Why you can't ignore influencer marketing
Would you rather spend $6 million or $6 thousand?
It’s a simple question, you just need to decide how many zeroes you are willing to part ways with.
That’s what massive brands like Amazon, Cheetos, Budweiser, Crypto.com, Google, Ford, AirBnB, hell even the NFL itself, had to decide when they put down a bid for a 30-second slot in this year’s Super Bowl coverage.
Let me just assure you that this enormous number—$6 million—is, in fact, accurate. You can check it out right here for yourself.
So I will ask you again, how much money are you willing to part ways with for some popularity?
$6 million or $6 thousand.
If you’ve got benjamins growing out your ears, $6 million might sound like some chump change, but for most brands in 2022, a $6k investment is by far the more palatable option on the table.
I know, you’re probably thinking, who spends $6k on marketing and makes more ROI than the brands in the Super Bowl?
The truth is that $6k can get you pretty damn far if you know who you’re looking for.
That’s right, the real question is who.
The answer is influencer marketing.
The history of influencer marketing
Influencer marketing has been around for decades, you just never noticed it until your Instagram friends stopped sharing regular photos and started posting branded content.
Let’s take it back to the early 1900s when Murad Cigarettes partnered with the world-famous silent actor, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle to promote their Turkish blend cigarette. This was the first time an established brand identified someone within their sphere of influence and leveraged his reach as an actor to sell more cigarettes to customers.
Fast forward another 30 years and we’re reminded of the genius campaign Coca-Cola created with Santa Claus’ image and likeness to promote their refreshing carbonated soda. Very sneaky using the big man to sling sugar into the stockings of the youth, Coca Cola.
Jump up another few decades to the ‘90s and we’re introduced to the first influencer who helped a major footwear company launch a revolutionary brand that changed the shoe game forever–Michael Jordan. I’ll let you decide on the ROI of that investment.
Catapult yourself into 2022 and you can’t go onto any social media feed, website, television channel, or public digital platform without stumbling into a slew of influencers, all trying to convince you to sip their tummy flattening tea.
It’s true, the world we live, work, and play in is changing.
Influencers—whether they be Santa Claus or Salt Bae–are the ones with the grip on the pulse of the people. They are directly hooked up to the IV culture and as such, have a significant pull on the thoughts, habits, and purchasing trends of customers across the globe.
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Why influencer marketing is so important in 2023
Before you pull out your checkbook and start inking a fat wad of cash to your favorite TikTok star, allow me to explain how influencer marketing can take your budding company and turn it into a bodacious brand that dominates the digital airwaves.
Here’s what influencer marketing can do…
Create a deeper connection with the audience.
The world of celebrity marketing is dying. Kanye West telling me to buy Mcdonald's is not going to convince me to grab a Big Mac, sorry Ye.
But when my favorite Instagram photographer that I’ve followed for a year recommends some new film to try, I don’t even hesitate to furiously Google the name and add it to my checkout cart.
The difference here is the relationship.
Influencers operate as leaders of their own niche audiences. They’ve worked hard to grow their own personal brand that has led to the development of their own community, filled with faithful followers.
These influencers act as fellow peers to those who follow them—offering up their 2 cents on the things that both the influencer and user are interested in. Over time, this relationship becomes more intimate, to the point where influencers and their communities are seen as one group that has the pulse on everything pertaining to their specific niche.
When a brand steps into partnership with these influencers, it’s their goal to grab the attention of that audience and show them how their brand adds to the space and can benefit the community members.
This notion is then backed by the influencer, who organically introduces the product or service to the audience in a way that overlooks the traditional sales process and hits home with the emotional side of the potential customer.
In short, influencer marketing takes the brand-to-buyer experience and converts it into peer-to-peer, leading to a more personalized and unique experience.
Humanizes the brand.
Let’s clear this up first–brands are not humans.
One more time…
BRANDS ARE NOT HUMANS!
Brands can be made up of humans, but at its core, no brand is purely human. As such, brands cannot jump into influencer communities with their checkbooks and win over the hearts of thousands.
Why? Because they’re simply a name and a logo.
Influencers, last I checked, are human beings.
They live, breathe, and do the same things that the rest of us do every single day. They spend their time pursuing their passions, working, eating, and watching bad reality television, just like the rest of us. They know what it’s like to get home from an awful day at work and crave some greasy Chinese takeout delivered to the front door.
And they share that experience with people directly.
The influencer, unlike celebrities and brands, is accessible—they feel like your everyday friend who’s making a recommendation. They’re coming to you with something they think will make your life better, and you, in turn, trust them because they’re a credible source and believer in what they share.
Similarly, best friends will always say it to you straight, and influencers do the exact same thing.
Brands are bound by business parameters, permission, and policies. As a result, they are limited in what they can say and do. Influencers, on the other hand, are not bound by the same ropes, allowing them to say and do things that often cannot be done by brands directly.
Doing this accomplishes two tasks—first, it shows that the brand is willing to step outside the boundaries it’s established for itself and work with a respected resource in the space. Second, it lends authenticity to both the brand and the influencer who are partnering together to promote a message and product they want to stand behind.
Breaks the traditional marketing mold.
If you’re reading this you already know that Google, Facebook, Instagram, and other digital juggernauts are jacking up their paid ad prices. What cost a few bucks back in the day is now costing thousands, with little to show in direct ROI.
Did I also forget to mention the rising use of ad blocker tools and personal VPNs? Those have doubled in the last 5 years, leaving paid strategists at a standstill.
To top it off, digital device users are becoming “ad blind” to the traditional tactics of paid. Now, we hardly even notice the margins of our screen swarming with ads fighting for our attention. We’ve become so inundated with the constant stream of mediocre paid ads that rarely do we stop and take time to follow the rabbit hole that is a traditional marketing sequence.
How does one combat this issue?
You guessed it, influencers.
Influencers play outside the realm of traditional marketing channels, opting for emerging and exciting experiences on platforms like TikTok.
You’ve heard of the global monster entertainment platform TikTok, right?
It’s on platforms like TikTok where influencers can share branded content without having to compete against a constantly-changing algorithm and stack of paid advertising. Here, influencers have already built an audience that is actively seeking out their content and showing up to watch every single day.
This gives influencers the freedom to play outside the boundaries of the traditional marketing mold and try things that may have never been done by the brand before.
Many of us (though I can only speak for myself) have dabbled in the dating app world, and know the awkward experiences that come from doing so. Bumble, a dating app company, doesn’t know what it’s like to have drinks with someone who only talks about their three hairless cats.
By partnering with an influencer like AverageTyler, Bumble brings their brand closer to the audience through a shared mutual experience of going on a strange date.
When this is done time and time again by the same influencer or similar influencers, brands can begin to see growth in an audience they never knew existed!
Influencers move the marketing needle forward.
CMOs, project managers, marketing directors, (insert any other title you prefer), are all looking to accomplish one task—move the needle.
Every single effort is born out of a desire to move the brand in a positive direction. Whether that be financially, reputationally, or socially, it is up to the discretion of the stakeholders, but one thing’s for sure, they want to see positive progress.
Influencer marketing achieves this outcome in two ways.
In the short term, it allows the brand to connect with the audience in a different and more authentic way than it had in the past. As traditional marketing channels continue to get choked out by spending and blocked by users, new avenues of attention are going to be needed to find success.
These new avenues can be found in the digital neighborhoods of influencer communities.
Wrestle this, the average TikTok user spends 89 minutes per day on the platform. That means each person is spending over 10 hours a week on TikTok, scrolling through their feed, looking for thumb-stopping content.
Imagine if you were a small, indie record label and you partnered with a dance influencer who uses your artist’s single to create a dance that they share on their channel.
Your song just went from no ears to thousands all in the span of a 30-second video. Before you know it, you could be at the helm of a new viral dance taking the world by storm.
In the long term, influencer marketing functions as a constant for both the brand and the audience.
As the influencer continues to work with the brand and establish themselves as a voice speaking on behalf of it, the brand becomes more trusted to the audience. At the same time, followers of the influencer identify the brand as part of the experience that comes with their content.
Now, what started as two separate communities (the brand and the influencer) has formed into a completely new collaborative community that’s double in size and reach.
Over time, especially when brands partner with influencers that truly align with their purpose and passion, a deep relationship is built between the two entities which spawn new opportunities for campaigns, future projects, and products.
Not only that, but it also opens the door for the growth of an entire influencer ecosystem that is directly tied to the brand and loved by all its followers.
Who’s even doing this influencer marketing stuff?
Let’s be clear, influencer marketing is not for everyone.
If you’re a brand looking to quickly sprint by the competition using an influencer who has a hold on an audience you like, best of luck, this game will chew you up and spit you out.
But if you’re in it for the marathon and look at influencers as partners in the growth of your brand's mission, you will begin to see the tried and true benefits that come from working with respected and creative influencers.
Just to give you some reference, let me tell you about this guy, Josh.
Josh is a multidisciplinary artist focused on bringing character and cartoonism back to the world. His style is different from most other traditional artists in the game, and brands recognize this.
Take a look at this project he did with UNIQLO UT for Disney
He took the sacred image of Mickey Mouse and brought a new, modern look to it, while also paying homage to the original design done by Walt Disney himself. Upon further inspection of Josh’s work, you’ll find that his stark black and white style has been used by brands all over the world to convey a childlike feeling and look to whatever project they put him on.
From the luxury brands like BMW and Modernica, all the way to streetwear giants like Jordan Brand and Medicom Toy, Josh has taken his audience through a journey of different projects while holding on to his roots.
As a result, each of these brands has stepped outside the boundaries of what would traditionally be seen as their medium and entered themselves into new conversations with new communities who value the art that people like Josh create.
While I might be a little bullish for my guy Josh, here are a few more influencer campaigns that will make any good marketer grin.
So it begs the question…
Would you rather spend $6 million or $6 thousand?
$6 million might get you on the big screen at the big game, but $6k could change the game forever.
With the right influencer and right mission, you might just find yourself stacking that green instead of spending it.
And if you’re wondering, “how can I get started with an influencer marketing campaign today” don’t fret, we’re coming to you soon with an influencer marketing recipe that will have your chops drooling.