Understanding Influencers JOIN THE DOTS

Key Themes

1.) The rising influence of Bloggers and Vloggers has been a consequence of developments in technology and an increased desire for authentic and credible recommendations. Indeed the need for authenticity can be seen across society and is impacting TV programmes, advertising and many other areas of contemporary life.

2.) As the Bloggers and Vloggers themselves have been courted by marketing departments the credibility of their recommendations is now being called into question by some consumers. This is an indication that things are about to shift again as consumers search for genuine and credible advice on what to buy.

3.) It’s about understanding wider networks and not just focusing on the key Influencers - we need to look further down the funnel. Engaging with grassroots Influencers will become ever more important. Brands should stop going after celebrities and trying to get them to retweet and instead identify more valuable consumers that are actually interested in the content and the brand. While this might cost more in the short-term, over the longer term brands will see better return on that investment.

4.) Several key macro trends are influencing this shift: Glocal, a need for authenticity & transparency and heightened demand for P2P recommendation, this means consumers will be looking for sources of recommendation from people who reflect their values and who they feel they can trust. For marketers this will mean we increasingly need to engage with higher numbers of influencers with smaller tribes of followers.

5.) If we do use well known/ celebrity ambassadors the way in which they present themselves is key. They need to be authentic versions of themselves, which has implications for a channel perspective in terms of where and how we provide access to them. It’s important to think about how to best present these Influencers in a stripped down, accessible and authentic manner.

Celebrity endorsement evolves

The speed of change we are experiencing today is unprecedented, this is affecting society, technology and most recently the political landscape. As such it’s imperative that businesses understand who, what, when and where people are having an Influence on perceptions of their product or brand. In particular we are interested in how the nature of Influencers has changed and what Unilever can do to tap into this from a commercial perspective. Firstly let’s define what we mean by Influencers….‘Influencers are credible, authoritative individuals who have an engaged community that follows and acts on their thought leadership’

From a commercial perspective identifying, understanding and leveraging the ‘social cache’ Influencers have is an effective way of promoting your brand or service.

A proven method of doing this has been the use of celebrities, sports stars or other well-known individuals. By using appropriately selected celebrities as brand ambassadors companies can increase standout whilst also benefiting from associated characteristics and positive connotations thus stimulating deeper engagement. Recent examples of this are David Beckham promoting whisky or Gwyneth Paltrow talking about a skincare brand.

Authentic brand ambassadors

This is particularly relevant in a category such as health and beauty where image and appearance is extremely important. Over time there has also been an increase in the level of involvement celebrities have had with products. We’ve witnessed a move towards developing product lines or even fragrances in the case of perfume, rather than simple endorsement.

‘There’s a desire among celebrities and retailers to develop deeper relationships which focus on product development, not just endorsement. Therefore, I think we’ll begin to see celebrities developing more exclusive health and beauty lines, possibly skipping the fragrance approach altogether.’ (Michael Stone CEO and founder of Beanstalk)

An associated consequence of this is that a brand ambassador is now expected to do more than simply agree to their image being used next to a product. They should be seen to have a deeper involvement in some way. This is particularly relevant in a world obsessed with ‘Authenticity’. We also see the obsession with authenticity and transparency playing out in other associated areas in society - for example, the explosion in popularity of programmes like Googlebox, and a change in style and content of adverting such as McCain and Iceland.

‘The Nation’s Teatime’ sees McCain turn real families into teatime TV stars. All they have to do to participate is share real life video clips of themselves enjoying their tea on the brand’s dedicated hub. The fly-on-the-wall UGC films will then be edited into a ‘Teatime Today’ advert and aired during a teatime ad-break on ITV that evening.

Similarly, an Iceland spokesman explained they had moved away from their partnership with Peter Andre as using real-life mums is now a better way of communicating the brand’s developing food quality, citing internal research that shows 63% of mums trust information from other mothers above all other sources.

Influencer marketing

Simultaneously consumers' ability to produce their own content has grown massively, blogs abounded and vlogs and vloggers were born. For a few years, the blogosphere grew in its little corner of the web, and brands did not really pay attention. But around 2005 and onwards, brands in many industries eventually turned outwards and grew to involve the blogging community in their marketing strategies. Brands now pay bloggers to perform as ‘buzz’ agents online – this is Influencer marketing.

This rise in vloggers and bloggers tapped into increasing levels of distrust in the ‘expertise’ or ‘trustworthiness’ associated with celebrity ambassadors. For the Health and Beauty sector in particular this was significant. This medium of communication is particularly suited to a younger target demographic who were already spending more time online versus any other channel. Marketing departments took notice and started courting well known YouTubers and vloggers. Famous examples in the UK include Zoella, Tanya Burr and Sprinkle of Glitter.

However, importantly at the time in 2015, 50% of kids didn’t realise that products were paying to get placed with vloggers and it was decided that legislation was needed to be put in place. ‘New guidelines for video bloggers who enter marketing relationships with brands have been published. The rules encourage vloggers to label advertising content and explain when they have been asked to feature products sent to them by companies. The Committee of Advertising Practice (Cap) has issued its first guidance since a landmark Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling.’

In the latest evolution of this we are now seeing the seeds of scepticism growing in relation to the larger more successful bloggers. Consumers are increasingly aware that vloggers are sent free merchandise and given sponsorship payments. It appears perceived credibility is affected and Influencers are becoming a less trusted source for recommendations.

Let’s consider the larger macro trends at play here:

1. Authenticity & Transparency

The desire for authenticity and transparency has been with us for several yrs now, it only seems to be growing and rather than being just the domain of millennials it increasingly transcends demographics and is relevant across both on-line and offline worlds. This is set to continue and if anything ramp up in light of the recent political issues surrounding Brexit.

So What..?

We need to consider what sources of recommendation consumers will be most likely to trust, as larger more well-known bloggers become celebrities themselves, who will be next? How can these opinion leaders be engaged in a meaningful way which offers benefits to them and our brands. In addition it’s important to think about how to best present well known / celebrity Influencers in a stripped down, accessible and authentic manner.

We can see an example of how to address this moving forward within the world of celebrity style. Thanks to social media, the emphasis on ‘authentic’ personal style has never been greater. Meet the super-stylists, the backstage pros changing the way we dress...

‘As the trend for relatable, street-led styles has crept on to the catwalk, so a more utilitarian wearable style has arrived on the red carpet and beyond: the new mood is one of uncompromising realness, stripped of artifice and irrespective of price tags. Arguably, this change is down to social media, where huge audiences look to platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat to observe a star’s style offstage as much as their appearance on it. Where a celebrity might once have enthralled with a single red-carpet ensemble, today it’s their daily wardrobe that is subject to constant scrutiny.’ It’s perhaps ironic then that the new focus on “natural” style, the sense that an individual has crafted their look instinctively, is increasingly the work of another.

Beyoncé’s stylists, Senofonte explains... Beyoncé’s “Formation” incarnation is a far cry from the Givenchy nude dress — in crystal-embroidered diaphanous tulle — that she wore to last year’s Met Gala in New York. Although a beautiful gown, it was not exactly everyday wear. Senofonte (who didn’t style the singer for the event) says she feels the need for Beyoncé to look “relatable”.

We need to take a lesson from the way in which celebrity style lists are delivering to this need / trend. The access you give the public to Ambassadors and the way in which they present themselves is key. They need to be authentic versions of themselves, which has implications for a channel perspective in terms of where and how we provide access to them also.

2. The ever increasing importance placed upon P2P recommendation

This is now the most Influential form of advertising. Consumers no longer just look to well-known people as sources of expert knowledge. Peers, contemporaries and everyday people now have more power to Influence and this is set to evolve and continue. Over the past couple of years, consumer trust in brand-driven advertising, including TV ads, company websites, online advertising and editorial content, has been in sharp decline. More than ever, consumers are in control of how they consume content and interact with brands. They are showing increasing preference for the opinion of trusted individuals and Influencers over hearing from the brands themselves.

So What..?

We need to consider how we use technology and other tools at our disposal to connect consumers with everyday Influencers. How do we place our brands in the mix appropriately?

Consumers are more likely to trust suggestions that come from people they actually know, which is the underlying basis for the recommendations app Tril. The app is designed to allow users to follow people they trust to receive recommendations on books, food and multimedia. This provides a more credible guarantee that the consumer will actually enjoy the product because someone they know with similar tastes is suggesting it to them. Trill is an ideal app for consumers that are seeking genuine suggestions that aren't colored with sponsored content, celebrity endorsements or advertisements. Instead the Tril app lets users follow other users based on similar interests to receive suggestions on a wide variety of products and services.

It’s also about understanding wider networks and not just focusing on the key Influencers - we need to look further down the funnel. Engaging with grassroots Influencers will become ever more important.

Utilising the power of second wave consumer Influencers: 'Brands are focusing too much of their time and effort on getting early adopters and celebrities to engage with and share their video content when they should be concentrating on the “second wave” of Influencers who have the power to make or break a campaign, according to new research.

The study of the sharing patterns of 66 video campaigns found that just one in five managed to motivate second wave Influencers. But of those more than 90% were deemed successful based on reach and engagement. Of the four out of five that did not reach the second wave Influencers only 59% were deemed successful.

"Brands must start looking beyond celebrities such as Kim Kardashian if they really want to create viral campaigns that resonate with audiences." - Thomas Crampton, global managing director of Social@Ogilvy

The findings suggest brands should stop going after celebrities and trying to get them to retweet and instead identify more valuable consumers that are actually interested in the content and the brand. While this might cost more in the short-term, over the longer term brands will see better return on that investment.

3. Glocal

A desire for more localised and intimate treatment is another consequence and reaction to globalisation, we see consumers looking to engage with ‘localness’, or at the very least companies who demonstrate a more intimate understanding of who they are and where they come from. Large drinks manufacturers are creating ‘local’ brews and spirits. Sports clothing companies’ trainers for specific areas. Banks setting up on the idea of having local branches.

So What..?

In a world that can sometimes feel too big and impersonal people are listening to the opinions of those they can trust, often this is people who understand their needs and where they’re coming from. We see an increased need to have smaller numbers of Influencers located nearer to those we wish to influence.

Aveeno’s latest promotional campaign 'Inside and Oat' was a good example of leveraging this strategy. The campaign highlighted the connection between food, health and skin care. In May this year Aveeno invited key Influencers to a launch event and tasked them with using their products over the course of a week in combination with completing a program of exercises and eating recommended foods. Opinion Leaders in the form of beauty bloggers/, vloggers and journalists have been taking part in this trial. What was particularly interesting about this was the regional locations and profile of a number of these opinion leaders.

The confluence of Glocal, a need for authenticity & transparency and heightened demand for P2P recommendation means consumers will be looking for sources of recommendation from people who reflect their values and who they feel they can trust. For marketers this will mean we increasingly need to engage with higher numbers of influencers with smaller tribes of followers.

REFERENCES

http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2016/06/24/why-home-grown-brands-will-save-the-chinese-dream/#270bc6071305

http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelstone/2012/12/07/celebrities-move-beyond-fragrance-to-tap-other-senses-within-health-beauty/#3383400f18e7

http://www.express.co.uk/showbiz/tv-radio/610315/Emmerdale-viewers-McCain-scarecrow-idents-ITV-Twitter

Econsultancy: 'Influencing the influencers'

http://www.talkingretail.com/products-news/frozen/mccain-launches-teatime-campaign/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33976358

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33976358

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/6b566a48-cfe3-11e5-831d-09f7778e7377.html

Rise of influencers 'Fashion and beauty monitor report'

http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/recommendation-app

http://www.marketingweek.com/2016/06/22/brands-are-too-obsessed-with-celebrities-on-social-media/

Created By
Tim Burge
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