As part of the WARC x “Aligning marketers and influencers” report, Yusuf Chuku (EVP Client Strategy and Insights, NBCUniversal Media) explains how to assess the value of influencer marketing and emerging ideas in this space.

Yusuf Chuku

Yusuf Chuku, EVP Client Strategy and Insights, NBCUniversal Media

Tell me about your role at Universal?

I lead a multidisciplinary team of strategists, researchers, analysts and data scientists within NBCUniversal Advertising and Partnerships. We’re focused on helping brands navigate changing category dynamics and delivering thought provoking insights across consumer behavior, content, creativity and culture. The intent of everything that we do is to inform, inspire and unlock opportunity for our marketing and agency partners.

How can marketers benefit from the full funnel effects of working with influencers from brand awareness through to sales?

It’s critical that marketers don’t treat influencer marketing like a discrete or separate marketing activity. Instead, treat your marketing communications like an interconnected system, which means thinking about how your influencer marketing works with other aspects of your marketing. Take the Olympics as an example and how you might partner with it as a brand. There’s obviously the awareness piece for your brand delivered through the broadcast sponsorship but at the same time you can work with the Team USA athletes, thereby creating an integrated “influencer marketing” aspect to the sponsorship.

How can marketers balance meaningful connections with their audiences and with the need to deliver business results?

The one thing that many marketers don’t want to give up is control. But part of what makes for an authentic conversation with consumers is a brand being able to more seamlessly fit in with that influencer and how they communicate. It’s their audience, and brands have to respect that. This means giving up some control, letting go a little bit, in order to better entertain and connect with the audience, but in doing that brands will see better results.

Younger audiences have a growing acceptance of living their lives online. What opportunities do you think this offers influencer marketing?

You mean the Metaverse? I’m going to digress a little bit because whenever I am asked to think about the future I often avoid the trap of guessing what will change. I can’t remember who said it, but many years ago I remember reading that it’s better to focus on the things that will most likely not change, you’ll have a better chance of being right in your predictions. So I’m willing to predict that 100 years from now we’ll most likely still be sitting in chairs and probably eating food with a knife and fork.

Have you seen anyone using emerging ideas within the influencer space particularly well?

It's hard. Often when you are first into something, it’s a lot of experimenting. To scale it you are never going to get a true measure of that thing and how it will be as it develops. I think probably one of the things that I spend a lot of time talking to clients about is wanting to try new things but procrastinating a lot because whilst it is a huge opportunity you can get it wrong. So where we come in is helping create opportunities for brands in a way that minimizes risk. So you might think of influencers as just making a clip for your brand in their home, but from fake followers to unsavory content, when it goes wrong the results can be catastrophic for a brand.  As with any new or over hyped opportunity there are plenty of examples of where brands have been taken advantage of. It’s imperative that brands find the right partner. Our intent is to bring an element of safety and security that allows brands to experiment with comfort.

How do you deal with the measurement question? What is your view of best practice?

I think the trap people fall into is to focus on short term measurement. You have to think about how you measure the shorter and the longer term impact. You need to have a measurement plan at the start and really think about what you are trying to achieve. The best way to assess the value of influencer marketing is to integrate it with other marketing and measure it in an integrated way. If you are using it for awareness you should measure accordingly, if you are using it to drive purchase you need to use those metrics. You also need to think about how the impact of influencer marketing will affect other elements on the marketing plan.

Some people say that the newer forms of influencer marketing are better placed to influence because the audience believe they are genuine customers. What do you think?

As an industry we can sometimes downplay audiences’ more nuanced understanding of endorsement. They do understand that there is a commercial relationship, and I’m sure very few think of the influencer as being a genuine customer, but what they do understand is that influencer is making deliberate decisions about which brands to endorse. The perception is that the influencer isn’t going to risk their own reputation. Therefore, if an influencer who cares about their personal brand embarks on a commercial relationship with another brand then there must be some merit to that brand. Of course the irony is that those influencers look to TV for endorsement. My younger brother is a content creator with over 2m subscribers on YouTube yet do you know what his goal is? It’s to create a TV show.

What are the main points of friction within influencer marketing and how can the process be made easier?

Through NBCUniversal One Platform we enable brands a simple and efficient route to advertise across premium TV, streaming, digital, social, and gaming. However, there is a perception from marketers that some of these newer things aren’t essential and don’t have the scale, this can cause friction in the process. So, the key is how do you make it easier for a client to work with not just one influencer but multiple influencers? It’s also important to find solutions that allow you to work with influencers in a way that connects to other aspects of your marketing plan.

Influencers have become both digital creatives and powerful voices serving a wide variety of broad and niche followings. What is your priority?

You are underutilizing the opportunity if you are not using both. Yes, the content creation side is increasingly key but also going all the way through to creating commerce opportunities. Suddenly you're kind of in this amazing place for the brand to be driving people through to purchase at the point of inspiration.

What great case studies of influencer marketing have you seen?

At NBCUniversal we think of our talent as influencers. Our commerce initiatives allow us to bring our fans and our brand partners together through engaging shopping experiences, grounded in our culture-shaping content. With One Platform Commerce, our audiences have the opportunity to purchase the same products their favorite characters and reality show stars enjoy on-screen. And at the same time this gives our brand partners the opportunity to pair their brand with beloved icons and stories. It is a perfect example of bringing together fans and brands over a shared love of content. 

A recent great example of this is Love Island USA, streaming now on our ad-supported platform, Peacock. We have transformed this Peacock Original into a season-long shoppable experience allowing audiences to get even closer to the storytelling they love. With our One Platform Commerce capabilities and its ShoppableTV innovation, during every single episode viewers are able to buy products they see on screen, from apparel to home décor, to cosmetics. A ShoppableTV QR code allies them to complete their purchase seamlessly via NBCUniversal Checkout. This give us the unique opportunity to redefine what shoppable premium video can be by delivering an interactive experience for both fans and brands.

And, last year we partnered with Volkswagen to bring their all-new ID 4.0 EV to consumers in a whole-new way to shop for a vehicle. NBCU and Volkswagen partnered with Good Girls and Parks and Recreation actress/comedian Retta. Bringing her directly into consumers' living rooms through the future of augmented reality. It gave audiences not only the opportunity to be introduced to Volkswagen’s all-new vehicle but also a new way to shop for it. It also gave them the chance to virtually interact with one of their favorite stars within their own space with Retta’s own comedic flare.