The meaning of the word ‘influencer’ is moving beyond people just using their influence to try to sell things and towards them creating value. That’s why creators should be included within the marketing mix at the early stages of campaign planning and brought along on the journey to work their magic and create narratives that can drive real value for brands.
That was the consensus of a panel of leading marketers from Zalando, BBH, TikTok and Whalar as they discussed the strategic power of influencers in the marketing mix as part of Influencing the World, a one-day digital event curated by The Drum and Whalar. They also determined that marketers should stop using the word ‘influencers’ in favor of ‘creators’, which better reflects what these people do.
“Creativity isn’t an occupation, it’s a preoccupation – you’re doing it all the time and you’re going to find a way of being able to liberate that voice and find somewhere where it can be applied,” said Sir John Hegarty, founder and creative, BBH and The Garage Soho. “The principles of communication remain but practices change, which allows you to do all kinds of different things and work in different ways. It’s a true democratization of creative opportunity.”
Creators just want to create and their influence should be wielded and integrated across the entire marketing mix – including TV, POS, OOH and social – rather than just being seen as an add-on.
“Influencer marketing and media play a huge role in every element of the funnel – all of the advertising we produce, whether it’s an always-on campaign or a big 360 marketing campaign, is always social first,” said Natalie Wills, global director of marketing at Zalando. “If you play advertising that isn’t native to the channel, people will just switch off. If advertising isn’t adding value to the community’s experience, they will push back on the brand.”
The discussion was led by Emma Harman, chief client officer at Whalar, who unpacked a range of topics, from the priming power that TikTok has on other channels in the marketing mix to the strategic alignment of creator marketing with other paid media. She cites research conducted by Whalar that measured how consumers engage with different forms of media. It discovered that TikTok can make other advertising more effective, with the phrase ‘it all starts on TikTok’ having never been truer.
Lisa Batty, head of brand strategy for Europe at TikTok, puts that down to the authenticity the platform allows for and noted that brands should be willing to let go of their traditional marketing relationships, be a bit braver and hand over control to creators as a way of trying new things.
“The beauty of a social entertainment platform like TikTok is that you get comments, you get people joining in the conversation, you get people adding to your creative via Duets or Stitches, and it can go off in all manner of directions. Yes, you always need somebody – be it the client or the agency – managing the process to make sure it stays on track, but being brave enough to let the creative go and let the audience co-create with you and join that conversation is the biggest key to success.”
TikTok’s own research found that content that uses creators and feels native to the platform is 90% more likely to be viewed for longer because it is seen as more relevant and authentic.
Hegarty adds his view on how the influencer industry has evolved, with the development of social media giving us “the ability to communicate in a much more focused way”, which has matched how the market has fragmented and given brands a unique opportunity to be more flexible.
“If you think of the television commercial as the unique art form of the 20th century, I think social media is an art form of the 21stt century,” he said. “It didn’t really exist before then and now it does. And that’s driven initially by technology, but creativity has to embrace the technology.”
To illustrate which brands are ‘getting it right’, the panelists shared their favorite creator marketing campaigns from Hilton Hotels, Burberry, Under Armour, Balenciaga x The Simpsons, Gucci and M&S – all of which have been brave enough to give up creative control and had the confidence to let go and talk to different audiences in a different way.
Allowing the audience to co-create and join the conversation is key to success. The experts urged marketers to take risks, be willing to try new things and play the long game. Bring creators along on the journey to create their magic through ads that might not be polished, but are real and create an inclusive environment where everyone is welcome.
To watch the full panel discussion, In the mix: the strategic power of influencers, visit the Influencing the World digital event here.