The 5 Most Pressing Questions About Influencer Marketing Answered by Band of Insiders, Best Buy, Bimbo, and Pepsico
What: During the seventh edition of the #PortadaMX summit, experts in Influencer Marketing took the stage to discuss best practices surrounding this elusive but undeniably effective tool to reach consumers. Vivian Baron, Founder and Creative Chairwoman at Band of Insiders, presented the panelists: Best Buy Mexico's E-commerce Subdirector José Camargo, Grupo Bimbo's Global Consumer Engagement Lead Giustina Trevisi, Band of Insiders' Influencer Marketing Manager Leonardo Vargas, and Pepsico/Drinkfinity's Director of Business Innovation & Marketing Yamile Elias.
Why it matters: Influencer marketing may seem young, but it has arrived to stay. This trend has been seen to grow almost exponentially during the last years with the rise of social media: it is essential for brands to know how to make the best use of it.
How powerful can influencer marketing be? Is it for everyone? During the last years, the trend of using influencers as a tool to amplify a campaign or message has grown to a great extent. As Vivian Baron, Founder and Creative Chairwoman of Band of Insiders believes, "It is no longer about the relationship with the media, but rather about how we amplify our client's message correctly. There's great interest placed on influencer marketing, but there's also a great lack of knowledge around it."
In spite of this lack of knowledge, many brands have tried to take advantage of the opportunity that influencer marketing represents. Unfortunately, not everyone has succeeded. "Digital platforms are so strong today that influencer marketing can have a hugely negative effect," asserted Baron. "It should be taken very seriously."
Can (or Should) Any Brand Be a Part of the Influencer Marketing Trend?
With the buzz around this type of marketing, every brand wonders if influencers can boost their ROI. While this can and does happen, it isn't as simple as some could believe, and influencers can help a great deal in things that are not necessarily direct sales. "Influencer marketing is key in any brand, not only to create awareness but for many other things," said Yamile Elias, Director of Business Innovation & Marketing, Drinkfinity/Pepsico. "At Drinkfinity we're using it for insights, to ask the consumer certain things. When we have a problem they can help us solve it, but only if it's a good fit."
For Giustina Trevisi, Global Consumer Engagement Lead at Grupo Bimbo, brands are already surrounded by influencer marketing, and it would benefit them to adopt a position towards it. "Influencers are something we can't ignore. It's a 'can't hide' matter, where the question is 'how to leverage'," asserted Trevisi. Influencers are a great tool in any ecosystem, but it doesn't work on its own. You're not supposed to have an Influencer Marketing strategy on its own, but rather include it in your overall communication strategy." Moreover, she agreed with Yamile Elias that this tool helps in diverse areas, such as crisis management, campaign support, and PR and perception. While these don't have a direct impact on your ROI, "they obviously expand reach," she said.
What matters now is the content, sales should only be the consequence.
Every company could leverage this tool provided that it's done in a smart way. "It's very important to have a clear strategy with defined objectives," explained José Camargo, E-commerce Subdirector at Best Buy Mexico. "Many brands look for immediate sales, but these initiatives should be for the long term. You should focus on gaining trust and credibility through an influencer whose values coincide with the company's. Audiences are tired of traditional advertising that only goes after the sale. What matters now is the content, sales should only be the consequence."
In fact, influencer marketing is already helpful from the very basics: in the words of Leonardo Vargas, Influencer Marketing Manager at Band of Insiders, "Influencers are not only about your image; they can provide a great amount of information. By analyzing data and organic profiles, you can find more information than what a common marketing study can provide because you're listening closely to your product's final consumer."
What Are the Keys to Successful Influencer Marketing?
Just as a successful influencer marketing activation can bring instant success, it can also cause great negative consequences if not done well. "When used superficially, the influencer marketing tool can lead to crises as the ones we've seen recently," commented Vivian Baron. "Sometimes there's a great potential but it doesn't hold up. It's very important to design a long-term strategy that allows you to create a critical mass of loyal followers in an industry where loyalty is virtually non-existent."
Giustina Trevisi summarized the essential elements when sharing one of Bimbo's stories of success: 1. Objective, 2. Target, 3. Creative. "The first step is knowing the objective and whom we intend to reach. We held onto a current event, something that was happening at the moment (Peru qualified for the World Cup), and we focused on getting the formats, times, and platforms correctly," she told. "You need to choose the correct target and influencers according to your objective and budget. If you show the idea to management and they don't like it, that is a good sign, as it's not for them."
You need to choose the correct target and influencers according to your objective and budget. If you show the idea to management and they don't like it, that is a good sign, as it's not for them.
"Influencer marketing should be carried out in very strategic ways," added José Camargo. "For Best Buy, something that has worked really well is these people we call 'insiders' that don't even know they are influencers. These kids can get 3-4 thousand people in 20 minutes for an opening." What matters the most, he emphasized, is a good fit between the influencers' values and those of the company: "The brand and the influencer should have similar values. Only when the influencer is convinced by the brand are the publications really natural: the brand's ideals rub off on his or her posts and comments."
How to Select an Influencer?
As we have seen so far, having a clear objective matters, but so does selecting an influencer that matches that objective. The first thing, then, is knowing what each type of influencer can achieve."There's an influence pyramid that we can divide into mega, macro, and micro. Each one of these can be used for different objectives and has different results," explained Leonardo Vargas. "However, the new trend is 'hidden influencers', people who have an impact both online and offline. We need to look at their profile and their basic social circle in order to provoke a more direct impact on sales."
"Most times, micro influencers have more strength, they can generate a direct impact on sales and we can see the needle move," added Vivian Baron. "Hidden influencers are very powerful; their magic has to do with the fact that they don't know they're influencers. You need considerable efforts of analysis, listening, and data in order to find them."
Having an expert to deal with them helps with the flow and builds long-term relationships.
The next thing would be the actual process of selection. For Giustina Trevisi, this is much easier with the help of a specialist. "I would recommend others to work with influencer agencies, to work with experts," she stated. "It's important to have someone who knows how to handle them, have a good communication with them. We work with several specialized agencies who take our brief, give it back, then we do a second brief, they give it to the influencer and then they present a creative proposal. If I do the regulation part, I lose the emotional component. Having an expert to deal with them helps with the flow and builds long-term relationships."
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Can Technology Make the Process Easier?
"We have to automatize processes through platforms, technology, data, correlations... We need to use what's available, but the decision has to ultimately go through a human filter who knows the target and can make sense of everything," said Giustina Trevisi. "A tool can give you a diagnosis, but the final touch needs to be given by a human being that can think and make a decision. A machine uses algorithms, but the context has to be human." Once having entered the topic of algorithms, Trevisi went further in that direction and offered her opinion on the subject: "I think we will all adapt just like when Facebook had an algorithm change," she asserted. "The only difference is the amount we need to spend to get our contents seen. You pay to play; if you don't you lose. It's part of the business, there's an impact on our allocational budget in the communications area and we might need to assign more money to this instead of making the mistake of thinking that digital is free even when it's organic, that's one of the worst mistakes in our mindset."
"I'm in favor of digitalization and automatization, but the human part is inescapable," agreed Leonardo Vargas. "Instagram stories, for example, can give you very complete information, but only when you have a team of experts constantly looking at what's going on on social media. Every day there are more platforms; with just one click you can execute a campaign, but we need to go back to the brief. Everything needs to be taken care of."
What Can We Expect for the Future?
It's easy to see where we're going if we take a quick look at where we've recently been. As Yamile Elias commented, "If we analyze the number of times the word 'influencer' has been searched, we find that the number has grown 200% since 2016, and it grew 60% in the first quarter of this year alone. Estimations show the budget for influencer marketing in the U.S. to go up to 5-10 billion dollars."
Facebook, Twitter, etc. have become just another showcase for brands, and consumers don't want to see that anymore.
According to Leonardo Vargas, there are already a couple of trends that have been identified and that we can expect to see in the near future. "One: strategies linked to SEO and automatized keywords, which are different to Google's ad words because they get placed on social media," he explained. "Two: audience marketing for influencers; a type of audience analysis that helps you know what works, not what looks well. A new trend that will be very important, and it's a great time to be pioneers, is the rise of new social media. Facebook, Twitter, and the others have become just another showcase for brands, and consumers don't want to see that anymore. There are new social media that are going back to what Facebook and Twitter were about originally, like Mastodon, in which users are in control and it's free of ads."
Another good thing that can happen in the future is, in the words of Vivian Baron, that "influencers will have the opportunity to get more professional and improve the quality of their work." This is because especially in countries like Mexico, it's very difficult to regulate the use of influencers. "We aren't using algorithms or social media restrictions as they do in other countries in order to define what is promoted content," shared Leonardo Vargas. "Influencers don't have a reference of how much to charge either. We should try to identify ways to work with influencers at a low cost when we identify they like our brand. We've been working on a system that will allow us to identify influencers' interests before we select them: which brands they like, their activities... All this data that is floating around, we can take it and identify their consumption patterns, if their lifestyle matches my brand beyond social media activity, I know they'll be interested in working with me even before I approach them."
In short, we should try to go deep into the influencer marketing tool instead of staying at a superficial level. Influencers are for every brand only if the strategy is very clear: objectives, channels and the influencers themselves should fit, not only to minimize crisis risk but to ensure good results overall. It's very important to analyze the data, be aware of the results you're aiming at. Influencer marketing is not to be underestimated, it isn't easy, but it can really bring you success. It should be a part of your whole marketing strategy, not as an isolated campaign but as a long-term program. If done well, it's a great bet. Otherwise, it can really hurt you. That's why you should partner with experts.