Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

One year in charge: the rapidly evolving landscape of influencer marketing

By Mary Keane-Dawson, Group CEO of TAKUMI

Time flies when you’re having fun. It’s an age-old saying, but there’s truth in it. Despite my appointment as Group CEO of TAKUMI coinciding with the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the last year has seen TAKUMI expand globally, and successfully evolve in tandem with a rapidly transformative industry.

When I joined back in 2020, the issues plaguing the sector were centred around follower fraud and the urgent need for regulation across a rapidly growing industry. Remember FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, the documentary about the failings of Fyre Festival? That was only released two years ago. It marked a pivotal point and – despite precipitating necessary changes – thrust influencer marketing into the mainstream. Everyone began to look up and take notice, realising the power of influence.

As an industry, we went into 2020 hoping to leave vanity metrics behind, putting weight behind more meaningful interactions and placing more control in the hands of the people who make the industry what it is: our creators. This is something TAKUMI championed from the get-go, empowering creators to act as their own creative directors in creating authentic, engaging content which resonated with their bespoke audiences.

As 2020 played out, influence on social media was as equally unprecedented as the “times” in which we found ourselves living. With the first lockdown came the explosion and exponential growth of TikTok – previously unexplored territory which would later come under threat by ex-US president Donald Trump. And on that note, influencer involvement in politics was greater than we’d ever seen it before. Misinformation continues to challenge the industry, and the debate about whether social media giants should be perceived as platforms or publishers is ongoing.

Our role as a leading global influencer marketing agency is to offer influencer-led creative solutions for brands, enabling them to connect with audiences across social media in depth and at scale. But also, to work with creators to ensure the industry can reach its full potential and quash any lingering concerns along the way.

TAKUMI: Five years young

As the industry has matured, so has TAKUMI. Our roots were firmly established in Instagram, where influencer marketing really found its feet. However, in identifying the potential of multi-platform campaigns, we adapted our offering into other legacy and emerging channels, providing brands the opportunity to work across platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.

Influencer marketing wasn’t only grabbing attention in the UK, and as a result TAKUMI didn’t just expand to accommodate additional social media channels, but also international markets. We always had a global outlook, with offices in London, New York and Berlin, but expansion to France, Spain, Italy, Austria and Switzerland allowed for a centralised solution to deliver high-quality, compelling and authentic content across Europe, at scale.

In the last year, despite the pandemic, we have grown the company and increased the average partnership two-fold. We’ve also witnessed the creation of new business units and industry-leading solutions such as TAKUMI X, a new creative and consulting division which enables brands to work closer with creators. As a result, we’re now able to facilitate deeper collaborations than ever before and offer clients unprecedented access to the first-hand insights and creative reserves of leading talent to produce innovative and culturally relevant content. Creators are the modern-day Don Drapers. These are the people driving culture, setting the agenda, capturing the zeitgeist and creating virality that brands struggle to achieve alone.

We also launched our third industry-leading whitepaper, Into the mainstream: Influencer marketing in society, which surveyed more than 3,500 consumers, influencers, and marketers across the UK, US and Germany, focusing on ethics, diversity, misinformation, and emerging channels.

Can’t see for talent: TAKUMI’s lockdown campaigns

At the height of lockdown, marketers weren’t able to carry out pre-planned shoots for ATL campaigns and OOH advertising spend lost its ROI potential due to the social distancing restrictions in place. As a result, we witnessed many brands adapting their ad strategies. Best placed to create high-quality, hyper-targeted content from within their own homes, brands turned to influencers for a solution. Harnessing the talent of these creative individuals led to a number of hugely successful campaigns for our clients.

Launched within three weeks of the UK’s first national lockdown, we worked with Häagen-Dazs and Secret Cinema to launch the #HaagIndoors Secret Sofa campaign, which was Häagen-Dazs’ longest and first multi-platform influencer marketing amplification, and also a global debut for the brand on TikTok. It demonstrated a marked increase in e-commerce sales for the ice cream brand and drew huge amounts of industry praise for its ingenuity.

In a similar vein, Wickes was the first brand in the home improvement industry to launch a campaign on TikTok. It involved seven of our creators, who were tasked with adapting existing trends to create cultural moments and increase product usage.

Finally, we were pleased to launch a multimarket pro-bono campaign across TikTok and Instagram. The campaign objectives were two-fold: to drive awareness of the WHO protection measures against COVID-19, and to spread positivity while protecting mental health.

What’s next?

If 2020 proved anything, it’s that the best laid plans often go awry. That said, 2021 looks set to be the best year yet, not only for TAKUMI, but for the influencer marketing sphere as a whole.

We’ll see content creators emerging as miniature media outlets, as political conversations on social media continue to dominate the landscape. This will come hand in hand with more work to tackle the spread of misinformation. Commerce through apps is set to soar, with most of us choosing to shop online. And TikTok’s explosive growth certainly isn’t likely to fizzle out anytime soon.

Here’s to another exciting year.