Will Pyne, Creative Chief Officer

2nd July 2018

Reality Check for 'Influencer' Marketing is Long Overdue


Will Pyne

The backlash on influencer marketing was a hot topic in Cannes this year. Unilever chief Keith Weed announced that the advertiser wouldn’t work with influencers that buy followers or use any other sneaky (fraudulent) practices. Big up Mr Weed - it’s time all brands and the whole industry took a hard stance on this issue.

First up, like any newfangled marketing category, influencer marketing has had its honeymoon period and its time to grow up is long overdue.

But rather than expect every single one of the millions of influencers out there to clean up their act maybe it’s down to brands who are paying their bills to think a bit harder about who they use and why.

See, as with so many things in this business, it’s about due diligence; Strategic, creative and executional due diligence.

If you’re working with influencers, do your due diligence. Take a look under the bonnet of their so called ’influence’.

If they have a vast following, what’s the engagement and who are they actually influencing? Clue: a load of bots or fake followers aren’t the best at engaging in content.

Is the audience right for your brand? So often brands will look at the brand fit of an influencer rather than the brand fit of the influencer’s audience. They are the people you’re selling to; the influencer is the vehicle for you message.

When you rent a house you don’t just look at the brickwork on the outside, you look at the rooms within, the plumbing, the electrics, its contents.

If as a brand you’re looking to ‘rent a voice’ in the form of an influencer, and are looking to achieve some credibility with new, younger audiences then let’s be sure you check that what you’re renting is legit. Make sure it’s got genuine substance and is what it says it is.

At Brave Bison we’ve learnt the hard way too. We’ve been working with influencers for longer than most (we used to be an MCN - remembers those?) and over time we’ve got an expert’s grasp of this complex category and its pitfalls.

We advise our clients that longer term relationships are better than one offs. Invest in the due diligence beforehand as well as the influencer, the content and distribution.

At the end of the day influencers are an executional lever that can be pulled to spread your message in a more credible, palatable way to their followers that you as a brand might ever be able to do.

But it needs to be predicated on a long term comms strategy, with ideas at the core. That’s right - ideas are still king. Even if distribution is queen. Let’s place creativity at the top table rather than mere ‘influence’ and work to create brilliant comms with influencers who hold ideas in high regard.

Let’s look at influencers as creative talent who can bring great ideas to life and shape culture, with their influence on others being the by product.

Look no further than the Cannes Lions Social and Influencer winner Nike with 'Nothing Beats a Londoner' which truly blurs the lines between sporting talent, celebrities and ordinary people all ultimately demonstrating influence in a frankly brilliant piece of brand comms.

And in the new age of transparency no publisher or brand stakeholder can afford from a reputation or commercial point of view to spunk hard cash on the emperor’s new clothes.