Photo of Influencer by Simon Harriyott

Positive influence

09. July 2016, Editorial

Standard advertising has long since stopped being effective for customers. That’s why more and more businesses are putting their money on influencer marketing.


Influencer Marketing
Social Media


© Simon Harriyott

Cristiano Ronaldo does it really obviously. He sticks his arm with the gaudy watch in front of the camera and can barely contain his enthusiasm in the caption. What a piece of work! Other stars and social media meteors try to use product placement to achieve the same goal with a little more discretion: Making brands familiar or friendly, inciting to purchase. In marketing jargon it’s called influencer marketing. People with something to say, or who have a lot of influence, become brand messengers by feeding advertising – that often doesn’t seem to be advertising – into their media channels. Celebrated as the new cure for small retail circles. And rightly so.

“Time to relax and bring out my @tagheuer Carrera MikrotourbillonS, the world's fastest Tourbillon watch, to fuel me up before the big match!
#dontcrackunderpressure”, writes Cristiano Ronaldo under his Instagram picture.

Influencer marketing ideally reaches target groups – that’s our assumption at least – without any big to-do or expensive marketing campaigns. It’s practical because trust in classic advertising is declining anyways. Not even half of all customers in North America think that advertising, as we have always known it, is trustworthy (according to a Consumer Trust Survey from 2015). In contrast, 55 per cent believe what bloggers write. At the top of their list are friends and family members (81 per cent). If someone recommends a product, there’s no hesitation, they’ll go right out and buy it. Obviously: Someone we know well would not try to cheat us. For stars like Ronaldo, we at least have the feeling we know them. We feel even closer to bloggers, Instagrammers and Snapchatters in real life. We feel an intimacy because they are like us and because we get to participate in their everyday life. And of course, there’s always a little imitation involved.

Customers prefer to buy products that their family and friends recommend. More than half also trust blogger opinions.

Lord & Taylor, the luxury department store, started a campaign in March 2015 by giving away a Paisley Asymmetrical Sress from Design Lab to the 50 most influential Instagrammers. The girls could style, wear and present the dress however they wanted – the only condition was that they linked the photo to Lord & Taylor. Shortly thereafter the dress sold out. A huge success. What followed, however, was criticism. Because it turned out that the company had paid to have the posts made but didn’t declare that anywhere. No matter what, influencer marketing is often branded as sneak advertising. The important hashtags are usually missing, such as #sponsored or #ad, for example. But things would probably work just as well with them. Honesty in product advertisement doesn’t damage the brand reputation or the social media personality. Instead, it would come across as both standing behind what they are selling or trying to sell.

The brand or the product has to fit with all the photos and posts. Above all, authenticity is needed here.

The basis of successful influencer marketing is – as with all relationships – getting to know each other. The brand and its online messenger need to fit together, the new products need to complement the photo stream contents. Marketing is always a question of transparency and authenticity – even in social media. Or: Especially if there might be shitstorms hovering close by. That’s why coordination requires a certain level of expertise, an understanding of fashion, technology and whatever. André Krüger, a professor at the Jung-von-Matt-Academy and teacher at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, describes it thusly: “An influencer is not someone who collects the largest possible number of followers. A real influencer is someone who has a certain level of expertise and enjoys a high level of trust among his or her followers”. So high that they listen to the buying tips. McKinsey, business and strategy consulting firm, has discovered that word of mouth propaganda from one consumer to the other has double the effect of paid advertising. Another study shows that the return for every dollar a business spends on influencer marketing is $ 6.50. Which is why more than half of all marketing people (Tomoson, 2015) want to increase their social media budgets. The bottom line is that although only a small portion of Ronaldo’s 65 million followers can afford the watch on his arm, the food supplement that he advertised a few posts earlier actually is within the average bloke’s means.

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