What exactly is influencing the partnerships that brands seek, and what steps must brands take to ensure a more layered approach to their communication?
A more sophisticated approach
Influencer marketing is here to stay, and the type of influencers continues to evolve, along with brands’ reasoning behind their decisions.
New research by Celebrity Intelligence reveals a more sophisticated approach to influencer marketing since 2016 as brands are making more data-driven decisions about their partnerships. But with 41% of respondents – including in-house brand marketers, agencies, consultants and media owners – still relying on recommendations from colleagues and industry peers, the need for more efficient methods of measurement, audience intelligence and data-driven insight is going to increase.
Larger numbers of respondents (45%) are recognising the importance of specialist engagement tools, when in last year’s survey only around a third of respondents did so. When deciding who to partner with, data and insights about an influencer’s audience are the most useful factors for just under 60% of respondents. The personal interests and values of an influencer – and how they resonate with the brand – are also important to brands say over half of respondents.
Generation Z is the future of branded content. Brands looking to use influencers must be more aware of the demands of the emerging Generation Z; a more collaborative, ethnically diverse, brand wary, egalitarian, and socially conscious generation. They are influencers in their own right, building engagement and impact amongst their circle of friends, followers and community, and content creators appeal to them – not just the more well-known ‘influencers’.
They have grown up on screens and a forced collaboration can easily put them off. As they place trust in people who are more like themselves, the industry is seeking out partnerships with everyday talent celebrating brands they love.
While the expectations of Generation Z are driving a growing trend towards more niche and talent-led brand collaborations, this doesn’t take away from the continued relevance and popularity of celebrities – who have largely migrated onto desktops and mobile devices.
But in 2017, only 8% of brands are using celebrities for long term contracts compared with 10% in 2016. Commercial deals that would have once only been available to celebrities are broadening in their scope to also include non-traditional and digital talent, offering a new layer of engagement and credibility.
A more blended future
Brands are beginning to craft more collaborative arrangements between celebrities and influencers. Gap’s #MeetMeInTheGap Autumn/Winter 2017 campaign was a recent example of established celebrity and non-traditional talent collaborating for a TV ad. Fronted by pop icon, Cher, and producer /rap artist, Future, the campaign explored the concept of closing the gaps that exist between us. A diverse mix of unknown digital talent was identified and recruited, including dancing duo Chloe & Maud Arnold, TV host and athlete Rachel DeMita, internet sensation flautist Tyler Bonafides, yodeller Kata Hay, trumpeter Christian Scott, and skateboarding crew the Santa Cruz Lady Lurkers. The talented bunch collaborated on unexpected works of art.
The research revealed that those who have worked with digital influencers, in addition to celebrities, are even more likely to say their approach is effective, with a total of 78% saying their celebrity and influencer marketing programmes are "very effective" or "effective".
Finding your niche
The trend towards a more relatable and everyday influencer gives rise to a new breed of influencer entering the scene. The female niche influencer is set to rise in popularity, representing the largest group of digital influencers in the last year, with 75% of respondents having worked with them in the last 12 months. Female micro and mid-tier influencers follow closely behind, with 68% of respondents having worked with them. This type of talent comes with a lower cost than a top-tier influencer or celebrity, but their leverage around a particular subject can hold more clout. The savvy consumer trusts their opinion on a specific topic more, because they know it’s their passion, so the brand collaboration can seem more credible.
The research suggests that brands must be more informed and tactical about which influencers they choose to partner with. Savvy and self-aware consumers will respond well to authentic partnerships and the returns can be huge. Understanding the data will be key to the success of influencer marketing over the next 12 months.
To learn more about how influencer marketing is shifting, and understand how to make the most of the trend, download The Age of Social Influence report.