Influencer Marketing: how to balance authenticity and corporate

November 15th, 2016
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We can all agree that implementing an influencer marketing strategy is not as easy as it may seem. Combining your branding requirements and the style of your chosen influencer can be nothing short of a challenge. But the relevance of influencer marketing no longer needs to be proven you don’t want to miss out on a phenomenon this scale.

When doing influencer marketing, the main word you have to focus on is authenticity. It is how authentic your communication is that your audience is going to evaluate. Authenticity is one thing modern advertising lacks and influencer marketing might be the key to regain customers’ attention and, more importantly, trust.

Being authentic seems simple enough but it is not taking into account the guidelines you need to follow to stay in your brand’s scope. What can be easy with a young, unrestricted brand can become much more difficult for and well-established one; one that has been relying on the same core values for decades. Values they heavily promote in regular communication media.

In the end the real question you need to ask yourself is how to co-create in the most authentic way without losing what defines your brand in the process?

Managing corporate requirements

Even if we are going through a real communication revolution prompted by the dramatically decreasing power of traditional advertisement, brands remain brands. Their corporate nature compels them to follow guidelines agreed on by their executive officers. And as much as communication teams would like to be disruptive more often than not, their hands are tied and implementing a new advertising strategy is challenging.

Therefore, the first step in executing your influencer marketing strategy is to understand your potential influencer’s universe well and make sure that it is compatible with your brand’s core values and promotional goals.

Careful selection of your influencer, based on their closeness to your target audience and shared values with your brand is key to make your values – and promotion – look authentic. Your newly appointed partner brings his trusted voice to back your promotion efforts but keep in mind he could overshadow your brand. If being overly present in your influencer’s content is a big no-no, you do want to be noticeable.

There is no point in investing a massive budget to create content with a star of the digital sphere if your audience only remembers them at the end of the day. A few years ago, Norman Thavaud – one of the top YouTubers in France – produced several videos abroad for the chocolate brand Crunch. If the content was rather entertaining and worked well with Norman’s fan base, there was very little mention of the brand apart from the opening sequence showcasing crunch sponsorship. Now people barely think of it as a Crunch-produced content.

One thing you need to be careful about and that can be a tricky, is to create content where both brand and content creator stand out enough. You don’t want it to be identified as solely your influencer’s, but you’d lose the relevance of it all if it were to be rejected because it felt like undercover advertisement.

The point of working with influencers is to have someone trusted be your brand’s advocate. Because if consumers no longer trust regular advertising, they do expect a happy few to provide them with genuine feedback.

That is why co-creation is key

Protecting your brand image is paramount and has gained even more importance lately, outweighing product and services. But protecting your branding doesn’t mean that you have to be a control-freak every step of the way.

Firstly, because any influencer allowing this level of control is probably more interested in money and fame than in creating a long-lasting experience. But also because by keeping control, you will probably end up with content closer to advertising than actually engaging influencer content. The whole purpose of implementing an influencer strategy is brand credibility and straightening values – not product or service promotion, even if sales should definitely be one of the KPIs.

That is why influencer marketing should always be a co-creation. As a marketer, your role is to decide what target you are aiming for and what the message to them should be. You set the guidelines that will be the framework used by the influencer to create content. Remember: your guidelines need to be reasonable. Don’t ask for your product to be the centre of each take or for your brand to be mentioned in every other sentence. What you should be deciding is what way your product or service is shown or used, what is forbidden and the general context.

As long as those guidelines are followed, the rest must be decided with your influencer. Once you made sure that they understood what you stand for and agreed upon the consistency of the general message, you need to let go.

Influencers know their audience well and therefore know how to engage with them. Their job is to create content that will not only widen their fan base but also keep the existing fans interested. Basically, influencers do for their own personal brands what you do every day for yours.

Choosing an influencer who believes in what you are selling is crucial. If your influencer believes in your product or service and think that using it will help them straighten their maven status. They will most likely make sure to create content that makes both your brand and themselves look cool.

Your brand must be part of the life story they created which is good for you as it will also make them part of your own brand story, hence making your universe even more appealing.

A good example of fine brand storytelling is the solar panel charger manufacturer StrongVault use of Instagramers. The brand decided to choose storytelling instead of expertise. They asked outdoor bloggers to use their products in real conditions, resulting in eye catching content and appealing for a much larger audience than the geek community.

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November 15th, 2016

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