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Last month, ITB’s Managing Director Emma Shuldham joined Influencer Intelligence for a panel talk on ‘How To Future-Proof Talent + Influencer Partnerships in the Current Climate’. During the discussion with Aliza Licht, Founder and President of LEAVE YOUR MARK LLC and board member of the American Influencer Council, and Sarah Penny, Head of Content. Emma spoke about the evolution of the idea of VIP and the exciting shift toward people of influence who are using their platform to drive tangible action and change. In today’s culture, we’re seeing talent and brands using their combined influence and power for the greater good and looking to have a more meaningful impact on society.
For those of you who missed out on the insightful conversation, here are a few of the key takeaways – published by Influencer Intelligence here – to help guide brands in shaping their future marketing strategy so marketers can truly benefit from the world of influence.
Don’t believe the hype.
Back in March, media were quick to report on the ‘death of influencer marketing’, when in reality, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. ‘The world loves to see a headline like that,’ says Aliza, ‘but the tabled turned quite quickly. As budgets were cut, with no need to do outdoor advertising or broadcast, dollars shifted over to influencer marketing. Brands started to realise that creators are nimble. They can create content quickly and on a dime – without the need for fancy production studios. As stores closed, e-commerce was on the rise and influencers allowed brands to adapt quickly to that. Influencer marketing really proved itself at this point.’ Similarly, brands began to realise the true value of influencers in producing quality content. In fact, in Finland, influencers have been referred to as key workers, disseminating real and correct information and messages to the public. ‘Influencers allowed brands to tap into the core audience they really needed to speak to at the time.’ Notes Emma. ‘There’s been a huge opportunity for influence to really add value right now…even those persons of influence who don’t necessarily consider influence their main profession are being used effectively to tell brand stories right now.’
Influencer marketing during the pandemic has highlighted community-building at it’s best and the brands that will gain market share are those that invest in their community and speak to their audience in way that goes beyond the product. ‘That has 1000% turbo-charged in this day and age,’ asserts Emma, ‘It’s all about maintaining brand image at the moment and that’s where influence can shine through.’ Despite the clickbait, influencer marketing is here to stay.
The paintbrush effect.
According to Aliza: ‘Influencers have a credibility problem right now. One scandal creates this halo effect of negativity around the entire industry. As part of the first trade organisation built by influencers for influencers – the AIC – Aliza hopes to shift this perception by working closely with both brands and influencers on an education piece. ‘We know the numbers – influencer marketing will be a $15bn industry by 2022, but we don’t know the extent of what influencers have contributed to the global economy – these are small businesses. These are micro-agencies who employ teams, so telling more of those stories is what we aim to do as with that comes the credibility of contributing to society and shifting perspective.’
Emma agrees that influencers have a responsibility in shaping community and society and believes brand marketers should be helping influencers understand their position as the new media channels of today. ‘They do get a bad rap but it’s also one individual’s opinion. What news station you tune in to watch will determine the difference perception you receive on what is being said and it’s the same for influencers. With opinion comes responsibility so it’s really continuing to educate influencers about that and making sure brands understand they are working with humans. There is always a risk in working with influencers as people are human and aren’t so easy to control, but it’s about teaching brands that this is a risk worth taking.’
Look to the future.
Brands need to be working on their strategies for the holiday season now, with the view that the landscape will still be in flux and those that plan ahead will be in a much more solid position. ‘Holiday 2020 is not going to be any more bricks and mortar-based as we are now. If brands are waiting for a miracle to happen things won’t be going back to normal.’ Says Aliza.
Holiday periods are key sales moments, but they are also a key moment for brand awareness. Brands must consider what they can do beyond the brand to keep the billions of people who have flocked to social media over the past few months engaged and active. According to Emma: ‘It’s on all of us as influencer strategists and marketeers to think of what those interesting, ground-breaking and newsworthy ways to do that look like.’ She continues: It doesn’t have to be explosive. If you don’t have the budgets that’s OK, just be real and true. The transparency factor is going to be ever more important going forward – you need to market from the heart. We need to move away from graphs and computers and talk to people. The brands that are following their instincts are the ones that are cutting through right now.’
As marketers look ahead, it’s important to embrace strategies which align with the adapted landscape and bear in mind that the influencer marketing arena is still likely to undergo some changes yet. Marketers need to pivot their strategies and refine practice to accommodate the drastic lifestyle changes that have and likely will take place over the course of the next year. Despite the initial period of disruption, there is now a huge amount of opportunity for brands to capitalise on from a marketing perspective in a truly sustainable way.