How to execute campaigns in a not-so-borderless online world
Undoubtedly, influencer marketing is earning its place at the global marketing table with enthusiasm. Our industry has been heralded as a democratic, game-changing lightning rod, empowering social media users across many categories like food, fashion, beauty, sports, health, pets – the list goes on. These verticals make sense because they resonate.
And as such, we naturally share a somewhat general interest in the same things with geographical differences. But having run numerous campaigns all over the globe, I can tell you that implementing successful influencer campaigns in any one of these simple categories can – and often, must – look vastly different across different markets. Why? Because culture eats strategy for breakfast, as Peter Drucker rightfully stated.
Influencer marketing comes in all sizes
Influencer marketing has become integral to any brand’s messaging strategy worldwide. But there’s certainly no “one size fits all” approach, since every market is different. Regulations, maturity levels of running campaigns, consumer behaviour, and social network usage can vary from country to country and culture to culture. Absorbing the intricacies – the nuances – is critical, and understanding that marketers across countries and cultures are not all on the same level of expertise in influencer marketing is essential.
Think of influencer marketing as a relatively new forceful discipline evolving within the global advertising industry. Its current evolutionary stage differs from one country to the next. Marketers in one market might already be more familiar with leveraging influencer marketing to its fullest than in another. But that is not all. As we all know, Italians are not Spaniards, and the French can be quite different from the Germans. And the way business is done in the US is entirely different than, let’s say, in Japan. Not only can a brand be perceived differently based on geography, but the actual target groups of that brand and its products might also vary in age, gender, location (urban vs. rural), interests, earning power, etc. The way of life in any given country determines the campaign’s tone, which then dictates the choice of influencers a brand might want to partner with, and vice versa!
The influencer might also have their own opinion on whether or not a brand is a good fit. For that matter, the influencer might not be interested in collaborating with brands at all. No kidding. Having done quite a bit of work in Germany, I admit I’ve been astonished by the number of times influencers have told us they do not do brand collaborations. That clearly indicates that these people view their craft differently than their counterparts abroad. In addition, I have international clients setting up shop in Germany only to be dumbfounded by the high prices an influencer requests here for a post. My peers and I are having endless discussions about this and have concluded that one of the reasons might be that the “inventory” (the actual number of influencers available) is not that high. Although Germany has the fifth highest count of influencers in the world, it sometimes feels that there are just not enough to choose from. But more on prices later.
Let’s take a closer look at some legal specifics in different markets that may help explain different maturity levels:
- The US, one of the more mature countries for adopting influencer marketing as an advertising channel, relies on official Influencer Marketing Guidelines developed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC Act). Here, the responsibilities are with agencies and brands to make sure the influencers adhere to those regulations. The business relationship must be clearly disclosed on any endorsements played out on social and digital channels.
- The UK has two organisations that have created the official Influencer’s Guide – the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) and CMA (Competition and Markets Authority). Payment or compensation in any form counts as ads and requires clear disclosure. In the Influencer Monitoring Report issued in 2021 by ASA, it became clear that only 35% of the influencers assessed labelled their Instagram Stories correctly. Stating that inconsistency in disclosures is an issue.
The organisation launched a dedicated website to name and shame influencers as repeat offenders for being non-compliant. Flouting ad rules will result in public shaming on the site for three months. We have seen in the UK that influencers who do not follow these guidelines are being called out on the website and are subject to more rigorous scrutiny for any infractions of the guidelines.
- China has no specific regulations for influencer marketing, but all campaigns must abide by the generic ad regulations. The grip of the Communist Party works like a charm, as anything has to be in line with the party’s stand on the nation’s social values.
- Italy has very restrictive regulations regarding sweepstakes like no other country. You will hardly find influencers who will get involved in these activities there.
- Brazil and Vietnam also have no established laws, and regulations are lax. It is interesting to note that the most powerful influencers are in Brazil, and campaigns rely solely on the Brazilian Digital Agencies Association (ABRADI).
- Spain is regulated by GDPR rules when it comes to sponsored content. However, there are no specific laws, and regulations are open to interpretation.
And then there is the topic of fees
The differences in prices requested by influencers can differ tremendously. For example, some marketers in countries like Germany try to impose a CPM model for influencer payment, trying to squeeze a pricing model into calculations that we traditionally use in programmatic advertising. But does this make sense? A certain percentage per total number of followers is accepted in other markets. Honestly, the payment issue, including the influencer payment gap, is tricky. The entire industry is based on free labour market principles, and almost all influencers are contractors. Considering supply and demand and market maturity on any project can determine the price. Marketers have to wiggle within their budgets and also may have to develop strong negotiation skills.
When we budget for a global campaign, we always make our clients aware that fees differ across markets or countries. In Scandinavia, for example, influencers demand and receive much higher fees than their counterparts in France.
In addition, we see an entire ecosystem established in markets where influencer marketing is well established. There are managers and/or agencies that professionally navigate the intricacies of an influencer business. They will handle anything from discovering opportunities, negotiating fees and terms of collaborations, and handling anything that comes their way to keep the often substantial operation around an influencer going. This way, an influencer can focus on their craft – creating top-notch content. The result will be reflected in the cost, of course.
Time is money
Lastly, simple things like timelines and time zones can play a considerable role when running global campaigns that play out in local markets. An influencer who has to produce content halfway around the world needs the same amount of time to create content you give in your own time zone. You must consider when the creator sees your message and count from there. This includes the time it takes to ship products to the content creators. Time is money; in this case, it can cost you dearly if deadlines are not appropriately allocated. It may result in missed launch dates, poorly produced and executed content, and even worse, posting times where the target audience will miss the content because they were sleeping.
To launch locally relevant global influencer programmes, keep one thing in mind: Listen to your people on the ground, be flexible, and respect cultural nuances. After all, if you plan a swimsuit collection launch worldwide, some markets may need a different approach than one that satisfies Western tastes by showcasing an influencer clad in a skimpy two-piece. Catch my drift?
Influencer marketing needs to label
As influencer marketers, we are keen to look for potential influencer partners who do not have too many brand collaborations on display. The 80/20 rule is certainly one that I often use when evaluating talent. But compared to the US, I find that creators elsewhere, especially in Europe, tend to be less willing to work with brands by displaying their content with the mandatory #ad or #sponsored label. The reason may be that they don’t want to look like ad billboards to their audience.
In my opinion, 2022 will herald the adoption of influencer marketing on a global scale. This means we will see expansions of programmes and consolidations of budgets when streamlining campaigns in multiple markets. This is a good thing, as I have seen double spending and double work, but missing cultural nuances based on rigid briefs can lead to disappointing results.