Author: Michelle Higginson

Recently a colleague and I, “hit the road” to attend a client meeting.  Sydney traffic provided us with ample time to reminisce about our years as marketers. As we went down that road of, “remember when that guy said the internet wouldn’t last,” we talked about how clunky our jobs used to be. 

We discussed everything from the evolution of print to digital, to social and what we could have accomplished back then if we had the tools we have today.

The changes in our arena have been absolutely amazing. Marketing is largely paperless, data driven, outcome-based, and is the essential guide to taking a customer on a journey. 

However, there is one area that I have not yet fully embraced. Not because I don’t think it has a place in the marketing mix, but, because of the way it tends to be represented and the output of expectations.

Sexy sells, but does it have to influence?

Influencers who align with and respect corporate values provide a valuable impact and sway the audience. But what about the shirtless or scantily-clad individuals living life by the pool, travelling to exotic places and enjoying the beach and luxury hotels, with little to no relevance to the product they are touting? In an era where personal image and self-worth have such a profound impact on one’s mental health, is this really what the role of an influencer should be; when representing a brand?

Poor spelling, grammar, and punctuation aside; I sometimes question the value of the spend against the message the brand is sending when considering this style of influence over their customer.

An image is worth a thousand words

Imagery can be incredibly impactful, which is why Instagram is so popular. But, are the images we see representative of the lifestyle that is achievable by the average consumer?

Marketers must be mindful of the impact influencers have on individuals who unrealistically aspire to emulate them and how this relates to social responsibility, personal wellbeing, and your brand. In this period of COVID-19, people are struggling with isolation, uncertainty, and mental health, so now, more than ever, we need imagery that is attainable.

My concerns around Influencer marketing programs are:

  • Learnings are hit and miss, and mistakes can cost a brand
  • Efforts can be wasted if you haven’t defined your metrics to track and monitor the performance of your campaign in advance
  • The quality of the content can be quite variable and may fail to resonate with your target consumers. In such cases, the time and money you invest will be lost
  • Creating the right contract to ensure all parties understand the objectives of your brand and that risk is minimised for your brand
  • Maintaining control of your brand
  • Repercussions to your brand if the influencer falls out of favour with the public.

Only recently, The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) launched its Influencer Marketing Code of Practice which provides an excellent framework for working with influencers and is a must-read.

History Repeats

Before Influencers the best referral was that of a happy customer.  Provide a good experience and a good product and word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) was the best way to grow your business.  Under the banner of customer experience, WOMM is managed in various ways by marketers.

In today’s world there are far more competitors, making customer engagement and lock on even tougher for marketers, so we have to get creative.  WOMM still plays a very important role in this mix, especially for repeat business.

But just like word-of-mouth, one bad or misleading comment from an influencer (not withstanding actual customers) can be detrimental to business.

We’ve all read posts where hotels and restaurants share their experiences of dealing with influencers demanding freebies for a post to their followers, sometimes with the threat of negative feedback when their services have been declined.

In this instance, influencer marketing lacks the very essence of WOMM – personal, authentic, believable, and, honest evaluation of a product or service.

So where should you focus your efforts?  If you consider the statistics for WOMM, it demonstrates the need for strategies to capitalise on the goodwill we create with our audience:

  • 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising [Nielsen] 
  • WOMM impression results in five (5) times more sales than a paid media impression []
  • Estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales [].

Sometimes we need a reminder of why WOMM is worth the investment, rather than pursuing the easy reach of an influencer’s audience.

Take Aways:

  1. We must always consider our reputation and the safety of our brand, as well as intellectual property rights and legal or industry code compliance when using influencers
  2. Read The Australian Influencer Marketing Council (AIMCO) “Influencer Marketing Code of Practice
  3. Use influencer marketing as part of your strategy if you believe it is the best medium to reach your target audience
  4. Take time and research to find the right influencer(s) to fit your brand
  5. Ensure your target audience is within the influencer’s demographics
  6. Influencer marketing adds another component to your toolkit to complement other marketing activities
  7. As a medium, influencer marketing can produce higher traffic than others, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to increased sales or customer retention so ensure your strategy addresses these issues
  8. Be mindful of the impact influencers have on individuals who unrealistically aspire to emulate them and how this relates to social responsibility, personal wellbeing, and your brand

Remember word-of-mouth, is one of the best and cheapest ways to generate repeat business.

Author: Michelle Higginson -Marketing and Design Consultant En Pointe Marketing & Communications
The above article is based solely on the opinion and experiences of the author.

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