Under different names, influencer marketing has been around for far longer than you may think. Brands have been harnessing the power of fame, popularity and influence of prominent figures for pretty much as long as marketing has existed.
But the emergence of social media has been the catalyst for a dramatic new relationship between customers and brands. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that, in this social age, trust is harder to win, easier to lose and impossible to buy.
Influencer marketing emerged at a pivotal stage of the consumer evolution – at a point when trust in traditional advertising was weakening (the use of ad blockers is predicted to rise to nearly a third of all American internet users this year), and when the real-time nature of social media allowed ‘ordinary’ people to become more influential than ever before.
So with 92% of people surveyed by MuseFind saying they trust influencers more than adverts – and influencers ranking only second to recommendations from friends in terms of trust – more and more brands have substituted celebrity for authenticity in choosing who they use to reach an audience.
With so many ways for customers to disengage from traditional forms of advertising, smart brands recognized they would need a dramatically different approach to content. And the really smart ones recognized that influencers could help them create the content an audience would want to see, share and (hopefully) shop.
Influencers have helped brands to shift to an ‘audience-first’ model of creative thinking – and that results in social media content that says far richer things about a brand than simple advertising.
Some brands even work with influencers to help develop products that a target audience will find more engaging, like this collaboration between Birchbox and Cupcakes & Cashmere’s Emily Schuman.
Other brands, like Jack Wolfskin, harness the influencer power of all their customers, no matter how big or small their following. By including a free ‘Go backpack’ flag in every bag they sell, they created a community of ambassadors sharing their highly Instagramable adventures – adventures with the Jack Wolfskin brand at the heart.
And influencers have even helped refresh the traditional ‘big budget’ ad film, with a jaw-dropping campaign from Subaru perfectly demonstrating the kind of ‘risky’ thinking influencers can bring to a brand (in a good way).
Even if you’ve only been in influencer marketing for about 5 minutes, you’ll probably have heard the tale of Daniel Wellington. The go-to case study for championing the powers of influencer marketing, Daniel Wellington was a small start-up watch brand that, through a pioneering belief in influencers, has grown enormously. And by enormously we mean 4.1 million followers on Instagram (a 31% rise in the last year) and over $60 million in earned media value for 2017.
But Wellington isn’t the only success story for influencer marketing. There are so many examples of brands, big and small, young and old, using influencer marketing in smart ways – and seeing real results.
Fashion and beauty brands like ASOS and Glossier have had amazing success by recruiting multiple influencers to represent the brand in their own individual way. The ASOS Insiders is another of those handy ‘go-to’ models for influencer marketing success, using an army of super-stylish ambassadors to inspire customers where they want to be inspired (social media) and quickly translating that emotional response into shoppable content.
Then there are brands like Revolve who implemented an influence strategy so ingenious at the Coachella festival that they massively out-performed H&M who were official sponsors of the event! (You can read more about that on our blog here.)
So, unless you desperately don’t want to earn your audience’s trust, create content they will love (and make their friends love too), and see a tantalizing return on your marketing investment, influencer marketing has a lot to offer, to a lot of brands.