“The best advertising isn’t advertising“. – Ajar Ahem
Brand ambassadorship is nothing new. Whether it’s Michael Clarke being given an Audi to zoom around Sydney in, or the momentary flash of a Cartier watch on Hollywood’s latest ‘It Girl’, celebrity endorsement has been a tried and true method of associating brands with the cachet of white hot fame and prestige, and in turn increasing brand equity and sales. In the digital age, this practice has been repackaged as ‘influencer marketing’, and has undergone some noticeable refinements.
No longer do brands have to rely on haphazard logo sightings or photo ops. Influencer marketing makes product placement trackable, feel more natural and directly matched to the person viewing it. Brands can talk to a niche of dedicated followers like never before. Know who @jermzlee is? Neither did I. But 340,000 pug lovers do. And love him.
Given the historical reliability of word of mouth sales, it should come as no surprise that influencer marketing is touted as the next big thing in advertising. With potential returns in excess of ten times paid digital advertising, this powerful, social and sexy endorsement, is gaining immediate and measurable traction across brands big and small.
The attractions are clear, as display advertising fatigue spreads, influencer marketing comes as a refreshing and social connection to a brand that doesn’t obviously interrupt the customer’s daily online interactions. Consumers have an expectation that the influencers they follow have some degree of corporate sponsorship, so the barriers are already reduced in getting the product to the desired market.
For the marketer, the upsides are loyal customer engagement, targetable and measurable campaigns that are yielding some very attractive ROI. As an added bonus it dovetails neatly into social media strategies as well as having a positive effect on SEO through sharing.
Having a niche influencer promote your product also contains the risk of celebrity endorsement. Despite being well-known to your target market, your chosen influencer is unlikely to carry the media profile and volatility of say a Martha Stewart or Grant Hackett when times get tough. There’s also a much lower cost to entry than well-known celebrities, with product placement starting from only hundreds, or even free.
Influencer marketing is a calculated risk, one that can produce unexpectedly great returns. As social and commercial spheres increasingly overlap, influencer marketing offers an opportunity to engage with a consumer’s personality and interests. It’s an opportunity to build authenticity in an increasingly cynical world, and harvest loyal customer interactions leveraging aspirational spokespeople. As Mark Zuckerberg put it, “the most successful technology has social interaction as its DNA”. It seems this is holding true for brands.
Michael Bates is an Account Director at BCM