Influencer Marketing Reimagined

The effect of Covid-19 on influencer marketing 

R-Squared has created a State of Influencer Marketing Slideshare to assist marketers.

Slide content:

  1. Influencer Marketing Reimagined: The effect of Covid-19 on influencer marketing
  2. Overview: The uncertainty around Covid-19 is extreme, to the point of threatening business continuity. We need to find certainty despite the uncertainty. Statistically, brands that are optimistic towards media placements during a recession or crisis are far stronger after it’s over. Right now, the human touch is needed in marketing. This is what will be needed by an audience now, in order to strengthen the existing relationship and convince them to purchase products or services later.
  3. Landscape: Many industries cannot operate. There is a significant limitation. Those industries that cannot trade as usual, have either cancelled or reduced their budgets, while others are still communicating or increasing communications with their audiences. This is where audiences need human connection rather than brand messaging.
  4. Landscape: Global statistics are not applicable to South African buying behaviour due to the severity of the lockdown (South Africa’s lockdown is the most severe internationally). What we have seen is that there is a significant cut in ad spend. We know there is a partial shift to digital, as OOH and sports sponsorship is unable to run.
  5. Landscape: There is a risk of breaking a strong bond that was built over years with audiences if there is no communication now. Keep the communication open, even if a company can’t trade, so that the brand will be the first ones to be remembered by the consumers at the end of the lockdown. We believe that for most brands, it is no time to sell, it is time to be there for an audience, and to strengthen the brand affinity.
  6. Landscape: Fohr is an influencer membership network, and their research shows that the average screen time is up to 5h40 per day, an 18% increase during the Covid crisis. They noted that because screen time is increasing, so is the standard of content. Their statement is “As more and more people turn to e-commerce, there is an opportunity to put out impactful messaging that will nurture your current customers and provide value to them during these completely unforeseen circumstances.” Source: https://www.socialmediainformer.com/edition/weekly-communities-social-media-2020-04-04?open-article-id=13434383&article-title=the-impact-of- covid-19-on-influencer-marketing&blog-domain=later.com&blog-title=later
  7. Landscape: Followers are paying attention to this new era of content creation, with nearly 80% of influencers reporting higher engagement from their followers. The opportunity here is to engage audiences with content that is hyper-aware of and sensitive to its surroundings. People are much more likely to engage with content that is authentic and tasteful, than that which is ignorant of extenuating circumstances. Source: https://www.socialmediainformer.com/edition/weekly-communities-social-media-2020-04-04?open-article-id=13434383&article-title=the-impact-of- covid-19-on-influencer-marketing&blog-domain=later.com&blog-title=later
  8. Landscape: The Fohr survey also found that over 40% of influencers currently are reducing their normal rates, and the reductions average at 30%. Fohr concludes that optimal influencer marketing over the Covid crisis is to build brand communities. Source: https://www.socialmediainformer.com/edition/weekly-communities-social-media-2020-04-04?open-article-id=13434383&article-title=the-impact-of- covid-19-on-influencer-marketing&blog-domain=later.com&blog-title=later
  9. Context: Regardless of whether people have a good job or bad job, whether they have children or not, whether they have financial means or not, whether they’re in a relationship or single – we’re all in the same boat.
  10. Context: Even if an influencer is endorsing a brand, never has messaging through influencer marketing been more relatable. Whatever an influencer endorses right now relates to all of us, whether the content is branded or not, the audience relates much more to authentic influencers at the present time.​
  11. Context: Working with each influencer individually as to how they will execute their mission in their own way, is key for authenticity and resonates with their audience.
  12. Context: When influencers share what they miss about a product or experience, one visualises what they share. They create the dream for an audience.
  13. Context: Investing in increased communications during a recession or crisis results in long term gain. The natural approach is to cut spending (as a result of general fear or uncertainty), harming consumer relationships built over years. Agility and innovation in communication must be applied to strengthen the customer relationship, rather than putting it at risk.
  14. All generations have shifted primarily to online streaming and online video consumption, as a result of Covid-19. This is the first time ALL GENERATIONS are consuming their media in the same way. When sharing personal content, videos also capture the emotion and the authenticity in a much stronger way, which is even more powerful when coming from influencers with a person to person message, sharing real emotions.
  15. Media Consumption: Gen Z • Online videos • Online / TV streaming. Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
  16. Media Consumption: Millennials • Online videos • Online / TV streaming. Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
  17. Media Consumption: Gen X • Broadcast TV • Online Streaming. Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
  18. Media Consumption: Boomer • Broadcast TV • Online Streaming. Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
  19. Media Consumption: Millennials are the most active. Searches for Coronavirus, listening to music, and watching movies/shows have the highest activity. Source: https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/
  20. Buying Behaviour: In the USA and other international markets, consumers can still shop online. A survey of 1’000 US adults in Mid March discovered 42% of consumers were shopping more online, with only 8% saying they were engaged in less e- commerce. Source: https://www.valassis.com/infographics/latest-changes-in-consumer- behavior-amid-covid-19/
  21. Buying Behaviour: The virus also appears to be motivating many consumers to try on new shopping behaviours. Valassis (an advertising and marketing intelligence company that predicts consumer behaviour) found that at least under the circumstances, brand loyalty was being impacted: • 48% are remaining loyal to their usual/familiar brands. • 21% are purchasing a mix of usual and new brands. • 13% are “taking the opportunity to discover new brands.” • 19% are feeling less brand loyal, buying what’s available. Source: https://www.valassis.com/infographics/latest-changes-in-consumer- behavior-amid-covid-19/
  22. Social Media Usage: Social media usage in the United States is up. The same study found that 39% of respondents have increased social media usage, while 7% have decreased it. The remainder are consistent in their social media behaviour. South Africa hasn’t released statistics to support this, but due to the parameters of the lockdown, we believe these stats will reflect a far higher usage of social media. This also factors in that many who do not have access to data on their phones have access to wifi at home. Source: https://www.valassis.com/infographics/latest-changes-in-consumer- behavior-amid-covid-19/
  23. During the Covid-19 crisis, influencers have the capacity to create a much more powerful emotional connection and resonance to the brand by showing agility, innovation and creativity in producing content that will really show influencers and the audience are in the same situation, missing the same things.
  24. Market Examples – Automotive: Moms can relate to privileged moments with their kids. Roadtrips, driving the kids to their grandparents, or visiting a farm. When parenting influencers post content expressing how much they miss this experience, we relate and connect emotionally, even if the post is branded by an automotive manufacturer.​
  25. Market Examples – Alcohol: In South Africa, buying, selling and transporting alcohol is illegal under the lockdown. Many of us are in fear of running out of wine or beer before the end of the lockdown. When an influencer shares a throwback picture with an alcohol brand, he knows he will be unable to purchase again until the lockdown is over. Every sip he takes and shares online makes us feel like we can’t wait to try this wine, and this will probably be the first bottle we want to buy afterwards. This wine becomes the dream.
  26. Market Examples – Travel: The longer we’re in a lockdown scenario, the more we need to escape, and we dream of travelling. We all want to travel / get out of home. When travel influencers cannot travel and relive their last travel experience by sharing beautiful pictures and videos of their last trip, the audience shares the dream, even if the content is sponsored by a hospitality brand.
  27. Market Examples – Health and Medical Insurance: By being locked down, we all face the option of staying in bed more, exercising less, eating more comfort food, and not respecting or staying in a healthy routine. Influencers face the same challenges in their commitment and cannot go to gym. They would become increasingly aspirational by showing how to respect or start a healthy daily routine from home, from exercise to eating habits.
  28. Market Examples – Entertainment: Is working with the level of commitment, while home schooling your kids a challenge? It’s also a major challenge for influencers, who often also have a 9 to 5 job. Homeschooling while working from home can be exceptionally difficult. It’s hard to focus while children need attention. Influencers can bring awareness to this, showcasing how children stay entertained, while they’re learning, in partnership with gaming platforms and educational entertainment through streaming media channels.
  29. Market Examples – Education: Bored at home? Tired of not going out or going to work? eLearning channels can sponsor influencers’ education for the duration of the lockdown. Further, the education can be both professional and personal, focusing on upskilling knowledge and expertise, but also focused on learning how to paint, do yoga etc. Influencers can demonstrate their own personal journey to enlightenment.
  30. Market Examples – Virtual Experiences: Are you missing meeting up with friends and family? Influencers have the same experience. They can however connect virtually. They can invite their pods to Zoom meetings, challenging each other to select lookbooks from retailers’ websites. An example of an engagement mechanism could be: “I’ve found a picture of what I’d like to purchase after the lockdown lifts, what colour should I buy?” This could be a teaser, before the brand sends the products at the end of the lockdown.
  31. Conclusion – It’s critical to stay in contact with an audience, in a meaningful way. Everybody in a non-essential industry is stuck at home. Connect on a person to person level, and any brand will preserve the relationship with that audience in the future. One needs to be agile at this difficult time. Influencer marketing is not only for immediate sales but is powerful and maintains and/or creates excitement and brand love.
  32. Thank you: Are you a brand or an agency? Contact us to leverage your brand love through influencer marketing: partners@r2digital.co.za

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle is the Digital Marketing Manager at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing agency partnering with some of the largest brands in South Africa and internationally. Through this crisis, our team has seen a change in the marketing landscape, and we’re sharing this with you now.


From Traditional To Influencer Marketing

My transition from a traditional marketing background to an influencer marketing marketing agency was challenging. Having focused on corporate messaging, I could draft technical articles and press releases easily. However, I soon realized that there was an enormous difference in the type of content creation required for both environments. But why?

Here’s my guess: before authentic influencer content creation, marketers clung tightly to the rules, dictated by generic corporate print marketing requirements. With the rise of digital content, the rules have become infinitely more flexible. Original influencer content creation is well-received by social audiences, but it’s still foreign to many within a traditional corporate marketing environment.


“Conventional vs. Influencer Marketing”

I’ve discovered that the biggest difference between conventional marketing and Influencer Marketing is that conventional marketing offers one generic corporate campaign message broadcast to a static target audience (the message is delivered by the brand or creative agency, and everyone within the target audience may see the same message), where Influencer Marketing enables social influencers who are content creators to endorse brands in their own way and style, in their own words. It’s personalised and it’s people talking to people. This means that extended audiences in the same target market may see completely unique, relevant content and messaging on the same campaign, dependent on the influencer/s that they’re following (meaning that the content is original and tailored to the influencer’s audience, and it’s not generic).

When I scroll my social media, I know I don’t want to read meaningless propaganda, and I don’t want to be exposed to the same message broadcast in the same way, across multiple platforms. However, when people I trust talk about their experiences with brands? Ahhh, then I have all the time in the world.

“We are living in an era where people don’t pay attention to advertising. I hear it constantly: “I’m bombaded by adverts everywhere I go”, or “I’m tired of hearing about NEW and IMPROVED”, or even “I don’t even notice the adverts anymore – it’s all background noise.”

Conventional marketing as a stand-alone strategy just doesn’t work as well as it used to. Adobe managing director Australia and New Zealand Paul Robson has said: “the preference consumers have towards traditional advertising has more to do with digital. The reason consumers don’t see the value is that it’s not personalised or relevant. That relevancy creates an affinity.” What does that really mean for you? Well, the marketing landscape has changed, and the most productive way (with the highest expected ROI) to continue having relevance with your audience is adapting your approach to influencer marketing.

I read through a 2017 survey looking at the state of Influencer Marketing, which asked 170 marketers from the Consumer Packaged Goods, Food & Beverage, Media, Retail and agency verticals how they viewed the future of this burgeoning arena. 87% of respondents said that “Influencer Marketing’s top benefits entail creating authentic content about their brand.” Authentic content? Your audience can spot false advertising a mile away. You’re speaking to a tech savvy, media literate audience. This is an age where we are all consumers, and we’ve educated ourselves online before we buy anything of importance to us.

…”when working with Influencers, brands have to let go and allow influencers control of the narrative to preserve the authenticity of what is being communicated.” Priyanka Dayal, content marketing manager at Centaur Media PLC, also emphasizes “today’s consumer can tell the difference between an advert, a personal recommendation, and an advert masked under a personal recommendation. For influencer marketing to sustain, authenticity and credibility is key.”

What Priyanka says dictates a change in how you approach Influencer Marketing from a strategic perspective. Although conventional marketing and Influencer Marketing are complementary, each should be managed very differently.

Communicating your authenticity as a brand via influencer marketing should only be managed internally when you have the right skillsets in place. I’ve found that a frequent occurrence in marketing departments is the view that influencers can be managed in-house where the right expertise is not available. This often leads to influencers following a script, and delivering a non-authentic message, reducing the impact and lessening the value of an influencer marketing campaign.

While it is possible for you to run effective campaigns in this way, it requires that you:

  • define the Influencer Marketing strategy
  • select the perfect influencers for a specific message or brand (based on a deep understanding of your target audience, and not on a headline or bio)
  • translate your Influencer Marketing strategy to influencers clearly and concisely, ensuring that your agency / brand integrity and reputation is increased
  • manage your campaign/s (and the influencers’ content) from inception to completion

When the strategy isn’t conveyed correctly, the process can lead to your influencers lacking authenticity, and brands losing credibility with audiences. As an example, Microsoft were convinced they had the ultimate in an Influencer Marketing campaign, by contracting Oprah Winfrey. The irony? Oprah’s tweet extolling the virtues of the new Microsoft Surface were sent from Twitter for iPad.

You cannot ignore the technical expertise of a dedicated Influencer Marketing agency, to ensure you have access to cutting-edge market innovations.

So what I’m really saying is that great Influencer Marketing campaigns don’t look like advertising. They’re the stories around brands that your influencers share organically. Amanda Duncan, Senior Communications Officer at Microsoft, says that you should “focus on a long-term approach rooted in a two-way dialogue. It’s often the phases between campaigns and events that allow you to have in-depth conversations, get valuable feedback and really gain a deeper understanding around what matters to your influencers. Investing this time and valuable resources builds credibility. This credibility and trust with an influencer is key to ongoing success.” And they would know.

In upcoming articles, my colleagues and I will demonstrate how a kickass Influencer Marketing campaign should be run. You can look forward to learning about the importance of having a dedicated influencer marketing strategy translated from your brand and marketing strategy, how to effectively match the influencer’s audience with your target audience, how to manage your influencer relationship in order to protect and increase your brand equity, and finally, what’s required when your Influencer Marketing campaign is live. These articles (and more) will be released weekly. If you’re dying to know more now and you’d like expert assistance with creating and managing your Influencer Marketing campaigns, you can contact me on michelle@r2digital.co.za and follow us on LinkedIn