The influencer era

Nicola Dambrosio
Senior Client Executive - Creative & Media
Kantar Millward Brown

How to be effective in a new age of information

First there was print, later came radio and television, and now it’s digital. The evolution of advertising has always – and obviously – followed technological and social evolution.

But the digital era brings an extra level of complexity: consumers have a sophisticated understanding of advertising that may weaken its power. People are tired of seeing advertisements designed purely to sell, and this is true regardless of the media used to communicate them.

Social media culture has changed consumers’ approach to media and information. In an information-rich environment, social media gives people to the ability (for better or worse) to have selected for them the information that most closely matches their network, interests and consumption habits.

This type of screening is replicated by consumers in their broader digital lives and beyond; they opt only to see information that is likely to be useful or entertaining to them.

What does this mean for advertisers? We know that most people skip or scroll past advertising as soon as possible (on YouTube after five seconds), so we should adapt advertising accordingly.

We need accept that in the social world, we must gaining consumers’ attention – and keep it, frame by frame.

Brands do not just compete against others in their category, or solely against other brands. The entire world of information is their competition now – political news, music stars, sport stars, memes, web stars, and updates from friends and family. Each has a different degree of relevance and engagement; think of a social post from a friend compared to a post from a brand.

The social media game is complex; brands need to pay in order to have an impact, but that doesn’t mean they have earned consumers’ attention. They need to do more.

Brands can’t just make claims about themselves or their products. They need to “become the news”, and be useful or relevant, or they will simply be ignored. Regardless of what has been invested in achieving prominence in a news feed, without relevance they will be skipped at the first opportunity.

How to tackle this complexity? Alongside other digital strategies, one of the most effective ways is to use social influencers – the broadcasters of our age.

When using influencers within your digital strategy, it is essential not to use the same approach as with more traditional communication, where your brand is usually only a “guest”. Implementing it in the right way is essential.

When using more traditional advertising, we often say that your brand should be the hero of the story you’re telling, well integrated within the storytelling and essential to it.

It’s not so different when using influencers; the role of the brand within the influencer story should be clear and necessary, telling a story in line with the influencer’s usual activities, creating the perception of a testimonial. Choose your influencers wisely; coherence is always a driver of success.

When people are looking for information about a brand or product, they usually regard friends and family members – their peers – as the most reliable sources.

This is one of the advantage of social influencers (famous in the online world) over other celebrity endorsers (who have become famous through other media); consumers regard them more like peers, which makes them more trusted as advisors. They are perceived as authentic, sharing a common interest with the viewer, and they’re on the most important media platforms we have today. The approach a brand might use with a traditional celebrity endorsement does not apply to online influencers.

An influencer-based communication strategy is only a part of the solution for the digital world. Synergies with more traditional advertising are key, and the role of each is different.

With more traditional digital advertising (such as video and banners), brands can raise awareness and spark curiosity. Influencers’ role is to help brands “go deeper”, working on motivation and brand associations with a smaller target audience. Selecting the right influencers for the brand is essential, taking into account consumers’ habits and passions, and the influencers’ connection with your brand.

To sum up, we can highlight three key points:

  1. Digital is a complex environment that reflects societal behaviors. There is no simple solution when communicating here.
  2. Influencers are an effective way of communicating your brand or product, as they’re perceived as a trustworthy advisors. Use them wisely, with different objectives compared to traditional advertising and with coherence with your brand image.
  3. An effective digital communication strategy should use a blend of digital techniques – influencers, video advertising, teasing, banners and more – working together in synergy and coherence.