Influencer marketing is finally being taken seriously by brands and agencies. It’s becoming an important pillar of the marketing mix, if not the most important. Now, we could go on and on about the basic trends we’ll see this year - increased use of video, more authentic partnerships, increased measurement capabilities and so on. But we won’t. If you’re among the clients we speak to - you already know that. What’s more important to know, is what will determine the winners and the losers.
By 2023, brands will be spending 20% of their marketing budgets on influencer marketing. However, often influencer campaigns are activated in isolation from the wider brand marketing strategy creating a disconnect. In order to genuinely make them an extension of your own voice and brand, you need to take it one step further.
2020 looks to be the year that brands realise the potential of integrated influencer marketing. Moving influencers to the core of your marketing strategy is the key to winning the influencer marketing game.
Look at Revolve clothing. Influencers are at the heart of everything they do, and have been since day one. They promote clothes, attend events, create their own fashion collections and produce content. You name it; they’re involved. Revolve influencers truly are an extension of the brand and underpin all channels. As a result, they have become synonymous with the brand and drive 70% of sales.
Estée Lauder is another great example. They spend 75% of their marketing budget on influencer marketing and amplify the content across other brand channels, such as website, socials, newsletter and print. CEO Fabrizio Freda states that this has been proven as highly effective and a wise investment.
Ultimately, the brands that will truly succeed are those taking a 360° approach.
Long term > short term
Moving influencers towards the core of your marketing strategy isn’t something you do in a day. You need to commit to it long-term and ensure you continuously optimise and improve along the way. The brands that have succeeded using influencer marketing (Daniel Wellington, GymShark, Glossier and Revolve, among others) have all done so because of their long-term approach. They didn’t try single test campaigns. They doubled down. They built and committed to a strategy, and made constant incremental progress over a long period of time.
Historically brands have engaged in one-off campaigns, typically around a new product launch or key moment for example. Sure this can achieve short term KPI’s, but it doesn’t benefit from a deeper brand - influencer relationship, nor strategy optimisation. Consumers are now increasingly cautious of one-off brand collaborations too and seek authentic partnerships, which fit the influencer’s narrative and add value.
2020 will see brands taking an 'always on' approach where they test and refine strategy over a longer period for best results.
Milk & More have scaled up their influencer activity with great effect. Their early one-off micro-influencer campaigns have now evolved to a multi-tiered approach. Influencers attend events, offer promo codes and create high-quality content, which is all tracked and analysed for iterative improvements.
Consistently weaving brand activity throughout an influencers’ narrative over a longer timeframe creates a deeper three-way affinity between brands and influencer-following audiences. Ultimately this creates less of a transactional piece and more of a genuine storytelling opportunity.
The real goal is to turn these long term partnerships into exclusive ambassadorships. Gymshark is a great example. Their “Athlete” community of prominent fitness influencers has a combined reach of over 20 million. They exclusively wear Gymshark products, host events and produce regular content. This dedicated influencer approach has been a key part of Gymshark’s strategy since day one and has skyrocketed their brand awareness, sales and social following in a short period of time.
Glossier has taken this a step further. The company has identified its most engaged consumers and influencers and created a super-engaged focus group. They chat on area-specific Slack channels and give real-time feedback on a host of topics. Crucially, Glossier embraces co-creation and integrates these insights for a competitive edge. Cue the launch of the brand's renowned Milky Jelly face wash. This is how influencer marketing is done right.
As more brands turn to influencer marketing in 2020, finding the “right” influencers to secure long-term partnerships and co-creation should be the priority.
Who do we think will succeed in 2020?
The only way to win is to make influencers an integral part of your brand and your marketing strategy. Influencers are not a single purpose medium. They should empower your whole marketing strategy and plan. Commit to a long-term strategy and build a programme that allows you to continually measure and optimise over a longer period of time. This is how you’ll win over the brands that see this as a single-purpose medium that only gives short-term results.