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The future of influence: where creators, creativity and commerce collide

Future gazing: what’s next for the creator economy?

From diversity, inclusivity and representation to sustainability and purpose-led campaigns, and the collision of creativity and commerce, there’s lots going on in the world of influencer marketing – which is why The Drum brought together a panel of experts who are shaping the future of the creator economy to discuss the three most important influences on the horizon with actionable insight and advice on what brands need to consider when navigating this world.

The session took place as part of ‘Influencing the World’ – a one day digital event curated in partnership with Whalar – to take marketers on a journey across the world of influence. Moderating the session was Scott Guthrie, professional advisor on influencer marketing and host of the popular Influencer Marketing Lab podcast. He was joined by Keely Cat-Wells, chief executive, C Talent; Felicity Kane, family creator @harfinfamily; and Emma Harman, chief client officer at Whalar.

Starting conversations on D&I and representation

The advertising industry is starting to engage in long overdue conversations around diversity, inclusivity (D&I) and representation as brands realize the importance of representing the full spectrum of their audience, but there’s still an opportunity to do more.

“It has been great to see more and more campaigns being inclusive and diverse,” says Cat-Wells. “I think what we now need to focus on is incidental representation – not necessarily just representation within disability or diversity specific campaigns, but really integrating diversity and disability into everything and to all campaigns, and representation on the camera as well.”

That means starting to take action at a broader level and, as Cat-Wells adds: “not just look at it like a last-minute scramble or tokenism but authentically create and want to change the bigger picture, rather than just one positive campaign.”

D&I is being seen not just at a brand marketing level but is also coming through at procurement level, according to Harman. But it has to be built from the inside out as part of the brand’s DNA.

“The wonderful thing about influencer marketing is that anybody can be a part of it,” she says. “There isn’t any judgement, you can build an audience, create a community, there’s no guardrails that have been there in the past, no one is telling you that you can’t come in. It’s just on us as practitioners and people in the space to get this going faster now and do exactly what we’re doing today – which is having a conversation about D&I.”

Embracing sustainability and purpose-led campaigns

So many campaigns today are becoming more purpose-driven but the experts are quick to point out that before any creators are asked by a brand to do a purpose-led campaign, they need to carry out due diligence – not just the brand but the creator too – to ensure it’s done with integrity.

“Our audience trusts us – if you say something they believe you,” says Kane. “When you choose to work with a brand, you need to have done your due diligence so the audience can accept it freely. If you’ve given a guarantee to a brand or a campaign, you need to really stand behind it.”

Harman adds: “The medium of influencer marketing is very responsive and dynamic so people will call you out on it quite quickly. Everything needs to be treated carefully and it really all comes down to trust. With any type of brand building, regardless of whether you’re doing it with influencers or not, if you don’t have trust you don’t have anything, because that’s the whole purpose of a brand.”

That trust and integrity comes from forging long term relationships between the audience, the influencer and the brand, adds Cat-Wells: “Don’t underestimate those long-term partnerships. Oftentimes the influencer or the content creator is going to be your customer too so listen to what they have to say, respect the ideas they come up with and allow that creative freedom.”

The QVC-ification of creator marketing

The final topic looked at the collision of creativity and commerce and the next big thing: livestream shopping. The panellists noted that creators obviously bring their own community, they also bring credibility and creativity – but brands have got to match the right product for the right influencer.

As Harman describes: “(In the words of Sir John Hegarty) there’s a delicate balance between persuasion and promotion and I think that’s really important because you want to bring a product to life in a nice way. But then how do you then take people down the funnel? That’s where you can create an amazing organic campaign and have all the other more traditional media tools and ad products boosting all of that to take people further down. It’s in the campaign construct, creative concept, talent, and media plan to put that together and hopefully give you the ROI you are looking for.”

Among the key takeaways were that brands should place more emphasis and care on creator casting, respect their relationships with their audience and work closer with creators – at the same time considering every person representing the full spectrum of diversity with integrity.

To watch the full panel discussion, Future gazing: what’s next for the creator economy?, visit the ‘Influencing the World’ digital event website here.

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