Marketers need to apply the same rigorous effectiveness measurement to influencer content as they do to other marketing channels, writes Kantar’s Gonca Bubani.
Influencer marketing is becoming an increasingly indispensable part of marketers’ toolkits.
While it emerged as a highly targeted and authentic way to reach audiences, even in its early days, the drawbacks were apparent to marketers and consumers alike. With brands having little control over influencers’ output, partnering with creators can result in damage to the relationship they have with their consumers if their endorsements are inappropriate or less than transparent.
Also, consumers and marketers may not always trust influencers, given the many examples of them inflating their follower counts to attract better commercial opportunities with brands. On top of all that, lack of systematic measurement has been holding back influencer content from going full throttle. But there is evidence of the industry growing up.
In 2022, influencer content became consumers’ preferred online channel for advertising according to Kantar’s Media Reactions study.1 It’s the top online ad format for consumers in large markets like China, France, Brazil, India, the US and the UK. It has surpassed podcasts as the most preferred online channel because consumers found influencers to be more trustworthy, and more relevant and useful than in 2021 (both up a significant two percentage points in 2022). Influencer content stands out as above average in all these attributes compared to other media channels, including offline channels.
Some 59% of marketers say they invested in influencer content in 2022, and close to 60% of marketers globally say they are going to increase spend on influencers in 2023.1 This places the channel fourth overall for increased investment this year.
This growth in the creator economy means that there is all the more reason to ensure concerns are addressed. Regulatory bodies are starting to pay attention; the Financial Conduct Authority is investigating fintech influencers who illegally promote investments online, going after 8,582 such promotions in 2022 compared to 573 in 2021.2
Another case in point is the recent ASA ruling on a campaign from grocery delivery app Gorillas. Paid-for TikTok and Instagram ads by the brand were considered to be “socially irresponsible” and in breach of the CAP codes on advertising alcohol.3
Given its current position as part of the mainstream marketing mix, now is the time for brands to prove that influencer marketing is delivering ROI and refine its role in the brand’s marketing mix.
Does influencer marketing really deliver for brands?
In June 2022 at Cannes Lions, Kantar launched new digital ad testing capabilities as part of our Context Lab solution, which allows creative effectiveness testing in any digital environment, including influencer content. It measures brand impact and creative performance as well as delivering behavioural insights for influencer content.
After six months of availability, we’ve undertaken an exclusive meta-analysis to understand whether influencers really deliver influence for brands.
Let’s start by talking about creative performance.
Our recent analysis of 30 different influencer campaigns in beauty, fintech, sports and retail revealed that influencer content is particularly effective in functional aspects. Compared to market averages in our database of almost 9,000 global ads, influencer creative executions are in the top third for delivering new information and being credible. Many consumers also find the content relevant to them.
This is a strong performance, but is it enough? When it comes to the emotional side of things, there is work to be done. Enjoyment of the content is particularly weak, only placing in the bottom 40% of the ads tested in their respective markets. And what about brand impact within context? Do the contexts in which marketers place influencer content translate this performance into an actual outcome for the brand?
The answer to this question currently appears less than triumphant. Our analysis identified one particular role – trend setting – where influencer content performs better than an average ad in terms of brand impact. This indicates that influencer content is a great way to make your campaign and your brand go viral, and actually influence what people think is “cool”. Its effectiveness at providing awareness, favourability or affinity among other metrics, however, lags behind that of an average digital video ad.
These findings show the importance of proper integration of influencer content into brand campaigns and highlight the challenges it poses alongside other advertising. As an integrated part of the marketing mix, marketers need to apply the same rigorous effectiveness measurement to influencer content as they do to other marketing channels, so they can continue to ensure their campaigns are truly optimised across all channels.
This is especially key as industry best practices for advertising might be more difficult to understand in relation to the creator economy. Each format needs its own approach, and as influencer marketing matures, so too must marketers’ approach to evaluating its effectiveness.
1. Kantar, Media Reactions 2022, https://www.kantar.com/campaigns/media-reactions