My Place or Yours? How Brands Hook Up with Content Creators

When Drake unveiled his photoshopped album cover for Views in late April, it was not only a brilliant viral marketing ploy to encourage fan-created parodies, it was also intended as a heartfelt tribute to the city of Toronto. But the image of the ‘6 God’ sitting atop the CN Tower is also an unquestionable nod to the subculture of “rooftopping” that has recently emerged among daring young photographers in major cities around the world.

Frank & Oak, a brand that targets young urban creatives (are we calling them “yuccies” yet?), had the ingenuity to tap into this trend for their latest campaign. To promote its new Frank & Oak SC collection of premium utility gear, the Montreal clothier teamed up with Toronto photographerJamal Burger (@jayscale) for a killer content collaboration.

The brand & content creator pairing also yielded a web takeover on the Frank & Oak site, and several posts that reached the photographer’s 176k+ Instagram followers. As told by Frank & Oak co-founder and CEO Ethan Song in an interview with Marketing, “It’s the first time we’ve gone that deep into storytelling.”

 

With collaborations like this, brands are able to associate themselves with influencers that already hold a strong cachet with their target audiences. They are also able to align their brand values with lifestyle attributes and ideologies on a higher level, such as Burger’s quintessential Millennial mantra of incorporating “personality into what you’re doing on a daily basis.” The cherry on top, of course, is for brand messages to benefit from extended organic reach through influencer channels.

Regardless of whether it’s paid or earned, influencer marketing continues to gain mindshare – and share of budget – with savvy brands. According to a poll by Tomoson, influencer marketing was rated as the fastest-growing online customer acquisition channel, with 59% of marketers planning to increase their influencer marketing budgets over the next year.

However, it’s definitely no slam dunk. Without the right approach, influencer campaigns can come across as contrived and can damage both the credibility of brands and the influencers that partner with them. Here are 3 key lessons to keep in mind to maximize success with influencer marketing.

1. Authentic Fit

Finding a natural fit between brand and influencer is key, otherwise followers will see right through the collaboration. It’s not in the best interest of either side for content creators to be perceived as paid shills – just like any endorsement, it should be believable that the endorsee is genuinely excited about the featured product.

 

Fashion & beauty Instagram star Krystin Lee was a natural fit for TRESemmé to help promote its new Beauty-Full Volume collection, teaming up with the brand for a sponsored post about haircare tips on her blog. It’s an intuitive fit, both for the beauty products category and with TRESemmé’s accessibly-premium positioning.

2. Engaging Content

Online influencers are all internet-famous for their own unique reasons, and many of them have hustled to improve and showcase their talents while building a community of engaged followers. They are able to maintain and grow their respective communities by consistently posting the types of quality content that initially drew in their core audiences.

For this reason, it’s a big mistake for a brand to come in with its chequebook expecting to control the message on an influencer’s channel with an iron fist. Branded content, while respecting the brand’s guardrails and positioning, should be respectfully developed as a collaboration and directly from the voice of the content creator.

 

Chicago photographer Paul Octavious was able to tie a personal story into Capital One’s #walletstories campaign concept, which itself centres on individual stories as a spin on their “What’s In Your Wallet?” slogan. It’s storytelling that fits the brand message, but it’s still a story told through the influencer’s eyes and in his words.

3. Channel Relevance

Finding an authentic fit and the right concept for some engaging content is a great start, but the practice of actually hooking up with influencers can be a complicated challenge – especially if it’s a brand’s first time. Yikes!

Thankfully, the folks at Kissmetrics put together The Definitive Guide to Influencer Targeting, which is a helpful resource to start with. It defines the right influencers as having context, reach, and actionability to help drive a brand’s objectives. The guide also recommends giving the influencer an image before reaching out, as a specific genre or personality may work best for a specific brand.

It’s also important for marketers to choose a social media channel that aligns with their brand objectives. While Instagram might work best for some premium brands, perhaps a channel like Snapchat might be more effective for brands going for a fun, youthful approach.

That’s exactly how the Paramount Pictures approached their famous teaser stunt for “Zoolander 2”. Vine’s biggest star, Jerome Jarre, was conveniently on hand at Paris Fashion Week in 2015 for Ben Stiller (as Derek Zoolander) to “steal” his phone for a Blue Steel selfie.

Also worth noting is that some advertiser categories have proven to be more successful than others with influencer campaigns. A 2015 study from RhythmOne indicates that Alcoholic Beverages, Travel & Tourism, and CPG Food outperform the $11.20 in earned media value (from $1.00 invested) averaged across all industries.

Not that it can’t be done with some creativity, but influencer campaigns in Electronics, Telecommunications, and Baby Care don’t have a strong track record. It’s not surprising – just try to think about an influencer campaign for wireless plans without cringing.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s that influencer campaigns will continue to gain prominence within the marketing mix. So whether it’s on YouTube or Snapchat and whether it’s being posted by brands or content creators (or both!), the love affair is growing stronger and stronger every day. Don’t you get that feeling?

What’s the best influencer campaign that comes to mind for you? Or, even better, what’s the worst brand + influencer hookup you’ve seen?

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