In order for a campaign to drive results, the expertise from the brand and also the influencer, as the face of the campaign, must align. The brand and the influencer must work simultaneously for the consumer to understand and engage with the message – the modern-day consumer is particularly savvy.
It’s also important to consider the role of the agency within these partnerships, as the brand brings the product or service, the influencer brings creativity, but the agency is there to bridge the gap between the two by bringing the business tools.
The overriding theme when it comes to building a killer strategy is communication, but there are also more considerations that come into play when figuring out who has the ultimate control – the brand or the creator.
In order to get a deep and true understanding as to whether the brand or creator is more important when it comes to shaping a strategy for a campaign, Talking Influence spoke to a group of professionals in the influencer marketing space who have experience when it comes to working with both brands and creators. The experts were able to provide insight as to what the true key to success is, and of course, who should get the final say – if anyone.
Engaging influencer content that catches the consumers’ eyes is often attractive, unique, and creative. For the most part, content creators are passionate about sharing their recommendations and interests in a way that stands out from the rest, in turn, meaning it performs well. Charlotte Hoare, Senior Strategist at ITB Worldwide believes that the most successful influencer campaigns are the ones in which the influencer takes the lead.
She says, “Creators are so named for a reason – they’ve got the experience and know-how to produce the best-performing content for their platforms of choice in line with what their community of followers is looking to engage with. Unless you’re a brand with creativity at the core – a Gucci or an Apple – it’s best to let influencers do their thing and put their own unique spin on your message, product, or service.”
Niki Herring, Director at ChannelMumTalent.com, emphasises that within an influencer marketing campaign, the brand and the creator have different roles, saying that “creators help humanise brands in a way no other media can, and brands enable creators to share authentic content and relevant stories for a living.”
It’s important that brands utilise the expertise that creators can bring to their campaigns. Nick Breen, a partner in Reed Smith’s Entertainment and Media Industry Group is aware that it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to engage solely in traditional forms of advertising, saying “we are seeing them [brands] become more reliant on influencers to reach their target market”.
Brand values and finding the perfect influencer
Although more and more brands are becoming reliant on influencers rather than ‘traditional’ advertising, the process is still intricate, and it’s important for the brand and the influencer to consider whether their brand values align. When the brand and influencers’ values do not align, and the campaign is purely transactional, the consumer becomes savvy, and thus disengages with the brand and/or influencer due to lack of trust.
Craig Knox, Managing Director of Talent and Influencer Marketing at The Corner understands that both brands and creators are protective of their image, which can result in a conflict of interest, this is where working with an agency is often helpful. He says, “agencies can look at both brand messaging and creator content from an outside perspective, helping the two find a middle ground.”
Charlotte agrees that agencies play a huge part in the alignment of a brand and an influencer. She reiterates that the modern consumer priortises trust, transparency, and values, meaning that alignment of content style and core principles should be front of mind.
The implementation of guardrails to ensure the output of an influencer is fit for purpose is where influencer agencies come in. Charlotte adds, “The key to this – rather than an overly rigid brief – is strategic casting and careful vetting of influencers to ensure you’ve got the right people on board in the first place. If a creator is truly aligned with the brand vision and values, you already know you can rely on a great result.”
With the ‘perfect’ influencer cast and the agency bridging the gap between the brand and the content creator, it’s paramount that the agency communicates its knowledge in regards to rules and regulations. Nick shares his expertise, saying that “agencies have a depth of experience that most influencers do not possess” alongside bodies like the ASA, agencies are there to communicate guidance to the brand and the influencer impacts on the level of professionalism of influencers working in the industry.
Communication is key
With agencies established to aid with communication between the parties involved in an influencer campaign, it is clear to see that good communication is key. Once a valuable connection has been established, it’s important for both the brand and the creator to communicate what they hope to achieve from the partnership.
Aaron Brooks, Co-Founder of Vamp reminds us that “a collaboration between an influencer and a brand is a working relationship, not a competition”. He believes that it is important for brands to be upfront about their expectations from the beginning, but beyond that, it’s in their interest to let influencers get creative. As long as a plan is well communicated, there is no reason why it shouldn’t be well executed.
Craig explains how an agency can play the role of an interpreter by “building detailed creator briefs which balance prescriptive brand-direction alongside the influencer’s own content style”. When this part of the process is perfected, brand approval of content can be streamlined, and the resulting work feels like an authentic amalgamation of brand direction and creator vision.
Back to the legalities, Nick reminds us that not only is communication key for producing creative content that drives results, but communication is also important to make sure a campaign adheres to legal guidelines. Nick believes that influencers should be making every effort to be transparent when working with brands, and in turn, brands should be taking an active role in educating influencers on their legal obligations. He adds, “The process needs to be collaborative and transparent. Brands share joint responsibility for the influencers’ compliance with the CAP Code rules.”
Who gets the final say?
Ultimately, neither the brand nor the influencer is more important than the other when it comes to executing a campaign together. Niki puts it wonderfully by saying, “Creators and brands are like cookies and cream or mac ‘n’ cheese – they complement each other, work together perfectly, and the result when you combine them is greater than the impact of the individual ingredients alone.”
From her experience, Niki has learned that when a brand and a creator that is right for them come together with a defined purpose, integrity, and a dose of creativity, they ‘feed’ one another – creating great, relevant stories that should result in fantastic business outcomes for both.
Craig supports the opinion that the brand and the creator are just as important as one another; he rounds up by saying, “Traditionally brands start the conversation; they have the objectives, the targets and crucially they have the budget. It’s then up to the creators to finish the conversation, producing the final assets and driving the results. Arguably, however, the importance lies in the space in between the role of the agency.”
It’s clear through this discussion that when building an influencer marketing strategy, it’s important to consider the role that both the brand and the influencer will play from the outset. Communication, creativity, and brand values play a large role in the success of a campaign, but insights from the experts show that the essential piece that completes the puzzle is the agency that bridges the gap.