Year End 2020, The Latest On Maximizing Influencer Brand Partnerships


At last week’s stellar 2-day ANA Influencer Marketing Conference, brands from the NFL to Frito-Lay, White Castle Hamburger, the brilliant, British nonprofit Breast Cancer education non-profit CoppaFeel!, and SAP for B2B, shared best practices, successes, and strategic deployment of Influencer Marketing.  Sentiment was universally high on Influencer Marketing as a great marketing tool to authentically engage consumers. The most recent best practices and learnings from the presentations include: 

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1)    ROI & ROAS Related

Influencers Are Filling the Content Void

Due to Covid-related safety constraints and restrictions on filming, content creation has been severely limited.  Influencers/Creators are helping fill the content void.  They’re more than just a means of endorsing and spreading brand awareness. They’re also creative studios.  Considering them in this context can affect how brands calculate Influencer Marketing ROI & ROAS.

Testing Is Key, Fast & Highly Productive To Maximize ROI 

Sinead Norenius-Raniere, VP Valassis, shared that brands need to keep testing to optimize the combination of audiences, platforms, influencers, and content.  Hampton Farm’s hired 8-9 influencers who created 63 different pieces of content for a total of about 240 ad variants. They were tested, the results were read rapidly, and budgets shifted quickly to the best performing content in real time for peak efficiency. 

Leverage Influencer Content Across Other Platforms / Channels to Maximize Reach & Content Investment  

Optimized influencer content should be leveraged across other channels like email, print, branded social, display and even CTV.  The variety of platforms extends reach and maximizes ROI for the content, the cost of which is spread over more media.

2) Negotiating Leverage with Influencers

There can be leverage in negotiating with influencers if your brand can help them build theirs, reach new audiences, and provide a positive halo effect. 

Many brands are looking for longer, more ongoing relationships with influencers.  Longer commitments can result in more cost-effective agreements.

Many brands don’t receive engagement data on influencer’s own platforms about performance of their joint programs.  This can be negotiated upfront in influencer deals and it’s very data for figuring out ROI and ROAS.

Influencers’ handles can be more efficient than brands’ own handles and should be included in agreements. It’s advisable that agreements tap into creators’ mailing lists, handles, and giveaways.  

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3)    Mega Brands Trying to Expand Reach Should Target Influencers In Verticals Beyond Their Own

Mega brands trying to reach new audiences can tap into niche influencers in high interest verticals.  The NFL is tapping into verticals of music, art, fashion and gaming, and Warner Bros. is tapping into Fashion, Art, Music and Sports influencers.

4)    Fans & Everyday People As Influencers

Zoom Parties Are Popular & Fan Love & Creativity Can Be Another Source of Content

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The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin Cheese built a strong, loyal community of real people, or everyday influencers vs. the more pay for play influencer programs that feature Instagram celebs with millions of followers. The reason their Zoom events were so successful is because they had such a passionate and authentic fan base before the pandemic started.

They created Cheeselandia, a community for loud, proud cheese lovers, everyday people who have real passion for Wisconsin Cheese. When in-person events had to be cancelled, they moved to virtual events, and took suggestions from the community members about what they wanted, which led events from the aging caves of Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers to the kitchen of a James Beard nominated chef. Events with hundred of spots filled within minutes every month, the cheese tasting and community building continued to thrive, and the user generated content and positive comments continued to grow.

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Doritos empowered high school graduates last spring to share inspiring messages to other high school graduates in a program called “Doritos Valedictorian” for a chance to win $50k for tuition.

The British breast cancer awareness non-profit, CoppaFeel!, created a group called the Boobettes, made up of people who have been touched by breast cancer, to teach others about the importance of self-checks.

5)    Think More Broadly About Who’s an Influencer, Beyond Athletes, Comedians, Super Models & Actors

In the case of Cigna Insurance, for their health insurance products, influencers have been church and community leaders, company executives, and educators.

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SAP taps into business thought leaders and digital programing hosts for their B2B Marketing, in addition to celebrities and more traditional influencers and are known to like tech.

6)    Brand Fit Matters More Than Fame  

Cheetos picked the USA Olympic curling team to partner with rather than a high-profile sports team because it fit so with their product shape, was funny, clever and memorable.  P&G picked the Azerbaijani Olympic wrestling to partner with for Febreze freshener, because they sweat a lot and need it!

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Paid Amplification is Needed to Maximize Influencer Programs

As the reach of organic content continues to decline, brands increasingly need to supplement with paid social to leverage activations and guarantee the content is being seen by the exact audience they want to see it. According to Valassis, it’s estimated that organic content reaches only about 5% of a typical influencer’s audience.  Valassis published a detailed industry paper with this and more information that can be found at www.valassis.com/uplevel.

7)    In a Contactless World, Influencers Can Help “Demo” Food Products

JUST Egg launched their new frozen folded egg product in April, 2020, during the onset of Covid, so in-store product sampling was not an option.  They turned to digital sampling, discussions with online bots, and an impactful food influencer IGTV show called JUST At Home that helps people make vegan dishes with JUST Egg. Different chefs invite viewers into their kitchens, where they show how everyday dishes can be made with the new product.

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8)    Alternate Product Usage Promoted By Influencers Can Be Fun & Business Building

Fans can be encouraged to come up with new, imaginative ways to use products, like White Castle did. Dim sum is made by steaming White Castle Hamburger buns as wrappers with fillings inside, and Thanksgiving stuffing is made out of their Cheeseburger Sliders.  Coolio shared his inspirations in the White Castle sponsored video series, Cooking with Coolio (picture at top of article).

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9)     It helps to Vary Influencer Content Beyond Hosting Parties, Endorsing, and Announcing Contests

Tostitos, whose brand vision is about connections and bringing people together, ran a Cinco de Mayo virtual salsa dance lessons on Instagram with Mario & Courtney Lopez.  It was fun, different, and an activity everyone could do it in their homes and enjoyed sharing.

10) More Data & Thorough Analyses Are Needed to Properly Assess the Relative Impact of Influencer Marketing

Per Mike Menkes, SVP at Analytic Partners, though it can be difficult to accurately measure Influencer Marketing ROI for the reasons listed below, each can be solved for with a comprehensive and holistic measurement program:

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  • There are inconsistent data sources used across brands & sectors
  • Some influencers may not consistently share their own data with impressions, views & engagement
  • There’s a lack of comprehensive measurement or holistic modeling programs, including data from other marketing elements
  • Influencer Marketing is often analyzed in a marketing channel silo, by itself
  • The sales impact is not always analyzed across all distribution channels i.e. online and offline impacts

Because this is such a big issue for all marketers, the ANA (the leading Marketing trade association in the U.S.) announced an Influencer Marketing Advisory Board with broad, high level brand marketer representation across a range of industries to develop a standardized approach and metrics to more meaningfully evaluate ROI and ROAS for brands. This will be their focus in 2021. 

Key Take-Aways

There are myriad ways to leverage influencer marketing.  Brands need to expand beyond the most commonly used tactics to break through and resonate, and reinforce their brand values and key messages.  

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While Influencer Marketing is labor intensive, labor savings can be had by sharing the best content across the brand’s and influencer’s channels.  

Influencers are increasingly being valued as long-term partners, so it’s worth putting in the effort up front to craft a long-term relationship and strategic vision that combines both the brand’s and influencer’s interests.

Standardized analysis and metrics will help brands better evaluate and optimize the impact on sales and brand image of their influencer marketing programs.



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