One prediction we are 100% confident in is that apocalyptic predictions related to influencer marketing will continue to be pervasive. Some bubbles, will burst (probably the “micro-influencer” bubble), the FTC will fine a high-growth brand and the c-suite will make a sweeping statement about brand safety to shield itself from more pressing concerns (already happening, see Casper)— but we are turning our attention to actionable predictions that will usher in a new wave of influencer marketing best practices. We also wanted to give 2020 a chance to breathe so we could gain additional perspective.
#1 Influencer Marketing Metrics will Mature and Finally “Prove the ROI” of Influencer Marketing — Good or Bad
For over ten years, the industry has placed value on vanity metrics such as reach, non-contextual engagement and loose brand affinity indicators. With a rallying cry to “prove the ROI” of influencer marketing, brands will need to incorporate multi-level data, real-world touch-points and contextual indicators to determine the true influence of a potential partner.
At Lippe Taylor, we have been challenging our client partners as well as our Influencer Marketing team to align to real business outcomes including but not limited to: Brand Lift, Perception, Engagement, Online Conversion, Offline Sales and Retail Foot Traffic. When we are all aligned behind business KPIs, we can build out a framework and strategy that gives transparent visibility into the scale of the impact of Influencer Marketing and empower our teams to make informed decisions on future Influencer programs.
While not exhaustive, here are some examples of ways that we have been able to prove the ROI of Influencer Marketing with specific measures.
- Change in click-through-rate vs. non-influencer created content
- Change in traffic and/or audience quality of traffic
- Change in conversion rate and/or cost-per-acquisition
- Change in average cart size and/or lifetime value
- Change in open-rate for newsletter and/or promotional emails
#2 New Criteria Will Emerge to Better Select Influencer Talent that Can Truly Drive Business Results Across Multiple Channels
The Influencer Marketing “casting lens” has largely been built through the authority of media buying priorities and budgets. As such, an entire industry has been built on reach, impressions, engagement, audience and brand safety. These are useful to an extent, but they offer little guidance on the ability of an influencer to drive impact across the marketing mix. A much more contextual and nuanced approach needs to be developed.
In truth, brands are already getting better about working with influencers of substance — and consumers are correcting the market by ignoring inauthentic content — but it is the responsibility of marketers to explore what factors contribute to predictors of success for their specific brand and objectives.
With our balance of art and science at Lippe Taylor, we have started to work through what factors to consider for 2020 and beyond. Some of the questions we have been asking to evaluate influencers include:
- Do they have a leadership role within an engaged community?
- Does the influencer’s audience over-index in purchase intent?
- Do they over-index in category knowledge and expenditure?
- Can you easily describe them to a like-minded audience? (e.g. Olympic Gold Medalist)
- Is their product adoption cycle aligned with our brand and/or audience? (e.g. Early adopter promoting a new category)
- Can they truly be an extension of our team?
- What are the specific strengths and weaknesses of the influencer?
#3 Influencer Marketing Finally Plays a Prominent Role Within the Integrated Marketing Mix
By 2023, brands may be spending close to 20% of their marketing budgets on influencer marketing — yet in most cases it continues to be a misunderstood discipline and activated in isolation from the rest of the marketing mix. Brands winning in influencer marketing, such as Glossier or GymShark, realized early on the power of a long-term integrated approach. Ultimately, some brands will abandon influencer marketing in 2020, citing an inability to measure ROI or poor performance — but too often the same brands place influencer marketing in silos — launching single-test campaigns with undefined objectives and treating it as a single-purpose medium. Its almost impossible to run impactful influencer programs without inextricably linking to data & analytics, social media and content marketing across paid, owned and earned channels.
Brands that have seen signs of success with influencer marketing will begin to double-down and commit to an always-on approach that empowers the teams to refine and optimize strategies and tactics throughout the year. Combined with a more informed selection process — we predict that influencers will start to permeate throughout the marketing mix from paid media all the way through employee engagement.
The role of influencer marketing within existing Centers of Excellence will start to expand — while brands in need of a Center of Excellence refresh, may start with influencer marketing as their guide since it cuts across so much of the marketing mix. In fact, we would not be surprised to see brands including influencers within their workflows, inviting them to collaborate with the integrated content marketing and social teams.
#4 Brands Will Empower Influencers to Take More Risks as They Forge Stronger Long-Term Relationships
“Break through the sea of sameness” — “Create disruptive experiences” — “Thumb stopping content” — brands demand it, agencies promise it and influencers are supposed to produce it — then why is there so much bland influencer content?
As brands continue to forge meaningful long-term relationships with influencers — mutual trust will empower all sides to create content that stands out, drives impact and is brand safe. This all begins with building 1:1 relationships with your influencers and focusing just as much attention to the onboarding and ongoing communications as you do to the deliverables. This goes both ways — brands will be quicker to cut ties with influencers that are not invested in the partnership and double down on those that are. Note the key word — “invested” — this is different than performance — the best brands will empower their influencers to take creative risks (with guidance) that the integrated marketing teams can build on, learn from, and/or optimize.
In a relationship built on mutual respect and trust, the brand, agency and influencer all work harmoniously to deliver creative concepts and assets that “break through the sea of sameness” — “create disruptive experiences” and “thumb stopping content”.
Kellogg’s RXBar is an early example of a brand that is empowering its influencers to take more risks in 2020. The company is creating a series of limited edition flavors that will be marketed exclusively through their influencer co-creator partners.
“The intention is to put everything in the hands of the influencers. Our marketing team is really stepping back and allowing them to have the freedom and control of the marketing, one hundred percent.” — Jennie Jones, Associate Brand Manager RX Bar
As we wrote about in the beginning of the year, Kellogg’s is another example of a heritage brand that’s finding new and creative ways to leverage some of the best practices from DTC tactics while not eschewing brand building.
#5 Integrated Influencer Strategy Becomes a Must-Have for Brands
Growing budgets combined with rapid changes to digital and social platforms are exponentially shifting the influencer landscape while performance-oriented marketers are quick to dismiss influencer marketing as a passing fad that’s ineffective and too unpredictable. Therefore, brand marketers have typically turned to turnkey and marketplace solutions for influencer marketing that promise to streamline and optimize the process — only to discover that renting oversaturated talent with minimal influence is not a sound strategy.
There’s no secret combination of tiers, platforms and posting frequency that will lead to success in influencer marketing. We have found that our success rests on the ability to derive data-inspired insights and turn them into integrated influencer programs that get in front of the right audience at the right moment in time. Partners who can measure and plan for meaningful business results through integrated influencer marketing will thrive in 2020, while those who simply connect influencers and brands will start to lose prominence.
We are bullish on the future of influencer marketing — there are some dramatic changes that will take place within the industry — but brands that create a meaningful foundation will not only be able to weather any storm that comes from a bubble bursting — but be able to use the waves to rise above the competition even further.
At Lippe Taylor, we launched Starling AI® back in 2018 to look at the true influence of potential partners within the context of a brand’s objective-based measurement and planning framework. If you’re struggling to understand the influence of your partners, reach out to us.
And if you’re still trying to figure out how to prove the ROI of influencer marketing, create more impact through influencers or just understand the landscape — don’t worry, we are here for you.