In order to be ahead in digital marketing strategies, influencer marketing is the most popular way to connect and engage with clients and communities. How can you create a good planning strategy based on values?

The influencer economy is transforming all communication and marketing opportunities as social media channels can reach practically every space on the planet thanks to technology. According to a benchmark report from Influencer Marketing Hub “from a mere $1.7 billion in 2016, influencer marketing is estimated to have grown to have a market size of $9.7 billion in 2020, and is expected to jump to $13.8 billion in 2021”.

The number of platforms and agencies focused on influencer marketing have increased over the years in order to offer a professional strategy and work closely with social media talent. The report also states that 90% of managers believe influencer marketing to be an effective form of marketing, having 59% of them a stand-alone budget for content strategy spending from their marketing departments. 

The number of Google searches for influencer marketing has increased 1500% in the last years, so, as a brand, to be digitally present means to be engaging with followers and consumers, having the right conversations, spotting latest trends and play it from a different perspective to be memorable. A digital brand profile is not enough. 

The Brand Strategy Behind Influencer Marketing: It’s All About Values.

Brands must acknowledge that selecting the right influencers for their marketing target  based on quality, instead than just the numbers of followers, can pay off. 

“Identifying influencers aligned with the brand’s identity and values is mandatory, no matter how many millions of followers an influencer has, if they are not 100% aligned with the attitude and values of the action, it makes no sense to work with them, as their audience will notice that the action is not consistent with the influencer’s personality” states Pedro Barrios, Press and PR manager for an international brand. 

Coherence, authenticity, and identification is what creates commitment in a successful plan, “to make sure the influencer’s affinity with the brand is legitimate, which can be translated by two points: do they organically like the brand? Would they wear it if there wasn’t a paid deal behind?”, says Raquel Vieira, PR & Comms manager for Lacoste for the Iberian region. Both agree that if the influencer represents the brand’s core values is a win-win scenario. 

For Susana de Castro, Southern Communications Manager for Puma, is all about personalization and definition. “Without clear objectives there is no measurable success, I believe this is the biggest key and at the same time the biggest challenge we face. I don’t believe in magic formulas that work for everything, but I believe in strategic communication designed ad-hoc for each client and occasion”. In other words, the key is to set measurable goals to achieve clear objectives in order to draw the right strategy for the plan. 

“It is not the same to communicate a new product launching on the market for a millennial target, as it is to communicate a rejuvenation campaign of our brand to reach Gen Z” Susana de Castro, Southern Communications Manager for Puma.

Branding as a Communication Driver in Social Media Marketing. 

Influencer marketing and social media content can boost brand awareness, drive sales in some particular cases -if a campaign goes viral-, and become a point of reference for the customer to understand what is what you have to offer and why it is related to them. The ultimate goal is to build a community, as the most important thing, and it’s valid for all kinds of brands or companies. Know your client, listen to what they have to say and track all relevant insights you might get into the process. 

Barwise and Meehan, consider four fundamental qualities shared by brands with great orientation to social media in their innovation article for Harvard Business Review:  

1.- Brands offer and communicate relevant customer promises. Their messages are clear. 

2.- Brands continuously try to build trust by delivering on that promise. That means they focus on identity. 

3.- Brands drive the market by continually improving the promise. They are action-oriented, being better all the time is their mindset. 

4.- Brands seek further advantage by innovating beyond the familiar. They are constantly out of their comfort zone as they try to get creative, honouring the promise.   

From Micro to Macro Influencers and Press: A Completely Changing Landscape in Fashion Media Planning.  

With objectives in mind, to start any communication plan, we must carefully select all the tools the brand might need to offer a sharp vision and relevant purpose within a communication strategy. 

Brands usually consider a full approach, which means to integrate all communication tools and marketing resources into a well-crafted strategy, sometimes using digital, sometimes traditional media, other times using both. It depends on the segment, the price and even on budget. 

As print media ads declined in the last years in favor of digital ads or influencer marketing, that does not mean that, for fashion and lifestyle brands, a magazine is no longer an option. “If you want to generate brand awareness, both print and digital media can be equally important. Both, need to have -ideally- the same identity as the communication action you want to develop”, Barrios comments, as he had worked with fashion magazines for 15 years, but recognizes the efficiency of digital, “if you want to impact a younger target, the influencer may be the fastest action to reach it, although if you want to build brand value long term, magazines will always be a good option”

In Vieira’s point of view, influencers can help build awareness and also drive sales if the product is affordable. “If the products are less affordable and more high-end, I see them as a piece in the puzzle, they can tell the brand narrative and represent an important action of a 360º plan. On the other hand, we see key opinion leaders which are also considered micro influencers to be highly influential in terms of conversion, so ROI (return of investment) in this case is high”.

“If it is for a mass market, it can serve both purposes as macro-influencers clearly are even replacing traditional media” Raquel Vieira, PR & Comms Manager for the Iberian Region at Lacoste.

Influencer Marketing, Global Plans Versus Specific Markets Activation. What is the Winning Route?

With a global pandemic scenario, brands are resetting all past notions of how they should act in a global environment, because nothing makes sense anymore. With limitations in international travel, retail, and physical events the investments on digital had risen drastically.

Even major shifts in social media platforms had happened, developing new products and tools to get consumer attention such as Facebook and Instagram Shop, including Shoppable Instagram Reels, or TikTok’s Shopify integration to video ads. All trying to get people’s attention as we spend more time home or we try to connect with friends more often. 

According to Reuters, Snap Inc., owner of photo-messaging app Snapchat beat Wall Street analysts’ estimates for both user growth (55%+ in daily active users mainly outside US or Europe) and revenue to 265 million in 4Q. As a proof that social sharing and digitally connectedness are still on track. 

But not all strategies equally succeed in all markets, as the importance of local has dominated the current social conversation. “If we are talking about big brands, the answer is the combination: be “GLOCAL”. It’s important to us to be keeping up with trends, let’s say, in the U.S. but at the same time, at least for European market, we want to feel identified with icons that speak to us in our language, delivering a more natural message for our environment”, de Castro argues. In her opinion, it’s important to combine a global profile with the proximity and authenticity that a local profile offers, in terms of engagement, it’s good for a communication strategy. 

Vieira agrees, because a micro/opinion leader activation can give the brand credibility. “In streetwear, for instance, a certain type of influencer can be huge in the U.S market but hyper niche in other ones”. As she states, in influencer marketing or in all communications strategies, culture and tradition are important, “you can’t judge a book by its cover, you must understand the audience codes because what can be seen as unacceptable in one market, might be completely standard in another, and this refers to dressing style, tattoos, language, and so on”.

“It is easily detectable when an influencer buys likes or has no engagement at all with their audience, the bubble has burst” Pedro Barrios, PR & Press Manager.

Ethics and Authenticity: Valuable Content Through Influencer Marketing.

Brands, agencies and talent, a three-way team to generate creativity and unusual thinking to deliver value. Any business relationship must be based on trust, at the end, if internal teams can get along and work efficiently, the results will be seen from the outside and we can measure success from different perspectives not only about numbers. 

Personal skills are required to understand the ecosystem and pick up the right influencers or brand ambassadors, “you have to know them personally to see if these people ‘vibe’ with the brand’s values, so do your research, see their engagement, see who in your network follows them, analyze their speech”. Authenticity cannot be fabricated, “and as for talent or agencies I believe they should stick to their style and what they do, don’t say yes to everything, on the long term, less is more” Vieira consider.

For Barrios, the fake influencer bubble has burst, “I think that a good stage has been reached between brands and talent agencies by giving real data -audience and reach-, trustful talent is appreciated”. 

Key people as a communication tool, bring their charisma and lifestyle to the brand, establishing a mutual relationship based on shared values, similar criteria and common interests. Same thing applies when dealing with influencer marketing, “when we rely on influencers, we rely on content generators, and if we ignore their creativity, we lose the value of authenticity”, as freedom and unorthodox content is part of the communication strategy nowadays. “We need to be transparent and coherent about storytelling, and who we work with it is a two-way job” de Castro concludes.