As part of the WARC x impact.com “Aligning marketers and influencers” report, Becky Yeung (Regional Brand Partnership and Business Director, Warner Music) explains the brand voice and full funnel potential of influencer marketing.
How do you think marketers can best benefit from the full funnel effects of working with influencers?
It's always great having someone else speak on your behalf. You're essentially always trying when you are advertising to turn someone else into an advocate. And you can sometimes do that naturally, but then sometimes you just need that little bit extra so that you're not talking from your own brand's voice. Hearing it from someone else and delivering it with their own opinion, I think is very important. There's definitely the awareness piece – where you are able to – to use someone who has the insight and that influence and the engaged audience to be able to tell your story for you. And then the sales is really again not using your own voice as a brand to tell them but using someone else's to say “This is why I love this product”. I think that they can definitely benefit from both sides and also that expansive audience where you didn't have that reach before. Influencers can help you reach those people.
How can marketers balance meaningful connections with their audiences through influencers with the business imperative of delivering results?
I think that it's a difficult balance because sometimes there's a certain level of expectation from businesses who are looking at influencer marketing as the magic way to drive sales. Sometimes they need to also take a step back and be single-minded in terms of what they're trying to achieve. So if you're a brand who suddenly wants to speak to Gen Zs, you can't expect it to be an immediate effect. But it's going to turn into the results that you're wanting. A little bit of patience is needed and also a reality check as well. Brands have a higher expectation of results straight away. I think that they need to realise where they're at and then also be authentic. They can't expect an influencer to be scripted or say exactly what they want them to say. There needs to be an understanding that you need to let go a little bit and have a little bit less control over it. But the results can also speak a lot more than what you could have achieved on your own.
In your experience, how can influencer marketing be used for upper or lower funnel activity?
I think it can be done in different ways. I've seen great results in e-commerce. If you use an artist, then one part of the campaign might be to live stream a performance, and maybe you have no expectations of that live stream being to drive sales. But you might then use that artist in the same format but a different area of the e-commerce platform, using them to actually do the live stream selling. And that's a very different angle to what they were looking at from the live stream performance. So it’s just understanding that you can do both things, but just not trying to cram it all into the same space. I think a lot of the time, an artist might have a stronger Instagram. But your one Instagram post can't necessarily drive someone to sales. So you need to think about what platforms and media you can use. Maybe use the same clip to then push out into driving a click to buy. It's being a bit smarter about how to use them to do different jobs, knowing what's native to different platforms.
What opportunities has influencer marketing brought about within the shopping experience?
It's definitely brought about a lot more opportunities. There are so many different paid media platforms that give you the ability to connect with audiences in different ways. These days you are really able to hone in on targeting audiences at the right time with the right interest and also just understanding that platform and being able to target people without disrupting them too much in terms of how they naturally consume content. We were looking at the gaming space, for example, which has been a huge passion point. We use gaming platforms from a music marketing perspective to reach people and to tap into that audience because we know that they're really engaged. But we also know from one platform to another the way they consume can be really different. So we might utilise Twitch to do a full ad where people are actually waiting in between content so we don't disrupt them but then on another platform we might then look at serving them a much shorter clip, taking something from Instagram who has that connection in the gaming space and putting it onto that platform. That might be in short snippets so people can either cut away from it or they can click and listen. It's just utilising the materials in different formats and then using the right platforms, and natively delivering the content.
Younger audiences have a growing acceptance of living their lives online. What opportunities do you think this offers influencer marketing?
It's all about the metaverse. It is about being able to open up that experience digitally and have people interact with your brands a lot more. So, whether you're an influencer, whether you're a brand or whether you're kind of putting that together, you're now enabling people to experience it in a whole other world. People are actually able to go from just being an observer to being a participant. Being able to interact but also being able to own through things like NFTs where you're actually a part of that world as well. I think that it's definitely talking to that younger generation where they feel a lot more like they're a part of something. There are so many more opportunities now where people can get involved and they can be a part of that conversation and they can also interact. The online space has really opened up. It’s that two way communication. COVID really highlighted that. We always looked at it as artists performing and opening up to an audience who are there to experience them live. Nowadays with online and streaming, we see that artists are able to respond to their fans when they are performing. So there's this whole new level. Now we're taking it one step further where you can almost be a part of that journey or own something that belongs to that artist. You know that's obviously very artist specific but then with influencer marketing it is the same. You can interact with them, they're responding more to you, you can influence the way that they're actually delivering content and then also they're moving into products and moving into co-branding so that you can then be a part of everything and shape it with them.
Some of the most forward thinking marketers are using influencer marketing as part of their e-commerce strategy. What great examples have you seen of this?
There's definitely been a lot in China. Many make-up brands do very well from an e-commerce perspective. There's a lot of using influencer marketing to sell on their platforms. It's almost going backwards in a way where you're going into the US infomercial style. It is kind of that format now with e-commerce and people are just lapping it up. You know as soon as they have someone who they really connect with telling them what the benefits are being able to see it on them. And it's really helping visualis. It's also been really interesting seeing some perfume brands advertising on e-commerce where, if your products are not visual, you need to think of other ways. And so we've actually seen some really interesting ones where they've used music or they've used mood enhancers like colours, colour cues, to help tell that story for them and bring it to life in that sense. L'Oreal has also done some really great stuff from an e-commerce perspective. China's definitely leading the way from that perspective utilising different elements and different formats to be able to reach audiences and target them in the right way.
The influencer marketing place has continually evolved from celebrities to influencers and affiliates and now content creators. Some people say that the newer forms feel more genuine – do you agree?
People are so much more for being strong minded and having a very clear opinion on what they believe in. So if you're a fitness influencer, you're not necessarily going to be advertising for fast food. And they may not necessarily accept that themselves. That matters because as soon as you see the ones who are selling out a little bit, people are less inclined to believe them. From a celebrity point of view, it can also be very difficult. We definitely have artists who are very strong minded and just have a very strong opinion on who they want to be associated with and what they want to do. Ed Sheeran, for example, very rarely accepts a partnership and especially when it comes to a social media posting style, he just wouldn't really do it unless it's attached to a larger campaign and something that he really is passionate about and believes in. He has done a Heinz ketchup tie-up but he absolutely loves Heinz ketchup to the point where he has it tattooed on his body. So that came about very naturally. That authenticity really comes through. I don't know whether it 100% matters, but I think that it does drive more impact when it connects with the right person representing it. I think that people are just savvy these days so they know when someone doesn't connect, and they're just doing it for the sake of doing it. It can also be difficult for influencers when they start out too because at the beginning you're just trying to build yourself up. You want to accept everything. I think the people who hold off a little bit more and actually wait and have a strong opinion about what they want to advertise and what they want to say about themselves tend to do better. It's just about finding that balance and knowing what's authentic. You can still champion a lot of different products but you just need to do it in a way that's true to your own voice.
What are the main points of friction in the influencer marketing process and what needs to happen to smooth it out?
Number one is definitely a lack of control. Managing expectations that you can put content out in a certain way. Having worked in an advertising background as well where everything's so scripted and so perfect, if you have it in your head that this is the way that the campaign is going to roll out, there’s a certain script. With influencer marketing it’s different; you just have to roll with it.
Secondly, it’s about finding the right balance. I think that marketers – not always but often – tend to be marketing a product or a brand that may not necessarily be for their own demographic. They have to then really think hard and put themselves into the shoes of their consumers and actually understand something that connects with you is not necessarily going to with the audience that you're speaking to. Sometimes when it comes to selecting celebrities, that can be a little bit difficult because we have those conversations, we understand their brief, we understand their objectives, and we also have visibility of their budget, and yet the person that they're trying to say that they want to use is different to everything that they're telling us. So then trying to get the data and actually putting it in front of them and trying to convince them is difficult. The marketers who are actually more willing to listen and look at the data, and put themselves into their consumers’ shoes, tend to be the ones who are most successful.
Have you got any insight into consumers' attitude towards influencers and their relationship with them?
On the data side of influencer marketing these days, it’s really interesting that we’re no longer just hoping that something's going to work. It's so targeted and it's actually so easy to extract data from the people that you're working with. You can actually read the data that you get back and it's so specific in terms of the audience that they're reaching in terms of the number of views, the likes, the duration, so you can actually learn and you can tweak.
I think the positive side of influencer marketing is firstly, you can definitely find authenticity in the people that you connect with. When they really love your product, you can tell and they'll do it for free, which is actually a lot of what I've been doing with the B.Y.O Active side – free influencer marketing in exchange for product. It's a lower investment a lot of the time than the big campaigns where you are in the dark a bit on how consumers are going to receive this. You can actually test and learn as you go, every time that you get that data back. You just need to know that you can evolve and if you're targeting the wrong audience, then look at who else you can use or how else you can adapt it. Was the content right? Is it the style? Is it the type of information? Data has been the number one driver and we don't think about it as much when it comes to influencer marketing because we just think that it's uncontrollable content. Actually though it's very specific and very targeted,