Every time you read an article about influencer marketing, someone, somewhere within the thousands of words written on the subject since the pandemic - usually a client - will pay tribute to the influencer, applaud the creative work, but then proceed to question the metrics behind it.
Agencies and brands are looking at influencer marketing through the wrong lens. They are treating influencers like an ad buy, rather than a human marketing channel. That's why you need Behavioural Science (the BS of influencer marketing). That’s according to Chester Robinson, business development manager at Tailify, who was speaking at The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival, in a session that set out to expose the BS of influencer marketing.
Historically, the success of a piece of influencer content has been estimated by focusing on engagement rates, click-through rates or general sentiment between the influencer and the audience – just as with other media. But by taking this approach, Robinson argued that “we’re reducing the value of influencers by applying traditional marketing theory to a completely different medium.”
“If instead we look at influencer marketing through the lens of behavioural science, we can dig into what really drives credible, successful and valuable partnerships between brand and influencer, not engagement rates,” said Robinson. “Influencer marketing needs to be looked at in a different way. To drive performance, you need to take into account the human element that no other marketing channel has.”
By only looking at numbers we limit our understanding, added Robinson: “Influencers allow brands to look beyond the data and fundamentally comprehend why people act in a certain way. By adopting an approach to influencer marketing that emphasizes the importance of behavioural science, and digs deeper into the motivations behind actions, through extensive analysis, which encompasses different psychological considerations, we enable brands to refine their strategies to replicate success and pursue truly meaningful partnerships.”
Robinson argues that “influencer” is a form of marketing “that moves away from a centralized model of brand-to-consumer to a centralized model of person-to-person” - and it opens up new possibilities in the process. The most powerful ads, he continued - citing Nike - have always drawn-out human emotions, “be that humour, nostalgia, even sadness”.
“The feeling generated by the ad lodges itself in the viewer’s mind and persuades them to conduct themselves in a certain way - often subconsciously,” Robinson contended. “Influencers do this too. They put a human face to a brand and establish trust between themselves and their audience by sharing a narrative which positions the brand in a manner which is relatable.”
Analysing human-to-human relationships
Four out of 10 millennials say that their favourite influencer understands them better than their friends. So, it's clear that influencers have the ability to tap into these human instincts through their approachable, vulnerable and honest demeanour. “By analysing the content performance in conjunction with the actual assets, we can analyse this human-to-human relationship and understand why people engaged with the content the way they did,” said Robinson.
While broad patterns can be identified, more often than not, these insights are unique to the brand. Robinson cited the use of eye contact, speaking freely, and making mistakes, or the extensive use of personal pronouns, as some of the factors that have defined a high performing piece of content.
“The top performing individuals are those with high narrative or values relevance, Robinson stated. “They also displayed the importance of using humour and self-disclosure to achieve the campaign objectives. Laughter and amusement trigger feelings of pleasure, which improves the viewers mood, and this means that they associate the brand with that feeling.”
Using humour to engage in socially taboo topics helps strengthen the relationship with that audience and open up the conversation, argued Robinson. Other high performing influencers shared intimate and personal information, which led to increased levels of trust and created a safe space.
A key insight was uncovered on a campaign with one of Tailify’s biggest clients, Rosetta Stone. It was the importance of value congruence between the brand and the influencer: “We created a tool which allowed us to profile the 11 core values that distinguish any given brand or influencer. Examples are joy or achievement.”
It sounds almost obvious, but it is clear that there is a strong correlation between an individual influencer’s ROI and the extent to which the influencer has shared the brand's core values. “This information enabled us to tweak the type of profiles that we were pursuing and optimize for growth,” said Robinson.
Tailify runs workshops to help clients understand the behavioural science that's key to their campaigns. ROI and metrics are still important, according to Robinson, but even more important is understanding why those metrics are the result of a campaign so that you can replicate and scale that success. It is vital to think less like a media buyer when working with influencers and more like a behavioural scientist.
You can watch the full session on ‘Exposing the BS of influencer marketing’ on demand at The Drum Creative Transformation Festival.