The Evolution of ​Influencer Marketing

Gary C. Bizzo  |

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Image: iStock.com/Kritchanut

I’m from the generation that grew up with print media. People bought items they saw in magazine ads, on television or through glitzy ad campaigns. Boy, how times have changed.

I owned an ad agency a couple of decades ago. Advertising was expensive, and businesses needed agencies to navigate the milieu. Today’s social media has created guerrilla tactics — campaigns that cost little or no money — to push marketing to new levels.

Advertising costs have plummeted, and it's easier for anyone to run a campaign. It's harder, however, for consumers to differentiate companies and products from others.

Procter & Gamble [ (PG)] made hundreds of millions in sales during the Olympics from posting ad videos on YouTube rather than television. They could create 15-minutes commercials. Those crazy and humorous Old Spice commercials with the cool African-American dude debuted on YouTube and brought a tired 80-year-old brand back to life. Celebrities, who were movies stars and athletes back in the day, were replaced by no-name faux celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who is largely famous for being famous after the "discovery" of a sex tape and now has a ridiculous number of social media followers.

The global influencer phenomenon became the preferred focus for advertisers. Following "people I admire" has become the way people have created large numbers of followers typically on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Of course, with those large numbers, advertising through promotional ability came at a price. Kardashian can charge upwards of $1 million for a single tweet. Seriously? I’ve got a large following — over 500,000 — and can charge $300-$400 per tweet. You can easily see how a campaign can cost a lot of money.

Innovation is the key to survival and to get around the Kardashians of the world. Enter the micro-influencer. These are social media people who have between 5000 and 10,000 followers. The level of engagement is actually better than someone with massive numbers. The concept of "people I admire" has been replaced with "people like me," and the large global influencers have priced us out of the average business budget.

According to PR firm Edelman, 58% of people bought a product in the past six months recommended by micro-influencers; so the concept works. HelloSociety, a New York Times company, says more than 82% of people who like influencer content said they have made a purchase as a result of an influencer recommendation.

Millennials are leading the charge because this demographic is more loyal than previous generations. If they see something they like, you have them forever. Brands are losing ground unless they have a socially aware side to their marketing. Millennials love businesses that "have a heart."

HelloSociety claims, “Survey respondents were more than three times as likely to follow an influencer on social media than to follow a brand directly, indicating the ability of influencers to better reach consumers. About 74% of people who follow influencers consider themselves influential among their own social circles, telling four people on average about brands, products and services they have seen an influencer promote."

What does this mean for startups trying to get access to the masses? Global and micro-influencers aren’t necessarily "bought" with cash. We like offers, gadgets, recognition and more. I’m an avid videographer, and when a company called NYA-EVO asked me to review its spectacular gadget bag and sent me a "free" sample, I was hooked. My followers loved the bag as much as I did, and my recommendation had weight.

Rather than advertisers looking to influencers who have massive numbers, NYA-EVO went after those who were authentic —those who had credibility by sharing their values and opinions rather than simply being famous for fame's sake.

This has also enabled genuine people with smaller followings to garner attention from advertisers. Nano-influencers, those with around 1,000 organic followers, have found success supporting products and issues they believe.

Rather than signing the bad boy rapper or the quarterback willing to take a knee to hawk a product, companies recognize that people want communities of other people who have shared visions and values. Of course, the celebrity football players will still get the deals with the Nikes of the world because marketers have found that controversy is almost as good as honesty.

The advertising age has come to the point where people love real people, not just celebrities. When a famous movie celebrity, like Robert De Niro, goes after politicians, many people on both sides of the aisle say, Who cares? Keep your opinions to yourself!

While advertisers over the years have been telling us what we like and how we purchase products, the new age opened up a can of worms. When the advertisers crafted campaigns, much thought was put into the message. With today’s ad hoc, amateur influencers, content has become dependent on the blogger, vlogger or influencer’s perspective and often not in the direction the client would have hoped.

Today’s advertisers need to focus on influencers who have a shared vision of the product and appreciate the values for which the company stands. More importantly, the advertiser must realize that the company must be genuine and live up to its hype.

Gary is CEO of Bizzo Management Group Inc.and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).

Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News

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