According to a study from market research company eMarketer last year, influencer marketing is rapidly growing in part because it can yield more authentic content – and it can help combat ad avoidance among consumers.
At a recent panel sponsored by influencer marketing platform Julius, in partnership with The Drum, influencer marketing experts gathered to talk about what influencer marketing is today, who is doing it well – and even how to measure it.
Per Jared Augustine, CEO of Julius, influencer marketing works when it is authentic, but it can also be easy to make mistakes sometimes because of a lack of transparency.
And, for her part, Shan Lui, director of programming and influencer relations at marketing and event company Superfly, called influencers “modern storytellers.”
But Ian Schafer, US CEO of creative agency Deep Focus, noted it’s also hard to measure influence because in part not all followers are real people.
Amy Tunick, president of Grey Activation and PR, added that as more influencers come on to the scene, authenticity fluctuates, which can also be challenging. So, too, does the level of professionalism exhibited by influencers themselves, which range from digital influencers to A-list celebrities and that, in turn, can be scary to clients considering influencers as a media channel.
What’s the difference between a celebrity and an influencer?
A key difference between the two is that celebrities are viewed by brands and marketers in terms of how likeable they are across populations, but influencers are viewed in terms of their audiences and the potential impressions they can generate, Schafer said.
“A lot of influencers today are more creative than the celebrities that predate them because they are physically making more stuff,” Schafer added.
Lui pointed to a blending of celebrity and influencer as brands like Airbnb tap celebrities/influencers like Lady Gaga by giving them places to stay in exchange for thank-you posts.
“There’s a definite melding between the two,” Lui said.
And Schafer brought up George Takei, who has developed his own social personality and may be best known by younger generations “as the guy who shares funny shit on Facebook” rather than from Star Trek.
“Influencer marketing is closer on the spectrum to celebrity [endorsements] than it is to digital display advertising,” Augustine said. “As a company that provides software to marketers, [we know] customers are more successful when they get to know the influencer and, if you’re smart about midrange and micro-influencers, it can be more cost effective.”
Who is doing it well?
Schafer said the fashion industry has taken a leadership role in influencer marketing, like, say, retailer H&M.
“The influencers in fashion are no longer the writers in Vogue,” he said. “It’s the people on the street getting photographed. Limited marketing budgets mean you have to get creative.”
Tunick cited one of her own clients, camera brand Canon USA, and its Tag You’re It challenge, which she said used 13 influencers to create visual content.
And Lui picked retailer Revolve and its Revolve Around the World campaign, which takes fashion bloggers on exotic trips and provides “a cool setting to hang out and wear the clothes,” as well as actress and model Arielle Vandenberg, who posted about late check-outs at Holiday Inn Express.
“What I loved is it was very her,” Lui said. “She doesn’t always post branded content, but when she does, there’s so much of her.