The constant and rapid upgradations in technology have accelerated communication, bringing consumers and businesses closer than ever before. Revolution in the social media sector has toppled the landscape of PR and media industry; a new way of doing business has now replaced traditional methods of marketing where selling is no longer a one-way street where businesses used to aggressively sell out to their target audience. Reaching out to multiple layers of target audiences is the norm today.
As per the director of e-Bay and Proctor and Gamble, Scott Cook “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other.” In 2018, consumers are and have proven to be some of the biggest sellers of products and brands. This is where Influencer Marketing comes in.
Influencer marketing is a form of marketing where the focus is placed on influential people or key leaders in their respective domains, who have the power and potential to influence customers. Influencer content is created in a way that portrays influencers as the potential buyers of the product. While social media marketing, content marketing, and word-of-mouth marketing are inherent components of influencer marketing, this type of marketing goes beyond than these individual strategies and makes use of the emotional currency that drives most businesses today: influence, something businesses have little to no control over and which, admittedly, gives the consumer a level of power he/she did not hold earlier.
Consequently, Public relation agencies are now innovating influencer marketing strategies and campaigns to build brand, engage audience, create awareness across multiple channels and leave a presence. Companies are re-strategizing their public image with the power of influencers. As per the research of Activate by Bloglovin, it is found that 67 percent of marketers believe that influencer marketing campaigns help reach out to a larger number of target audience.
Quite predictably, Influencer Marketing is more mainstream than an anomaly. Let us walk through the ways in which influencer marketing is making its presence felt.
How Influencer Marketing is helping make tectonic shifts in the PR & Media Industry
Control over the Brand
Public Relations professionals are some of the more prominent agents entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the public image and reputation of the business. Under traditional marketing, PR agencies earlier used to invite media journalists, bloggers, and editors to events and press conferences to elicit word about the brand. The publicists then waited for the publications to print about their brand and create news that would then reach the potential customers. This gave the power to journalists to shed light on the company in the manner they wished to. With the advent of influencer marketing, companies have regained the power they hold over their own brand. They have the liberty to choose the influencer and social media platform that would be relevant for their product and help drive conversations about the brand, thereby, reaching the target audience directly. Companies can now, to a large extent, control the way the brand is perceived in the public.
Control over Content
Digital advertising channels enable company owners to build and promote the brand on their own. Business owners can wield influence as thought leaders by building a blog or a brand that enjoys or has experienced social media virality. Targeted content strategy help in birthing the right image of the brand by catering to the target consumers and establishing a relationship with them. Though the task of building a blog is tedious and time-consuming, the rewards are compounded over time and can be enjoyed long-term.
Companies are leaving no stone unturned to capture the highest potential of social media and influencers. One of the ways they do this is by engaging in cross-channel campaigns in order to expand outside their own industry and work with other influencers as well. A fashion influencer working with restaurants, a homemaker blogger working with beauty brands are ways in which businesses are collaborating and working outside the core industry to reach out to a new pool of audience and raise brand awareness.
Influencer marketing does not disrupt the marketing budget of the companies. According to a study by Tomoson, Influencer marketing is the most cost-effective online customer acquisition method, along with email marketing. Both the marketing techniques rely on building relationships for their success. Building this trust is a slow and time taking task which however, proves to have a deep and penetrating effect in the long run.
No Business is Too Big for Influencer Marketing
The strength of Influencer marketing can be judged not only by the success enjoyed by the new entrants in the market but also that of some of the A-listers, two of which have been discussed below:
- Pepsi, in 2016, created a limited edition packaging bottle with #SayItWithPepsi to be exclusively sold in Walgreens. The campaign targeted millennials to increase sales. Influencers created around 200 Pepsi emojis which were shared through online content, blogs, videos and photographs. This drove teenagers to the stores to buy the emoji bottle and make their summer activities more fun.
- In 2016 M&M undertook a campaign to let fans decide its new peanut flavor from the three options – Honey Nut, Chili Nut and Coffee Nut. The result of the campaign was 269 million social media and influencers’ impression, 14.4 social media engagements and more than 1 million votes. Over 20 influencers across different mediums created content to encourage people to taste and vote. The hashtag #MMSFlavorVote drove social awareness and presence. Coffee Nut won the mini voting campaign.
Regulation of Influencer Marketing
With more and more companies turning to this novel way of marketing themselves, it would be difficult to visualize a business landscape that lets this rapid growth go unchecked and without adequate regulation in place. Thankfully, governments too are waking up to this trending phenomenon. For instance, in the United States of America, Influencer Marketing is under the control of the Federal Trade Commission. It is governed by the rules of native advertising whereby, public relation agencies are required to follow established advertising standards to advertise and endorse. The increased regulation encourages platforms to control the ad revenue including the pay per click feature embedded in diverse content across multiple channels.
Not only that, the Federal Trade Commission requires influencers marketing the product or service to disclose whether the review is compensated for or not. This is to protect consumers by ensuring they are aware of paid sponsorship. Nevertheless, influencers can willfully endorse a product or service, without any compensation if they wish to.
At its core, Influencer marketing is about building relationships to ensure mutual value creation, with an aim to inspire and drive consumers to best decide and promote what brands fit in with their lives. Influencers are tremendously impactful in how they do this, and effectively bridge the gap between businesses and the end consumers. But most importantly, they remind companies the age-old mantra of “Customer is King” and adapt themselves accordingly.