Just recently I wrote an article for CIPR’s Influence magazine covering the hiring of influencers in the US as a way to get consumers back into shops.
It’s a unique approach to working with influencers, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, but even if COVID had not have changed the world landscape in all sorts of ways, influencer marketing would still have headed in new and unique directions.
We are a young sector within the wider marketing world. But the sector is growing and with youth, growth and experience comes more innovation.
The standard ‘contract’ between an influencer and a brand is that the brand gives the influencer something and the influencer creates something to their audience based on that which was given. Perhaps that structure will always underpin influencer/brand relations, but specific creatives that manifest from that will change over time, as with the example from Nordstrom in the US.
Here’s six things I think we’ll see from influencer/brand relationships over the next 12 months, as creative marketing departments really embrace working with creative influencers.
Encouraging us ‘back to’ something and showing COVID-safe environments
This is the Nordstrom example again really, but there will be more of it. COVID-19 is near to the top of everyone’s list of concerns at the moment and brands are going to want to show that they have methods in place to solve that concern.
Whether that be in-person attendance at events or locations - think theme parks or cinemas - or the more mundane everyday, like going to the shops, the use of influencers to show COVID-compliance and that an industry, place or activity is ‘open for business’ again is going to prevalent as we head into the winter months and out the other side into hopefully a more positive 2021 environment.
Making something ‘cool’ again (or... for the first time)
Influencers are cool. You may not think so, but your audience does, which is why they follow them in such large numbers.
Brands that need to acquire a level of coolness - either because they have lost that which they once had, or never had it to begin with - are going to recognise that influencers may be able to lend them some of the ‘it’ factor.
This will be a tricky one for influencers to manage. Successful influencers tend to be those that work with companies who are ultra-aligned to their followers. This will push them outside of that zone and present a difficult calculation around whether the influencer can lend some cool to the brand without detracting from their own status.
To appeal to a brand new audience (or... influencers appearing in out of place spaces)
Part of the growth in the influencer space is going to be driven by brands and agencies who have previously avoided influencer marketing choosing now to pursue influencers as a route to market. This will lead to some major brands, perhaps at the highest echelon of brand worth, suddenly engaging with all sorts of influencers.
We are currently working with one such brand. A producer of luxury goods, the brand has recognised that working with influencers may lower the age of their target market for the first time ever, whilst preserving all of the traditional brand values that make them who they are. We’re going to see lots more of this.
Real creative standouts being really creative
You’ve seen and perhaps even follow some really creative Instagram and, increasingly, TikTok accounts. The one who’s videos appear to be (or actually are) magic. Clever editing, supreme video or photography expertise and a creative mind are all hallmarks of these accounts. They’re not hallmarks of 50%+ of the TV advertising available on ITV on any given evening.
Sooner or later, brands and agencies are going to start to value the creative spark influencers lend more and more. They’re going to want to leverage that creativity in their own creative endeavours; content marketing production, advertising and more.
As brands get more comfortable with influencers and establish more long term relationships, the trust and scope influencers are given to run wild with their creativity will increase.
Exclusivity and viral releases
Imagine the scene. The latest FIFA video game release isn’t going to be delivered via a flashy trailer or at a posh industry event in Los Angeles; it’s going to be live-streamed on a collection of influencer’s Twitch channels, with all the influencers getting the game to play before anyone has even seen it.
The social moment that sort of release would create would be tremendous. Such a moment is coming.
Netflix have launched new content in a viral manner previously, eschewing traditional publicity and their new show, Selling Sunset, reportedly selected cast members based on their social media following.
The viral potential of working with a huge number of influencers on something genuinely major is huge. At some point a brand is going to capitalise on that potential by rethinking something like a video game release. And then others will follow.
Challenges, game shows and the future of reality TV, oh my!
10 influencers, one free Ryanair plane ticket to Barcelona, one treasure hunt, the winner gets a round the world train ticket and a cash prize. Follow along with your favourite ‘contestant’ or watch a constant live stream on IGTV or similar.
This sort of thing is coming.
It’s not that far removed from reality TV, but it uses channels that better engage with certain demographics, where they’re used to seeing such content. Again; the virality would be huge and there’s potential for cross-partnership of brands, to maximise exposure.
Just don’t bet on Nasty Nick.