Brands vs. Influencers: The Battle for Creative Control
Thursday Dec 6th, 2018
As technology advances, brands are finding that traditional, in-your-face marketing methods are no longer resonating with younger audiences. Today, it’s about engaging with consumers through aesthetic experiences. Accordingly, brands have aligned with social media micro-influencers to produce content that actually resonates with their potential customers. However, merely tapping into an influencer network and pressuring content creators to post about your products isn’t enough to attract your target audience. Consumers are searching for content that is relatable, authentic, and engaging. Further, when it comes to considering a purchase, people want a social network that they can consistently trust for product and service recommendations. These digital communities largely consist of friends, family, and micro-influencers. But it’s what these three groups have in common that is so significant: They’re all comprised of people.
Why People Trust Influencers
Yes, consumers do follow brands. In fact, about 90% of accounts follow a business on Instagram. However, it’s unlikely they do so for a trusted recommendation. In a study by Ipsos Connect and Trinity Mirror, 42% of consumers claim to distrust brands and 69% distrust advertising. Furthermore, this dubiousness seems to be getting worse as 37% of consumers trust brands less than they used to. To combat this distrust, smart brands are partnering with micro-influencers to showcase their products through authentic lifestyle content. However, some marketing departments are still wary of aligning with these stylish strangers and relinquishing creative control over how their products are represented. To marketers, it seems dicey to invest in branded content that veers off brand guidelines, when in reality, it’s actually for the better to let their micro-influencers take the reigns. To better understand what an effective micro-influencer marketing campaign looks like, we need to explain why people are so apt to engage with influencers in the first place. Micro-influencers are real people who have built their online personas through curated content on their social media profiles. Post by post, they progressively earn their audiences by providing glimpses into their lives. However, the key here is that Instagram users choose who they want to follow. In a time where consumers are exposed to up to 10,000 branded messages a day, according to the American Marketing Association(AMA), people don’t want their social content to simply add to the stack of ads they’re already seeing. When browsing their social feeds, people stumble upon influencers and decide to follow them when their content is:
Consistent and reliable
As people begin to follow an influencer for several weeks, months, or years, they learn more about that influencer’s life and personality. People become personally invested in these micro-celebs, and slowly start to feel like they know them.
People Trust People
Through consistently high-quality content such as engaging photos, videos, and stories, micro-influencers attract and establish trust with their followers organically. This dependability is why audiences have confidence in their product and service recommendations. With each post, an audience becomes more attune to an influencer’s voice, aesthetic, and style. Content creators become digital confidants, hashing out good advice, style tips, and product recommendations. In other words, a micro-influencer’s endorsements are essentially the modern version of word-of-mouth marketing. As long as the message is authentic—meaning in the influencer’s own style—people will generally trust the recommendation. What’s more, influencer marketing works because of the power of genuine endorsements. According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly half of consumers regularly read online reviews before making a purchase, and 78% of consumers find online reviews reliable. Moreover, 59% of shoppers trust online reviews from strangers as much as a recommendation from a real-life friend, based on research from ReportLinker. When an influencer authentically showcases a product, people trust the endorsement.
People Distrust Disingenuous Content
On the flip side, consumers are becoming more tech-savvy, well-informed, and not as easily duped. They can see right through inauthentic posts that don’t jive with an influencer’s previous content. Research by Stackla found that 70% of the time, people can distinguish between consumer-created content and brand-created content in a social post.
Because consumers can generally tell when content is solely advertorial, influencer campaigns that are doctored up with brand guidelines (i.e. regulated aesthetic choices brands require to remain consistent throughout all of their marketing efforts) definitely aren’t helping anybody. In fact, imposing brand guidelines on an influencer can actually damage the effectiveness of the campaign. How? Brace yourself:
People want authenticity, consistently. That’s why they follow influencers and trust their recommendations.
People trust people over brands. Actually, 84% of people distrust traditional advertising, according to Clickz.
When an influencer’s post is clearly shaped by brand requirements, it disrupts the influencer’s curated profile. Brand guidelines create inconsistencies with the influencer’s style, aesthetic, and language.
A break in consistency causes a break in trust. When an influencer uses brand language or visuals in their post, consumers see this as more of a traditional advertisement. Remember, consumers don’t trust ads. Accordingly, they may stop trusting the influencer, and subsequently, your brand.
To maximize the effectiveness of a campaign, endorsements need to be in the native voices and styles of the micro-influencers. For example, you may be a marketer for a high-end fashion brand. You want photos with dark lighting, studio backdrops, and specific verbiage in the caption. However, forcing micro-influences to meet creative guidelines, or worse, asking them to endorse products they don’t genuinely enjoy, will cause inconsistencies in the influencers’ content. So as to bridge that gap between what brands want and what content creators need to produce, it’s critical to consider the context of these complex working relationships. For instance, if you’re looking for posts that look like modeling shots, align with a content marketing agency that will place your products into the hands of micro-influencers who tend to match your aesthetic. In this way, content creators can post naturally, consumers will retain their trust, and brands can secure content that organically fits meets their preferences. To further ensure the high quality, authentic, and engaging content, ApexDrop does not require influencers to endorse a product if they’re not happy with it. Instead, we ask them to complete a private, comprehensive survey explaining their reason for not posting. ApexDrop will then find another influencer replacement for your campaign. This means that brands are always receiving genuine endorsements, and they’ll gain deep, valuable insights into consumer opinions.
What Does This Mean For Brands?
Consumers believe that user-generated content (UGC) is the most authentic form of content online. UGC refers to any post, recommendation, comment, or other communication by ordinary people about products, services, or brands. What’s more, Adweek reports that 92% of people trust UGC—even by strangers—over traditional brand advertisements. In many ways, high-quality influencer marketing content is UGC. Subsequently, it’s advantageous for brands to relinquish creative control when working with influencers. Remember, people choose to follow influencers because they are real people sharing great content. When an influencer’s posts are polluted with branded verbiage and specifications, they might as well be standing in a shopping mall with a clipboard. Ultimately, brands that hope to resonate with an audience should give creative freedom to influencers who already know how to connect with their followers.
Reach Your Audience Authentically
Giving up creative control can be a point of contention for some brands. But when you align with a content marketing agency that can pair you with the right influencers, these reservations seem to dissipate when conversions, time-on-site, and order values start skyrocketing (click here to reach out to us and ask about our latest Lift Metrics). ApexDrop vets their influencers and matches them with brands based on scale and context, so you don’t have to worry about an ineffective partnership. To schedule a demo to see what an ApexDrop can do for you, contact us here.