By next year, influencer marketing is forecasted to be a $10 billion industry, yet brands are still learning how to effectively work with influencers. Measuring results and balancing branding and customer acquisition continue to be hurdles that many brands are striving to overcome.
To date, many influencer successes have come from companies that have come of age in the digital era. However, there are also great companies that have been around since before the digital era that have proven their ability to succeed in influencer marketing. There’s a lot we can learn from these more established brands. How are they able to cede creative control to influencers when they have carefully curated their brand voice over a period of time? Here’s what we can learn from two of them:
Nike fundamentally gets how to connect with its customers by rolling out campaigns that connect with its audience’s true desire: to make themselves better. Nike’s marketing is focused on helping people rise to the occasion when confronted with their own personal “Just Do It” moments. Through the years, it has excelled in a variety of creative initiatives across channels, with Colin Kaepernick being the most recent example.
In 2017, Nike partnered with a group of select youth influencers in a series of videos. The brand flew them out to explore Nike’s facilities and products, diving into the brand’s European history, and allowing the influencers to enter a contest for free merch. And it seemed to have worked for the popular YouTube channel “What’s Inside? Family” which resulted in a combined 11 million views.
Nike leveraged its size and resources to showcase the brand through storytelling on influencers’ terms. It did what newer companies often cannot, and let influencers evaluate their product freely. Nike showcased its products, detailed its story and engaged the audience, all while giving up creative control to let other audiences learn about the brand from the voice of the creators they trust.
No matter the resources you’re able to contribute to an influencer campaign, there’s boundless opportunity to be creative and engaging, simply by letting go of creative control. For example, if you run an up-and-coming water bottle company, allow influencers to dissect the bottle or use it for a creative project on a DIY channel. Whatever it is, success is likely to follow once you let go.
The youth influencer initiative is a great example of how a more established company can use its strengths to appeal to consumers in an authentic way. Nike stayed true to its “Just Do It” ethos by allowing creators to experience the brand authentically, but also by leveraging its resources through the many opportunities it provided to these creators. Nike maintained authenticity and showcased itself as the powerful, global brand it is — sticking to its image while adjusting to the marketing channel.
Never pretend to be something you’re not, or hide a part of your brand when running influencer campaigns. Used cars fetch more money when sellers show the scratches, and this same principle applies to influencer marketing. Don’t be afraid to show a few bruises.
Apple’s allure is beautiful design and intuitive functionality, where consumers’ lives are simplified with cohesive products that complement one another. Its products are presented as beautiful must-haves that are unapologetically priced as luxury products.
Apple partnered with YouTube creators to create “unboxing” videos and sponsored Instagram posts that show Apple products in daily use. By partnering with influencers who are true fans of the product, and allowing them to get their hands on the product before the general public, Apple created a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out), driving huge product demand prior to launch.
Any brand can cultivate this feeling in customers by simply giving influencers early access. This tried-and-true strategy catalyzes excitement, engagement and loyalty. Bonus opportunity: YouTube influencers are fantastic beta testers of new products because it takes a different level of understanding to teach something versus understanding it with your own eyes.
Apple not only allowed creators to showcase their personal use of the product, but also let influencers use the products in creative ways that strayed from Apple’s classic brand voice. With this approach, Apple positioned its products to be approachable and relatable.
There’s no doubt that decades of success has earned Apple the right to be considered by consumers. But the final push of influencer activation allows the masses to visualize themselves living the lifestyle before having the opportunity to. Apple is known for strong brand standards and clean marketing, but in this case, it excelled by letting go of brand voice and allowing influencers to act as brand advocates using their own unique styles.
If showcasing your brand from a certain perspective isn’t true to your brand voice or brand standards, recognize that there’s often still immense value in the market from having your story told in this unique perspective. Let go of control, and let influencers tell your story using their own voices. Brand advocacy allows you to maintain authenticity while diversifying your messaging and appealing to new audiences.
The influencer space is constantly evolving, and it’s one of the most diverse marketing channels available. Be inspired by companies that are letting the reins loose to allow others to tell their story in an authentic way. Most importantly, recognize that your company is unique, and your strengths can be amplified by specific influencer strategies when you stay true to your brand’s position.
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