“Using Talent & Influence to build communities through Purpose & Entertainment”
Emma Shuldham, Managing Director & Charlotte Hoare, Senior Strategist Talent & Partnerships – ITB Worldwide
The celebrity and influencer marketing world has undergone a seismic shift. While all shoots and events have been cancelled or postponed, supply chains for products have been disrupted and influencer affiliate schemes have been put on hold, the online audience and subsequent social media consumption has grown exponentially. Moving forward, the greatest shift in marketing through celebrity and influencer talent will be the focus on tonality, messaging and considered casting driven by dual pillars of purpose and entertainment.
As COVID-19 has united the global population in a common experience, it has also highlighted the great divide in wealth and power. As a result, consumer tolerance for frivolity, excess and sales driven messaging has lessened, while engagement with honest, purposeful and community driven content has risen. This has narrowed the playing field and helped to identify a smaller pool of people of influence -— true creators, voices of authority and valued entertainers. This is therefore an opportune time for brands to build consumer trust and affinity through considered long-term partnerships with fewer but better talent.
It’s critical in this period for all communications to have a layer of cultural cognizance and acknowledge the realities of the current situation. Influencer marketing is effective at giving a human voice to a brand and being that trusted peer to guide their audience through the crisis. Partnerships will thrive when the messaging is focussed on people (not product) and driving positive brand perception (through educational, inspirational or philanthropic means) that will continue to resonate with consumers long after the lockdown is lifted.
The movement towards more conscious and community driven messaging will extend beyond social content and into all facets of talent partnerships, from more thoughtful red-carpet dressing to less wasteful, more meaningful and refined gifting initiatives, and casting of celebrities based on their relatability and credibility rather than glamour and aesthetics.
Conversely, however, escapism and entertainment will still have a significant role to play in determining consumer wants and needs. Monthly active users on TikTok has skyrocketed since lockdown was imposed and gaming and esports platforms like Twitch have gone beyond just being platforms in the literal sense – they have become hosts for culture and engagement with music, entertainment and culinary arts. Despite the evident drive for authentic and relatable content, high fashion and beauty will still have an important role to play in aspirational distraction.
Action and Accountability
Consumers have shown that their trust and loyalty lie with those brands that are providing tangible results and taking action. The same applies to talent and people of influence – those who have demonstrated a sense of selfless accountability during this time are those who will see greater engagement from their followers and be more relevant and appealing for brand partnerships. As a result, a greater focus on sustainability, CSR and philanthropic initiatives will be key as we move forward and inform a move towards more purpose-driven long-term relationships with people of influence.
Community and Collective working
COVID-19 has forged a positive human connection on a global scale and brought communities together in an unprecedented way resulting in greater social and economic awareness. The personal connection and drive to foster community will remain important and translate into kinder, more human messaging as part of wider communication strategies. We will also likely see among the talent and influence community a change in ego and a move towards more community-centric (less self-serving) messaging and partnerships between talent and brands where there are shared values of coming together for the greater good.
Relevance and Reaching the new consumer
Staying front of mind and relevant in this new cultural landscape is paramount to long-term success. As a result of self-isolation, there will be a new wave of ‘essentials’ in terms of product, and relevant brands can reach new audiences and tap into their interests – mindfulness, exercise, home interiors, gardening and arts and crafts in particular – by partnering with suitable talent. It’s important to note that the currently isolated population will end this period being a lot more digitally savvy than when it started, and businesses will need to adapt their strategies accordingly to reach this new online community.
New Rules and Expectations
Reports suggest that screen time has increased by 76% since the outbreak began, proving it is a golden opportunity to reach a captive digital audience and that subsequently social media will be a main driver in the marketing mix. Social media personalities, as trusted voices of the people, will now be used as the conduits to spread both brand and government messaging. Where previously an endorsement from a social media star might drive sales, it now has the opportunity to promote taking action for the greater good and affect positive change in consumer behaviour. Similarly, celebrity talent has had to pivot to operate in ways more akin to traditional social media influencers thanks to their direct communication during this time.
Communication apps and devices have facilitated a greater level of connectivity and enabled us to form a truly global community. As a result, there will be greater consumer participation in marketing and a rise in platform sourced UGC content in order to harness this sense of community and peer- to- peer interaction. Brands are likewise taking advantage of talent with a diverse creative skill set who can produce high-quality content on their behalf at home. This transformative way for brands to deliver new content and ads will likely impact future considerations around budget spends as it’s clear that big productions are not always necessary.
While the individual experience will differ, we have been unified on a global scale by this crisis and will emerge with a common story about this shared moment. As a result, we have a combined hope and a drive to heal, rebuild and ultimately, triumph. Now is the moment to harness real communities and seize the opportunity through honest, authentic and purposeful communication to build true brand loyalty that will endure long after lockdown. For talent alike, this is a unique moment for rebirth when perhaps we can regain some of the humanity that seems to have been a little left behind in a lot of influencer marketing. We will therefore be working with our clients to strategically identify and facilitate these talent partnerships and craft thoughtful, considered campaign messaging.