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Reactions to the new influencer category at Cannes Lions this year have ranged greatly. Some are outraged that the relatively new approach has been included – these are likely those still labouring under the impression that influencer marketing is a passing fad. They are holding onto traditional marketing channels for dear life while failing to see what Cannes is finally recognising; influencer marketing is a legitimate, reliable marketing channel.
But many more are responding positively. Influencer marketing certainly isn’t a ‘fringe’ part of the industry and it shouldn’t be a fringe part of the festival. Last year, 86 percent of marketers were reported to have used influencer marketing as part of a strategy to drive growth and engagement. It’s not going anywhere. People are, quite literally, building businesses on this. Take Boomf for example, they have built a product designed to be shared and create content online, using everyday people as their influencers.
But of that 86% of marketers who used influencers… how many of them got it right? And not just right in the short term, but in the long term too?
As with any new form of communications people get excited, throw some money at it, see it as a ‘bolt on’. Or indeed, believe that engaging a celeb and paying them to pose with your brand a la Kim K, is the most effective you can be. It’s not.
Influencer marketing is becoming a core part of marketing strategy that is delivering the best ROI compared to any others. It is here to disrupt traditional marketing channels, for start-ups right through to huge conglomerates. From our own research, we believe it’ll take 20% of the total global marketing budget by 2023, meaning it will be worth between $75 and $100bn in five years’ time.
But the difference between those getting it bang on, and those who are failing (detox tea anyone?) is huge. Influencer marketing is an art, they are so much more than just digital billboards. So what should the judges at Cannes be looking out for?
Do they have trackable results?
This isn’t about likes or comments. Effective influencer campaigns go so much deeper than vanity metrics. The best work comes from people who are not only running creative campaigns but delivering real business value as a result. Understanding the funnel from awareness through to clicks and sales ensures influencer campaigns are reaching the right audience and driving the highest ROI.
Is it genuinely innovative?
Innovation is a word overused in all aspects of marketing – but it’s worth mentioning here. There are some really creative applications of influencer marketing as opposed to paying for short-term awareness via a celebrity. Take Simba as an example, who positioned themselves differently in a saturated market by using unexpected application of influencer marketing.
Have the influencer and brand worked together to co-create? Has the brand pushed their own branded style and content onto the influencer or have they worked with the influencer to create content that fits the channel and will resonate with the audience? This shows the brand really recognises the value of influencers as a content creators, rather than just digital billboards.
Did it drive a sentiment towards the brand?
Has the content created emotion and driven action? This is where the celebs vs influencers debate comes in. Kylie Jenner posing with a product can reach a huge audience, there’s no doubt about that… but the number of people converting is often low in comparison. People watch her because they have a fascination with her life and that of the whole family… not because they value the product or her opinion on it. Building relationships through influencers that are highly engaged in a certain category – health, food, parenting is more effective because a high number of people engaging with those influencers really care about their opinions and their judgement of products – they trust their endorsement and create a high emotional sentiment towards the brand.
Finally, Is it part of the wider business strategy?
Brands who are building long-term strategies and building influencer marketing into their marketing strategy, adopting it as a core part are those that will be winning in the long term. Dollar shave club is a great example of a brand (and business) that has been built from the ground up their use of innovative influencer marketing.
So, this brings us to the big question… who is going to win at Cannes? I’m looking forward to seeing the campaigns that win big, but more importantly, seeing that those winners displayed the kind of creativity and business impact that influencer marketing is so capable of.
Harry Hugo is the co-founder of The Goat Agency.