This week our Ask the Expert feature is an interview with Rhian Mason, Content Strategy Director at IPG Mediabrands. Rhian dives deep into the consequences created by the commoditisation of Influencer Marketing and shares her thoughts on how to get the industry to the next level. As she says “We are at a tipping point for consumers”, so how do we engage with them in an authentic way? Here’s what Rhian had to say…
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing the Influencer Marketing space at the moment?
With such fast adoption and growth in this sector over the past few years, we’re now starting to see the commoditisation of influencer marketing. The biggest challenge to overcome is to move from a mind-set of quantity over quality, towards authentic partnerships that drive long term value.
When Influencer marketing isn’t treated like a strategic communications channel or responsibly implemented, the results don’t always translate for brands, and I think we’re starting to see increasing dissolution and an erosion of trust from consumers.
However in light of this, it makes me and others in the industry even more passionate to prove the power of this channel and the opportunity of it to really deliver, when done right!
When Influencer marketing isn’t treated like a strategic communications channel or responsibly implemented, the results don’t always translate for brands.
What steps are you as an individual or organisation taking to counter this challenge?
We have ensured that influencers are part of the conversation upfront at the briefing stage with clients. If we think about the strategic role of the activity and how it will work alongside out of home, performance media, or digital partnerships, we can start to extract the maximum value and focus campaign output when it matters at specific stages of the consumer journey.
We will also work hand in hand with media buying teams to optimise creative assets and repurpose on multiple digital and above the line channels where it makes sense.
The most important action we have taken however, is to create a rigorous and data driven influencer validation and assessment process. Our methodology enables us to provide objective recommendations, backed up with extensive audience data and specialist auditing.
Measurement frameworks and bespoke brand studies are also something we are investing in as a crucial layer to any influencer strategy.
The most important action we have taken however, is to create a rigorous and data driven influencer validation and assessment process.
What are the common objectives from across the brands that you work with?
We mostly receive top and mid funnel objectives, such as driving brand awareness, generating social engagement, and delivering word of mouth (WOM). However for longer term partnerships, we want to drive real advocacy so we will look beyond exposure moments towards action based KPI’s and metrics.
What are some of the best practices when it comes to running an influencer marketing campaign?
Best practice starts with the brief – it is the most crucial stage and should be treated as such. Many influencers are not marketers or business professionals, they are creative individuals who are passionate about sharing their voice. You need to talk in their language, no jargon, no subjectivity, just clear actions that still provide them with ample room to come back with something creatively theirs.
To ensure influencer marketing adds real value, it’s also important to integrate Influencer Marketing as a core channel and be part of the planning stages early on to ensure you can act as the sounding board for how the campaign will come to life. If you are going to be putting a brand in the hands of others, make sure you are confident that the creative concept or the media/comms plan works – you can’t retrofit an influencer’s voice, so the strategy needs to have an activation idea that has legs!
What type of content works best for influencer marketing in your experience?
It completely depends on the brands’ business objectives, sometimes tactical light touch social campaigns can work well for sampling or WOM opportunities, other times a 360 degrees partnership with experiential and publisher support is required. For me, I think that moving away from a ‘campaign’ mentality to always on and long term collaborations deliver the best quality content that resonates.
Ultimately, we are at a tipping point for consumers, where a sales endorsement or product placement in content is no longer palatable, audiences will call out something that feels inauthentic – they feel manipulated and rightly so. An influencer needs to be transparent that they are working with a brand, but if the collaboration feels natural and the partnership is a reflection of who they are, their values, sometimes working with larger corporations actually helps elevate them further with their fan base and community – but only when it is done right. It’s a real balancing act.
We are at a tipping point for consumers, where a sales endorsement or product placement in content is no longer palatable, audiences will call out something that feels inauthentic
Is there anything that you feel brands still haven’t quite understood about Influencer Marketing?
I think the element of control and delegation of power will always be a tricky conversation. The whole reason for using this channel to put the brand voice in the hands of someone that directly speaks to your audience in a way a brand could never do themselves. There has to be an expectation that an individual’s tone and style may not be exactly what a brand would choose to do themselves, but that’s the power of influencers, they can bring campaigns to life in a unique and truly effective way.
I also think that influencers shouldn’t still be considered as an ‘add on’ in a marketing plan, or seen as a channel that soaks up any leftover or unused media budgets! If you build this activity into the central consumer journey, you can use influencer content strategically, providing it with a clear role to play, weighted to the most relevant KPI’s and business outcomes.
What’s your take on the current state of the industry? Where is influencer marketing going?
I think we are about to see a lot of change and perhaps consolidation across the marketplace. Publishers and media vendors are now incorporating talent and influencers into their propositions, making them a one stop shop, and many platforms and influencer agencies out there will need to keep up. The people left standing a year from now will be the partners that have been proactive about data and accountability, have built user-friendly solutions to scale up, and have also invested in creative, strategic thinking.
Rhian Mason, Content Strategy Director at IPG Mediabrands
Rhian spearheads the influencer marketing and branded content proposition for both APAC and EMEA for IPG Mediabrands. As a thought leader in her field, Rhian uses her unique blend of extensive creative and media expertise to deliver solutions built on authentic storytelling that place the audience front and centre. She has hundreds of content-led campaigns under her belt, delivering work for global brands such as Amazon, Pernod Ricard, LEGO, J&J, and Tourism Australia.
This post is also available in: Italian