The Perils of Isolation for Brands

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The Perils of Isolation for Brands

June 24, 2020

The traditional marketing model has undergone a dramatic shake-up that began before this world of isolation and quarantine. Old-school ad agencies have found themselves stretched thin through a fast-growing and technology-led hunger for new content and new ways of serving that content.

This was the birth of specialist digital agencies and media houses, of production studios set up to develop content for a new generation that lived with technology in their pockets and with instant access to the world and to the world’s views and opinions.

It also led to a growing sense of compartmentalised thinking and agencies working in silos. This sense of isolation often worked against the brand’s interests. Where you had a great idea for a campaign, the execution often seemed to lack that spark that elevated it into something extraordinary. It’s a natural progression when it comes to tech-led innovation. The innovators bring it to market. The early adopters test it out and work through issues. It becomes more accessible, recognised and accepted. And then gains traction with a wider audience.

This where you need proper syndication. As experts in influencer marketing, R-Squared are well aware of how the industry is changing to incorporate collaboration to a much greater extent.

Our dealings with the big creative agencies and the teams of smaller experts have given us a unique insight into how things have been operating and how they need to change. We are finding, more and more, that our value goes beyond the influencer marketer role and has become an integral part of expert syndication leaders. With the creative agencies creating content, the production houses producing content and the paid media agencies seeding content, we saw the social media and influencer marketers being led by that content in a top-down approach. Our model, that we and other industry experts are showing should be the industry standard, is to use the content to create unique pieces that come from unique influencers to bolster and emphasise that content.

It’s an approach that has also led to us becoming experts in the coordination and collaboration between agencies to truly amplify a brand and message.

By syndicating our thinking and output, by collaborating with best of breed from an agency creative to a PR firm to a digital studio to a paid media agency to our own specialisation of influencer marketing – and then coordinating every aspect to work seamlessly together and build on a campaign rather than plug into a campaign – we are able to create something truly remarkable, impactful and memorable.

Syndication is how the modern world will move forward. In marketing, in business, in politics and human interaction. Isolationism and silo-thinking are shown to be ineffective at best and detrimental at worst. And it will take the experts to prove to the world that this unifying of talents and specialisations will lead to a whole, and to outcomes, that are far greater than the sum of their parts.


Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Success comes from an accurate focus on influencer marketing

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Success comes from an accurate focus on influencer marketing

June 11, 2020

Influencer marketing is one of the most powerful channels of communication for any marketer – if it is done properly.

There are tons of horror stories out there, from celebrities to beauty queens to sports stars, of social media going absolutely postal over a tweet or post that is either not appropriate for the audience or racist / sexist / homophobic / just plain wrong.

So how do you filter who gets to be the face of your brand or the mouthpiece for your message?

You speak to experts.

Not everyone with access to a Twitter feed or Instagram account knows what they’re doing. And not every influencer marketing ‘professional’ understands the importance of getting the right person for the right job and the right audience. Many agencies have a set book of influencers with whom they have relationships, and they try to force fit these influencers into their campaigns. With disastrous results.

Context is king in influencer marketing. The right person, at the right time, for the right client, with the right message.

For example, would you believe a famous chef if they were giving you beauty advice? Chances are, probably not. Stick to your recipe, Gordon!

BUT, what if it was Nigella Lawson giving skincare advice? A beautiful, powerful, successful woman who spends her days in a hot, humid, smoky, steamy commercial kitchen?

Different story.

Successful influencer marketing needs to focus on getting the mix right. You need an agency that has the ability, and the influence, to attract influencers from anywhere in the world. You need an agency that knows that a fitness product needs an athlete for maximum exposure, but also has the intelligence to realise that a busy female executive can also appeal to office workers looking for exercise equipment and tips. And can open up an entirely unexpected direction and market.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ methodology to creating a successful influencer marketing campaign. It needs proper thought, careful strategies, proper budgeting and expert management.

And it starts at the beginning. From the strategy stage, influencer marketing should form a part of any campaign. It is a top down approach that helps to eliminate any risks of bias or conflict of interest and brings the perfect person or people into your campaign to give an authentic voice in a world that is on the hunt for falsity and deception.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Is influencer marketing a new phenomenon?

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Is influencer marketing a new phenomenon?

June 4, 2020

In 1890, Nancy Green became the face of “Aunt Jemima”. She was hired by RT Davis Milling to be the face of their pancake mix. She was a pioneer in influencer marketing (she was the first black female model and activist, and she was the first face of a brand), influencing a generation of readymade pancake mix buyers.

In 1905, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle (American silent movie actor) endorsed Murad, Turkish cigarettes. This paved the way for celebrity endorsements.

Before 1931, Santa Claus was depicted as a gaunt man, an evil-looking elf, alternately wore a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin. Artist Haddon Sundblom painted the Santa we know today, drinking a bottle of Coca Cola. This was the first time a fictional character became the face of a brand.

MTV began as a 24-hour platform for music videos and debuted 1 August 1981. The network struggled in its early years, playing clips repetitively, until the launch of the “I want my MTV” campaign. MTV’s Les Garland convinced his friend Mick Jagger to shout the line into the camera. The campaign steamrolled from there with artists like David Bowie and Pete Townshend jumping on board, causing a significant rise in cable tv subscriptions.

The rise of social media created a platform for a new category of influencers to arise, and for all categories, celebrities and other, to share in their own way online, splitting the market. Before, the influencer was in a tv ad campaign (highly scripted) or on a billboard, versus influencer marketing where influencers share personal messages in their own voice.

We recently discussed the rise of virtual influencers and avatars, and we questioned their relatability and whether virtual influencers become a real and significant part of the marketing landscape in the future. What do you think?

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle Marais

Michelle Marais 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. Our team focuses on out of the box solutions for authenticity in influencer marketing.

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Creating connections in a time of isolation

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See what is happening in our world – who is influencing whom and why.

Creating connections in a time of isolation

June 3, 2020

If the recent global lockdowns, social distancing and isolation have proven anything it’s that – even in this digital age – we are a social animal and we crave personal connections.

And that this is the time for influencer marketing – true influencer marketing – to really take the lead for the future of brands and information. It is the time for influencer marketing to become part and parcel of your marketing communications. Not just an afterthought by a marketing assistant who has a friend with an Instagram account, but a well thought out, budgeted and strategically aligned pillar of your communications.

I was struck recently by the impact many celebrities have been making on social media – through words of support, through actions, even with how they are engaging with their fans about their everyday lives and the normalcy of their times with their families.

And then we have the celebrities who have struck an incredibly tone-deaf chord with their social offerings.

Keep in mind, these celebs are not doing what they are doing to make people mock them (well not all of them anyway), they genuinely believe that their posts, instas, and tweets are making a difference, are imparting wisdom and happy feelings.

They genuinely believe that they are creating a connection.

So, where did they go wrong?

This is where a proper influencer marketing model comes in.

Your audience needs to make a connection. A billionaire telling me how delicious a packet of two-minute noodles is will make me switch off – probably snort in derision first and then switch off. But a billionaire telling me a story about how those same noodles were what got him or her through college while they were still dreaming about changing the world? That is a different story.

Why?

Because I can relate to it. I can see myself sitting in a dorm room, fork buried in a microwaved bowl of noodles as I doodle my ideas onto a pad of paper.

Why?

Because it is genuine. It is a real moment, in a real person’s life. It is an authentic connection.

And connections are what make influencer marketing one of the most powerful tools in modern marketing.

Followers are not connections.

The word ‘influencer’ has taken on a negative connotation. The hordes of entitled demanding free drinks or meals or holidays because they will give you ‘exposure’ to their hundreds of followers are NOT influencers.

Ryan Reynolds inviting you into his home to share his experiences and family situation during lockdown – HE is an influencer.

A mom showing you how to create delicious meals on a minimal budget that are healthy and nutritious for your kids – SHE is an influencer.

Each of these people, in their own way, is defining a trend or setting an aspirational goal or demonstrating expertise. One might have millions of followers while the other only has a few hundred, but they share one thing in common: authenticity. And each has a very defined role to play in the influencer market – trendsetter, innovator, expert, reliable source, trusted caregiver, the characters in this play of life are endless.

All you need to do is find the one who resonates with you, your brand, your message, your dream. The one who really believes in your vision. The one who connects with you.The one who is real.

Influencers are real.

Real people with real lives and real stories and real experiences. In a world that is absolutely jam-packed with messages, it is the real voice that stands out. Finding that voice is not always easy.

For companies like R-Squared, it is our life’s work. We make connections. Not between brands and products and consumers and ROI and target audiences. Between people.

We find the real people, with the real stories. And then we let them tell their stories to the world. We do not tailor-make, we tailor source. We take your product, and we search out the people that actually connect with it. And that connect with others like them.

When a campaign is designed, executed and managed by experts, you go from a product endorsement to a life affiliation.

Budgeting for billions.

This is why influencer marketing is growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Pre-COVID estimates were that the influencer market would be worth over $10 billion in 2020. With the pandemic upon us, it was expected to slow down, but the opposite seems to be happening.

This time of isolation and increasing tension is showing us the real need for human-to-human connections. The bombardment of brand messages and unbelievable endorsements is coming to an end. Real people and real experiences are rising. Whether it’s a mom with a few hundred followers or a movie star with a million fans, people want genuine in a world filled with false promises and false hopes.

A personal connection.

Personally, I find this a very exciting time. A time of change and innovation for sure, but more a time of building humanity and building human connections – real human connections.

I have been at the helm of R-Squared for six years and have watched, and involved myself in, the growth of this incredibly exciting industry. I have seen it falter (see the entitled ones comment above) and I have seen it truly put the best of human empathy and emotion on display (see the switched-on celebs comment above).

As an agency shortlisted for Best Global Boutique Influencer Marketing Agency (holding thumbs for the awards in September), R-Squared is at the forefront of making influencer marketing an essential resource for brands and an authentic experience for people around the world.

Our mission is simple: keep it real.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Influencer Marketing Reimagined

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Influencer Marketing Reimagined

April 21, 2020

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 Marais

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.

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