This is the first of a series of five posts that are about five myths of influence marketing. The myth at hand is about the relationship between brand and influencer, which many people mistake for the old relationship between brand and poster-boy.
The term “old” isn’t just an expression. In 1920, Disney created Oswald Bunny, which was their first poster-boy. It appeared even before Mickey Mouse. It was released as a way to compete with Felix the Cat, very successful in the movies world back then.
However, don’t get it mixed up: Oswald Bunny is, so to speak, a poster-boy. It’s not an influencer, who nowadays performs an important role in digital marketing, carrying out a different role.
While the poster-boy is hired to lend their image for the brand to use it in publicity, the influencer is a partner who establishes a benefic relationship for both: himself and the brand. It is then a win-win relationship.
First, a few examples of poster-boy
The reason that historically leads brands to use poster-boys is easy to understand. The brand pays to borrow the charisma, fame, status or another factor of the personality.
The book “And Now a Few Words from Me” by Bob Garfield mentions the partnership between Nike and Michael Jordan in the 90’s as a perfect one. Jordan was the biggest NBA star in the period of the biggest number of stars in history. He was admired worldwide and had character, behavior and attitude aligned with what Nike was looking for in a representative.
Jordan’s hiring as a poster-boy was so successful that the media relationship transcended to the product. The “Nike Air” line was born from the nickname “Michael Air Jordan”, because one of his features was flying before dunking on basketball. There are many compilations of his jumps on YouTube.
In the Brazilian Market, there are several good examples of poster-boys. Carlos Moreno spent nearly 40 years as Bombril’s poster boy. His appearances on commercial breaks since the 70’s were remarkable and intense, to the point that he ended up entering the Guiness Book of Records in 1994 as the actor who did the most commercials for the same brand worldwide. Another classic case is Sebastian, who starred the “Abuse e Use” C&A campaign in Brazil in 1990.
And now, an example of an influencer
If, on one side, as the Disney, Bombril and C&A examples show, the poster-boy is hired to play the role defined by the brand, on the other hand, the influencer is treated as a partner.
When the brand invites one or more influencers to get on board of a communication action or campaign, the marketing time mindset is (or should be) different than when you hire a poster-boy. Instead of asking “what do we want the poster-boy to do?”, the correct question is “what can the influencer and ourselves do together?”.
More than that, it is necessary to visualize what benefits each one is going to get – such as reputation, positioning, acquiring, or retaining clients, brand equity, etc.
In essence, influencer marketing carries along with it a key component: the target audience is (partially or totally) made of the influencer’s followers. For that reason, the way they communicate and the values they follow are as important (or even more important) as the modus operandi of the brand’s marketing.
We can mention several recent examples of influencer marketing, but we are going to stick to what Banana Republic did on their Instagram in December 2016. The clothing brand engaged influencers of several magnitudes on the #itsbanana campaign, in which fashion posts using the hashtag were promoted by the company’s official profile.
As a result, they got the involvement of relatively popular bloggers, such as @graceatwood, with about 100,000 followers in November 2017. But they also saw more modest users getting engaged, such as the British @extrapetite, that didn’t reach 1,000 fans.
Influencer is not a synonym for celebrity
“Stop classifying the hiring of a poster-boy as influencer marketing”. That is not our appeal, but Huffington Post’s, who made such statement on a post title in July 2017. Amy Callahan, author of the article, simplifies definitions in the following way: celebrities become famous in the media, they have a lot of fans and low engagement. On the other hand, influencers have, in her vision, an amazing reach that can create buzz for a product or service.
Her opinion is based on a relevant data: only 2.8% of consumers become inclined to buy a product stimulated by the presence of a famous poster-boy in the advertisement. However, when the product is recommended by an influencer who is not a celebrity, the number goes up to 30%.
Why do people mix it up?
Celebrities and digital influencers – or creators, as many of them define themselves – are essentially mistaken for a reason: the most commonly used indicators to measure the size of both categories are almost always the same. Number of followers and amount of posts are the most common for both cases.
So much that an online and free service by American website Influencer Marketing Hub allows to compare numbers of a micro-influencer to those of a celebrity. Based on an algorithm, the tool also shows the likely cost of the sponsored post from one and the other.
Measuring only the number of followers is the classical mistake made by brands in the Brazilian market, which is still taking its first steps in influencer marketing. In the United States, where it is experiencing a significant rise since 2014, there is already a different interpretation. “Engagement is the name of the game”, states respect website Marketing Land in a post published in October 2017.
The website sustains the statement with data from the research “Linquia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2017”: out of every ten brands that do influencer marketing, eight measure results using the criteria of obtained engagement rate. And only six of them focus on reach.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to communication and marketing. However, there are concepts that allow us to understand the different techniques, and then get the best out of them. In a simplified way, if your brand wants to hire a celebrity to act as a poster-boy, fine, go ahead. But remember that it has a name: publicity.
However, if you brand intends to establish a partnership relation with digital natives, then the correct labeling will be influencer marketing. In such case, it is clear that indicators of number of followers mean something, but engagement should have an extra weight in the analysis.
- While the poster-boy is hired to lend their image for to brand to make use of it in publicity, the influencer is a partner who establishes a beneficial relationship for both sides: himself and the brand. It is then a win-win relationship.
- If, on one hand, as Disney, Bombril and C&A examples show, the poster-boy is hired to perform the role defined by the brand, the influencer, on the other hand, is treated as a partner.
- Instead of asking “what do we want the poster-boy to do?”, the correct question is “what can the influencer and ourselves do together?”..
- The website sustains the statement with data from the research “Linquia’s The State of Influencer Marketing 2017”: out of every ten brands that do influencer marketing, eight measure results using the criteria of obtained engagement rate. And only six of them focus on reach.
The other five myths of the influencer marketing series
The series of five myths of influencer marketing is made of the following topics and their following publishing dates: