Influencer marketing has become increasingly more important in the last years. It’s risky, but most marketers continue to invest in this trend. We discussed campaigns and best practices with Paula’s Choice’s Rajaa Grar, Kia’s Eugene Santos, and CH Carolina Herrera’s Fabiola Velarde.
Even though the term “influencer marketing” has increased in relevance during the last years, the concept is not new by any means. Influence has been around since pretty much forever. We hardly ever make a choice without taking someone else’s opinion into account, and it’s no wonder advertising has been taking advantage of that since the very need to advertise came to being.
Reportedly, influencer marketing was born around the late 1800s, when consumer goods brands hired celebrities to promote their products. For certain categories, like beauty and luxury, working with brand ambassadors is almost a given. However, it’s been several years since virtually every brand is getting on the influencers’ ship.
The New Influencer Marketing
Because social media allows everyone to be content creators, influencers are everywhere. Brands can now choose between many types of influencers to help promote a product or service, from an active blogger with a few hundred loyal followers to a celebrity that charges thousands of dollars per post.
According to MediaKix, global influencer marketing might become a $5-10 billion industry within the next five years. Influencers are the perfect intermediary between a brand and its consumers. In fact, in spite of authenticity issues, big companies are trying to improve the transparency of this discipline because of its efficacy. In June, Unilever made a $12 million investment in Creator IQ, a software that helps marketers manage influencers.
We recently shared a full influencer marketing guide in which Band of Insiders, Best Buy, Bimbo, and Drinkfinity discuss five important questions on the topic. For this article, we talked to Paula’s Choice Global Brand / Marketing Leader and General Manager Rajaa Grar, Kia Motors America’s Senior Manager of Marketing & Advertising Eugene Santos, and CH Carolina Herrera’s U.S. Managing Director Fabiola Velarde in order to find out about their experience with influencers, how they measure results, and how they think the discipline will evolve. Keep reading to know what has worked for them and what can work for you.
The Influence of True Love
In 2018, 78% of marketers used influencer marketing to promote their brand. However, this type of marketing doesn’t work for everybody. The main reason, according to experts, is that brands are not doing enough research when they first choose influencers. The key ingredient, in spite of what many might believe, is not the number of followers, but rather, the affinity between a brand’s values and the influencer’s.
“Many of the content creators that we collaborate with are skincare enthusiasts and share our skincare passion,” said Rajaa Grar when we first discussed the topic with her. “They also have followers who are Paula’s choice fans as well. They also truly respect our brand and skincare philosophy, rooted in truth and advocacy and are themselves fans of the brand.”
It’s not that the number of followers doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t always reflect true engagement. Paula’s Choice only aligns with ambassadors that are true fans of the product, and it seeks to forge long-term relationships with them.
“We go through a careful vetting process ahead of any collaboration and of course getting to know our influencers on a deeper level is essential as they are an extended part of our brand family,” shared Grar. “When doing so, the results are not only most authentic, but our brand efforts are reaping the benefits for a longer period of time after the content goes live.”
Storytelling that Empowers Your Consumers
An essential part of your research about influencers starts at the consumers you’re trying to reach. Not only do they need to share the brand’s values, but they also have to be the right communicators of your message. For Eugene Santos, one of the first issues on the way of an influencer marketing campaign was budget. For marketers that target multicultural audiences, one of the first wars they have to win is often fought against management.“You’d think that in 2020 we wouldn’t need to fight to convince organizations about the Hispanic business opportunity,” commented Santos. “But we keep fighting the same fight. Therefore, make sure you can show metrics that the general market understands.”
But Santos’ team, together with their partner Verizon Media, came up with an insightful, culturally nuanced campaign, titled “Give it Everything“, to reach potential Hispanic buyers of the new Kia Soul. “Telling a story allows us to continue to connect with our audience and keeps the brand on top of mind. This might look like a simple project, but it’s making our company reconsider how they think about multicultural,” shared Santos. And so he came up with the idea of having two unique influencers that could tell the Latino story, who could really connect with the demographic because it was also their story.
“How do we tell the underdog story, which is really the Kia story, and how do we tell the Latino story to them?” asked Santos rhetorically. “I want to talk about the professional who is trying to do something different and relate it to my key customer.”
Fashion and Influencers, a Perennial Symbiosis
CH Carolina Herrera has worked with social media influencers for more than 10 years, but it has always had endorsers. What used to be a spread in a magazine has now turned into a 24/7 curation of several social platforms. For CH, Instagram is the most relevant platform. They use celebrities like top models and other fashion icons that reflect the brand’s values.
“We’ve been working every day with celebrities and social influencers for over ten years. Now even more, especially because social media are active all the time,” pointed out Fabiola Velarde. “We have started to identify influencers that can relate to the global market, and we also have activations with local celebrities.”
Because it’s such an aspirational and luxurious brand, Carolina Herrera doesn’t take the influencer selection process lightly. “What we do is I communicate with my team, we look at the influencer and we assess the overall relationship between their lifestyle and what we represent, taking into account in which markets they have more impact” explained Fabiola. “We don’t only look at the number of followers. If we did that, we would risk causing misunderstandings and sending out the wrong message.”
How to Know It’s Working
Marketers agree that one of the main cons of influencer marketing is the impossibility to truly measure its ROI. We can get an idea of a campaign’s success from how much engagement a post receives, but there’s still no way to translate that into sales. “In the end, a good response to a post about our product is between 1% and 1.5% of an influencer’s followers,” shared Velarde.
What Does the Future Hold in Store?
Some dare to say influencer marketing is just another fad. However, research shows it will continue to grow steadily and at an accelerated pace. For the ones that work with this discipline every day, like Fabiola Velarde, it’s not likely that influencers will cease to exist. “We don’t believe influencers will die. It’s not something that started 5 years ago,” commented Velarde. “It’s a group that has always existed, but now the unfamous are getting lots of influencers into the market. Some of them won’t be able to sustain the business, but the ones that are really part of the community will remain strong.”
Not only aren’t influencers going anywhere, but brands like CH Carolina Herrera are also looking for new ways to leverage their influence in more tangible ways. One thing Fabiola Velarde’s team is exploring is the possibility of having influencers as personal shoppers. “Having an influencer at the store would help us provide a whole shopping experience,” she told. “This person could come to store events, bring his or her followers and take the business to a new level.” Even though this idea is still merely a draft, it promises to build a bridge to the side of influencer marketing that has been hitherto impossible to measure.
One Size Does Not Fit All
When asked about what type of influencer works best, Fabiola Velarde mentioned that it all depends on the brand’s message and objectives. For CH Carolina Herrera, there are global efforts and local efforts. “If we use a celebrity or international influencer, it helps with the global projection. But if we want to penetrate into a local market, we definitely work with smaller influencers,” she explained. “Like Leonora Jimenez, who is based in Costa Rica and has a good impact in Latin America. No one knows her in the U.S. or Europe. Or Olivia Palermo, who is very well known in the fashion community in the U.S. and with whom we have extensively worked before.”
To sum up, influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere; it’s merely evolving to adapt to brands’ and consumers’ needs. To work well, objectives, channels and the influencers themselves should fit with the brand’s values, 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. We shouldn’t underestimate Influencer marketing, 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 we do it well, it’s a great bet. Otherwise, it can really hurt you. That’s why you should partner with experts.