every new industry," he explained.
“What’s great about Tribe is it ensures their platform and the people working on it are clean.”
Weed’s backing of Tribe comes against the backdrop of a study from UM which found that just 4% of people globally trust what influencers share online – a statistic he questioned.
“I would say that doesn’t really align with microinfluencers,” he said. “It’s easy to see where influencer marketing does work, marketers just need to measure the level of engagement people had with that piece of branded content posted by that influencer.
“If engagement is low there are a few things it tells you. Either the content isn’t good enough, the influencer hasn’t got an engaged enough audience, or the audience isn’t interested in your brand. Then you can apply those learnings to you’re next campaign – you can learn in real time and re-engage your branded content.”