Using artificial intelligence (AI) to find the perfect influencer/brand match, combining creative freedom with a data-driven approach and the need for brands to trust creators were all key discussion points of The Drum x BEN’s (Branded Entertainment Network) panel on how influencers and livestreaming are shaping the future of digital commerce.
As part of The Drum’s Digital Summit, senior editor Jen Faull spoke to Angelita Sierra, vice president of strategic brand partnerships at influencer marketing company BEN, alongside content creators Kelly Uchima and Rossana Burgos, influencer and matriarch of The Bee Family, about how brands should capture the livestreaming boom.
Already popular across Asia Pacific, where the live commerce economy is now worth $66bn, livestreaming boomed in popularity during the pandemic. Analysts predict that it will generate between 10% and 20% of all e-commerce by 2026. Powering that meteoric rise, influencers are generating significant returns for brands across industries, from FMCG to luxury and beauty, by calling on their sizeable audiences and trusted fan connections when reviewing and selling products.
A collaborative, data-driven approach
However, to maximize livestreaming’s potential, brands must understand how to navigate this emerging digital landscape, Sierra warned. She explained that brands should combine a data-driven approach with a collaborative influencer/brand relationship.
“It’s extremely important to take a data-driven approach to livestream commerce,” she said. “Brands need to ensure that they’re identifying the right creators for their offer. Here at BEN, we utilize our AI to ensure that they’re doing that. We're finding the right audiences and the right creators to make that match.”
She added that AI is used throughout the brand partnership process, from finding the best match for a brand to measuring success and optimizing promotional tactics throughout the campaign. “We measure the campaign to see how it is performing, learn from that and continue to optimize campaigns over time.”
Sierra also explained that from the basics of briefing an influencer properly to using AI to identify the right influencer for a brand and to optimize a campaign, brands must work collaboratively to maximize success.
“A brief has to capture all the communication points a brand wants to deliver,” she said. “But we also want to ensure that we're working very collaboratively together to make sure that we're reaching the right audiences the right way, which means trusting the creator's input and any additional thoughts that they have.”
Balancing creator control and brand aims
Burgos said that she believed that brands have to trust their influencer partners to fully realize livestreaming’s promise. “We have been working with top brands from around the world for 10 years. We have found that our most successful campaigns are when brands tell us ‘we love what you do, just do what you want to do’.”
“Give us the creative freedom, allow us to be authentic,” she said. “Because we are great storytellers. We can connect with our audience. And so, when brands give a lot of direction, it doesn’t work because it doesn’t really relate. Let us speak our own way, which is the way we’ve used to build our audiences. The proof is in the numbers.”
Sierra agreed, adding that creative freedom had to be underpinned by agency diligence.
“From a brand perspective, we do a lot of prep work on the backend,” she said. “We’re prepping the creators with a full brief to ensure that they understand the product benefits and the full messaging that the brand wants to convey. But we want to also give them creative freedom and liberty to convey that message in whatever way they know will connect with their audience.”
Fellow panellist Uchima, who has built her brand on being open with her audience by discussing her own relationship with therapy, said that she believes that the best branded content is longer form, asserting that it feels more natural for audiences. She said: “The brand and creator partnership should emulate the feeling that the creator already has with their audience – a direct relationship with an emotional tie and a lot of trust. Talking at length is so natural and just feels like it has more integrity, for the brand and the influencer.”
Sharing an example of how longer form content allows for easier dovetailing of influencer and brand interests and aims, she added: “I've struggled a lot in my life with something called trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder that's often triggered by stress and anxiety. I've been doing it since I was a kid and I never wanted to speak on it because I felt really embarrassed. But working with BEN and a big CPG brand recently, I was finally able to talk about something that is very prevalent with my audience, who feel very vulnerable about it too.”
Adding a practical note, Burgos said that brands should avoid livestreams becoming too full of technical detail. “That’s what the fine print is for,” she said. “You can enter in all that information below. But let us use our naturally creative voices to make your product shine and give us freedom. You know, there's a reason why we have created these massive audiences authentically. So, give us that space to be authentic and we promise to deliver.”
Watch the full panel discussion from the Digital Summit here.