Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Influencer Marketing is not a new phenomenon (but it could be)

By Nicolai Mariegaard, Country Manager Denmark,

You do not need to have worked in marketing for long before it becomes difficult to keep track of what the newest “big thing” is. Whether it’s a platform, a technology, or a behavioural trend, something new emerges at least once a year.

At an industry conference I attended recently, influencer marketing was described in the programme as still being “a new phenomenon”. But as at least one speaker pointed out, recommendations and endorsements can be traced back to the 18th century. At that time, ambitious craftsmen gifted their products to the greatest trendsetters of the time, namely nobility and royalty; if you could legitimately earn yourself with the title “Royal Court Supplier”, then the product was naturally deemed good enough by ordinary consumers.

Indeed, there are many historians who believe that gladiators and athletes in ancient Rome were paid to recommend different products. Legend has it that the richest olive oil producer owned a number of gladiators to use as billboards. 

Whether it’s been 200 or 2,000 years since influencer marketing started, it seems a bit of a stretch to call it a new phenomenon. That said, many of the tools that can be used to manage the activities are still very new, and that’s probably where some of the confusion arises.

Two hundred years ago, there were significantly fewer channels and media to deal with; omnichannel and cross-media strategies were somewhat easier to execute. (as there was one channel) Today, customer journey optimization is a science in itself. If you operate in the highly advertised categories, or with small margins, the gap between making or losing money.

With the explosive spread of social media and digital channels over the last 20 years, the need for technologies that can orchestrate these activities has increased accordingly. Today, there is a whole tech ecosystem dedicated to helping advertisers and agencies navigate and optimise the digital landscape and associated channels.

But the challenge remains pretty much the same as it always has been. The budget is tight, and, as an advertiser, you need to ensure you get the most out of your advertising budget: if investment in TV produced far better ROI than investment in influencer marketing, then the budgets would end up on TV sooner or later. After all, marketing is a means and not an end in itself.

If we are to look at what is “new”, then it is the transparency and speed with which we can execute, test and work with marketing partners across channels. Digital tools allow you to manage hundreds of influencers with a few clicks, and if you click a few times more, you can pay out fees based on performance, launch new campaigns, and add templates that can control everything from direct shopping, to ensuring you comply with all applicable laws.

One look at your dashboard and you can see not just who has acted on the marketing they have seen, but also what the conversion rate is compared to advertising on the bigger players such as Google or Facebook. You can also see the precise returns on your affiliate collaboration or sponsored content in traditional media.

Today, you will not find many digital marketers who do not know about optimised customer journeys, branded content and influencer and affiliate marketing. It is no longer just big brands with large marketing departments. On Impacts platforms, a rapidly growing customer group is small businesses. Online-only retailers all the way down to two-man stores have added a truly professional edge to their marketing and have begun to consider the balance between content, branding and conversions.

A good example of data-driven marketing not being reserved for agencies or large marketing teams could be the Danish sustainable clothing brand, Organic Basics. Shortly after its launch in 2015, Organic Basics began investing in influencer marketing to increase both awareness and sales. The results were so great that they started working with several influencer and affiliate networks, resulting in an increase in administration costs and a difficulty in achieving an holistic overview of all channels.

By bringing together all of the partnership’s efforts through a Partnership Cloud solution, the team achieved full transparency throughout the customer journey and were able to understand the contributions from each touch point. Using a unified Cloud Partner solution, they  increased ROI by reducing administrative costs and were able to better understand the potential for growth and scalability.

That you get someone to recommend your product is not new. That you can build a digital ecosystem that creates seamless experiences across channels, and only pay for what you use, is also not entirely new anymore. The new thing is the availability of advanced data and insights that can really help elevate your partnerships marketing programme.