For marketers to realize the true value of influencer marketing, they need to understand that the investment they make is going to deliver ROI. But what’s the secret? Alignment of values built on a foundation of trust, focusing on “storydoing not storytelling”, daring to be different and creating a mutual gain for the brand, influencer and audience leads to better, honest long-term relationships.
Influencer marketing is not just a digital strategy – it’s a media that you’re buying and needs to be part of the full marketing ecosystem and media mix, not just a percentage of a digital budget. That was the consensus among leading marketers from Sky, Klarna, Heineken, Philips and William Grant & Sons who took part in a closed roundtable discussion at The Drum and Whalar’s Influencing the World digital event.
They were joined by Whalar’s EMEA president Marco Bertozzi and chief client officer Emma Harman for a candid conversation around the pricing and considerations for marketers when budgeting for influencer campaigns, to explore how brands can unlock long-term value and ROI.
When working with influencers, marketers need to play the long game. Change is the only constant. Trends, technology, platforms and lifestyles will continue to evolve – but brands need to constantly keep their ear to the ground to adapt to changing culture and changing platforms to get the best understanding about who they are speaking to and how to reach them in the right way. That means involving influencers early in the journey to understand the bigger picture and consider them as strategic partners.
One plus one equals three
“Consumers have developed a folder to protect themselves from typical brand advertising and influencer marketing can be a trigger to overcome this,” added Marcel Swain, global manager hard seltzers: brand and communications, Heineken.
William Grant & Sons Irish Brand’s global innovation director Chin Ru Foo’s word of advice was to always strive for partnerships where one plus one equals three. She explained: “Where there is a creative exchange between two likeminded parties that deliver ultimately incremental revenue or incremental value for the consumer. Once we as brands are clear about the kind of company we want to keep and find the right partnerships based on strong relationships and trust, we should be able to release control and allow our partners to be creative and bring delight to consumers.”
“It’s a journey that’s all about mutuality,” according to AJ Coyne, head of global brand and creative at Klarna. He said that brands need to find ways in which they are positively contributing to the influencer’s community, not just hijacking it to promote a product.
You get out what you put in
For long-term relationships with ambassadors to be successful, they need to truly become an extension of the family of the brand, according to Melanie Kentish, group director of influencer at Sky. That means that your values will really have to align – especially around diversity & inclusivity and environmental commitments, she said. “Commit to long term relationships, understand the career ambitions of the creators you’re working with and where you can align and be smart about where you can add the most value. Fewer, bigger, better will give you the best impact.”
As we look ahead to the next chapter for influencer marketing, brands need to “open themselves up to the exterior world”, advised Edi Borrelli, global creation and engagement director, Philips. “We’re going to see the culture evolving and the main evolution is that they’re not going to be influencers anymore, but creators, storytellers.”
To unlock long-term value from influencer marketing, it’s important for marketers to “become sponges and absorb influencer content across not just brands but creators on every platform – be on TikTok, be in the metaverse,” said Coyne. “Find ways to immerse yourself and then prove ROI”.
“The quality of your investment into the relationship will dictate the quality you get out,” added Swain. “Influencers, tastemakers or content creators are the gatekeepers into pop culture so be brave and be open to risk. Try, fail and try again. Be in it for the long term and even in digital terms one year is long, so break it up into three, six months and be consistent with your influencers.”
“As long as you know your brand goals and what really matters to you and the audiences you want to connect with, it’s something that can generate great success for the company,” said Borrelli. “It’s about what matters. Whenever you can, move your brands from traditional quantitative metrics and look at influencers as a real qualitative investment for the long-term future of the company.”