Nearly half of all marketers in the US plan to increase their Influencer marketing budget over the next year. Influencer marketplaces have thrived in recent years, driven in large part by the necessary pullback from traditional marketing methods like display media, which are quickly becoming obsolete with the shift to mobile consumption.
For marketers, utilizing influencers to help promote and introduce their brands makes a lot of sense. As social media experts, marketers are able to tap into their already established audience bases. The challenge is that their audiences are becoming increasingly savvy and attuned to detecting unauthentic plugs and forced endorsements.
My career started in Hollywood on the Paramount studio lot where we worked closely with many different types of media talent, partnering them with some of the biggest brands. It was during this time that I started to notice trends in terms of which endorsements worked and which failed miserably. As my career transitioned to tech in Silicon Valley during the boom of social media, more and more brands began seeking influencer endorsements. I experienced a jolt of deja vu - similar trend was readily apparent whereby certain endorsements were widely successful and others became worthless endeavors.
The key factor that separated the winners from the losers is simple and it has little to do with the product being promoted or the type or status level of the endorser. The difference boils down to whether or not the influencer actually loved the product/service they were promoting. In some instances they were invested in the companies - rather than simply being paid to carry out the promotion. In others, they just loved the industry and wanted to be part of it.
One of the best examples that I've seen was an endorsement by no other than Kim Kardashian West. The Kardashian's are known for blatancy and their often obnoxious self promotion. They also peddle brands and products at a nauseam. So when Glu Mobile's Niccolo DeMasi announced his next tent pole game was to be solely centered on Kardashian, many eyes rolled. Yet something was different about this arrangement as compared to other Kardashian-peddled products.
Where many might scoff at the validity Kardashian's credentials as a video game expert, she was in fact an expert at self promotion and social media, and as those that played Kim Kardashian: Hollywood quickly realized, this was in fact what the game was all about. DeMasi wisely negotiated a contract that gave the Kardashian not only an equity stake in the game, but also a little creative control over the final product. The end result was an app that grossed over $150MM for Glu and Kardashian (it is estimated that Kardashian's share was about $45MM).
Glu then published other games with high profile celebrities that lacked the wild success of Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. The reason for the discrepancy lies in the insane amount of promotion that the Kardashian team engendered. They exploited every social media channel and PR outlet at their disposal. Kardashian's posts weren't all about pushing her fans to download, instead they focused on the game, her favorite features, and the strategies underlying her gameplay. She was obsessed with the game and loved everything that it was about (her) and this resonated with players. Since much of the game's monetization strategy relayed on microtransactions during play, this continuously drove fans to ring the register.
Another example of a widely successful endorsement emerges from one of the hottest sunglass companies, Barton Perreira. The company was founded by the previous head of design at Oliver Peoples, Patty Perreira, and the Oliver People then President, Bill Barton. Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Ryan Gosling are often seen sporting Perreira's designs, despite the fact that the company has never launched a traditional influencer program
In 2010, Barton Perreira's President and founding partner, Tim Cadiente, enlisted Indie favorite, Giovanni Ribisi, to be a part of the Barton Perreira campaign. For Cadiente it wasn't about pinpointing that personality who's "Hot at the moment." Rather, it was about finding that ambassador who is passionate about the brand and appreciates the art of fine design.
After two successful campaigns Ribisi wasn't satisfied with just being a face for the brand - he had a passion for design and for Perreira's forward thinking attitude. He successfully pitched Perreira and Cadiente on creating a few designs of his own for the brand. In turn, Ribisi promoted the glasses and the brand to an extent far beyond what any celebrity spokesperson was willing to do. "He already spoke our language, it was real. Whenever he would talk to people about the brand, it wasn't forced, it wasn't rehearsed, but it was from the heart. You can't teach that or put a price on it," said Cadiente. The collection immediately sold out at all the major accounts and that year Barton Perreira's sales rose 20%.
Influencer marketing will continue to grab a large share of the new marketing budget. With display in sharp decline in the mobile era, Influencer programs can prove an effective means by which to promote your brand and acquire new customers. The key is to keep the endorsements authentic by finding endorsers that actual love your product, service, or the particular niche where your brand lives. Stop thinking in terms of volume and selecting influencers based solely on their status or reach. Find evangelists who are passionate about what they are promoting.