Owen Hancock, Marketing Director at Impact, looks at the value of partnership marketing in general, and influencer marketing in particular.
If there was one thing to guarantee an increase in the already growing amount of time we spent on our mobile phones, it was a year of enforced lockdown. As our physical worlds and experiences shrunk, so we turned in greater numbers to the window on the world that sits in our hands.
The 2020 Ofcom benchmark found that in the UK more than four-fifths of time spent online was spent on mobile devices, with the number of social media users growing by 13 per cent globally in the past 12 months. We now see the gadget in our hand as a vital connection to the outside world, so it is no surprise that people pick up their smartphone, on average, 58 times a day.
Influencer marketing was already on the up prior to the pandemic, but the past year has consolidated its power for marketers. As advertising outlets were impacted – OOH and cinema advertising was no longer an option, streamed TV removed a lot of opportunity for televised commercials – so affiliate and influencer marketing soared.
Modern consumers are tired of advertising, they don’t trust it and they don’t pay attention to it. Even when an ad blocker isn’t being used, there is an ad blocker in our minds – a cerebral ad blocker if you will. As a consequence, ad spend has fallen dramatically in recent years. But the need for brands to communicate their offering with potential customers is still there – so where can these brands turn?
Partnerships marketing – which includes influencer marketing – is powerful because it bypasses traditional consumer associations. Users go to that partner on their terms, rather than having an interruptive ad. Influencers, particularly, are trusted, having built a relationship with their audiences over an extended period. This means when they highlight the benefits of a given product, they speak with the voice of authenticity and break through that cerebral ad blocker.
As we begin to emerge from lockdown, marketers will begin to take stock and view the world through a new, post-pandemic lens. Adjustments that were made a year ago to the dramatically-altered consumer behaviours that the pandemic inspired now need to be refreshed, but this time with any current or new behaviours considered as a more permanent change.
Influencer marketing is undoubtedly the benchmark against which all emerging advertising techniques are being measured – and left wanting. Gen Z is the only generation who are equally as likely to follow famous people on social media as to receive updates from brands, proving that in partnering with influencers, brands stand a great chance of successfully targeting this audience.
With features such as Q&As, polls and the Swipe Up option, Instagram Stories enable brands and their partners to drive participation and, through considered, inspiring creative, engage in meaningful conversations and build brand-consumer relationships.
eMarketer has projected the influencer market to reach $15bn (£10.9bn) by 2022, and with the most mature clients using partnerships to drive more than 28 per cent of their total company revenue, it’s no surprise that in a 2019 survey carried out by Mediakix, 89 per cent of marketers said ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels. Content marketing distils the truth, so it is little surprise that, as a tool for brand awareness or direct response, it’s become the digital adscape’s leading avenue for marketers.
Trial and error
As with every emerging marketing concept, influencer marketing needed to bed in and benefit from the experience that only trial and error can generate. Early adopters and an industry flooded with specialists and dedicated agencies has given way to a steady heartbeat of experts who understand the intricacies of the medium.
Through 2020, we have seen our partnerships offering grow exponentially, as businesses seek new ways to cut through the clutter and reach consumers in a meaningful, memorable way. Through our Partnerships Cloud, we create entire onboarding and management processes for brands, enabling them to recruit effective influencer partners efficiently and with absolute transparency, ensuring their sales can be tracked and compensated easily and accurately.
Our ability to help creators, brands and agencies analyse and optimise all content drives ROI and impact across each and every piece of content.
Technological advancements ensure we can offer this next-level automation to our clients, freeing up vital time for them to engage in the essential human aspect of partnerships marketing.
By leaving the brand teams more time to engage in personal contact time with each partner, we facilitate the introduction of a human element to the commercial arrangement, strengthening the relationship and developing those long-term links.
The success of influencer partnerships relies on no more than human nature, and our innate, instinctive interest in other people. There is no reason that its benefits will not continue on the same trajectory for as long as the smartphone is our go-to personal digital device.
Brands that set themselves up to establish long-term influencer partnerships will be laying the foundations for marketing success for many years to come, traversing passing fads and trends with ease.