Internal Debate Goes Live – The PACIFIC Team Weighs in on the Pros and Cons of Influencer Marketing

The term “influencer marketing” may be new, but the concept isn’t. Big brands have utilized this model for a long time—from Michael Jordan representing Nike and David Beckham endorsing H&M to Khloe Kardashian promoting Amazon.

Written by PACIFIC The Discovery Group
on 05.15.19

Image Source: Shutterstock

Like any industry, trends shift with time. Before, brands were all about finding the biggest influencers with the highest number of followers with no regard to who was following them or how engaged they were. The Fyre Festival scandal could, in one way, be seen as a positive point in time for brands and influencer marketing, as it opened up conversations about whether influencer marketing provides real business results.

This topic led to a very interesting conversation at PACIFIC, and brought to light many good points on both sides of the influencer marketing debate.

Whether or not influencer marketing is right for your brand or your campaign depends on many factors. Check out the viewpoints of experts across different departments here at PACIFIC.

Influencer relationships must be built on trust

“At the highest level, I’m all for anything that creates opportunity and/or a way to make a living in a non-traditional way. So, from that standpoint, I’m pro-influencer marketing. I’m also pro-influencer marketing because it works.

As marketing from a messaging POV continues to move further and further away from the overt hard sell, the need for more “authentic” avenues (like influencer marketing) have increased. Like all marketing tactics, when done right, they can be very successful for the client. Below are three pertinent relationships that need to incorporate trust and authenticity to make an influencer partnership successful:

The relationship between brand and influencer. No influencer should be spoon-fed what to say. If you can’t trust the influencer, you probably got the wrong influencer.

The relationship between influencer and audience. People are not dumb. They know if they’re being sold BS.

The relationship between the audience and the tactic of influencer marketing. Every initiative should start with the audience. Ask yourself, Is this an audience that’s accepting of influencer marketing? 

Without trust and authenticity between these entities, influencer marketing is doomed to fail.” – Trish Pavlecich, Director of Brand Communications

Influencer marketing works best as part of a bigger program

“Influencer marketing isn’t that much of a departure from how marketing has operated traditionally. It’s a more democratized version of what we’ve gotten used to—seeing people who are a part of the cultural fabric of society tell us which brands they have aligned themselves with, influencing the public—their fans—to do the same.

But here’s the catch. Like content marketing and so many other forms of soft-touch marketing efforts, it’s harder for brands to capitalize on influencer marketing and draw a 1:1 connection to ROI. It’s even harder for brands that aren’t retailers to see the impact on revenue because there are too many steps and variables between a post and a purchase when you can’t slap a promo code or “buy here” link onto the post itself.

I’d caution brands to avoid forcing influencers to post content that won’t feel like a natural and authentic endorsement to the consumers who are engaging with these influencers. Doing that only erodes trust—for the brand and for the influencer—and makes it that much harder to see any positive gains from this type of marketing

At the end of the day, influencer marketing as a concept works, but brands should look at it as part of a holistic marketing program, not a one-stop shop means of generating buzz and revenue. A little perspective will go a long way.” – Mae Cromwell, Director of Strategy

Influencer marketing is best used further down the marketing funnel

“Since I specialize in social listening, I look at influencer marketing through a different lens than many of my colleagues. I can track the metrics around an influencer’s posts (such as likes, number of followers, and the sentiment associated with the conversation). That data helps me formulate my perspective on influencer marketing’s efficacy.

In my opinion, influencer marketing is not optimum for creating awareness, per se. Other channels can do a much better job at that in so many ways. That is not to say that I don’t find it to be a valuable component of the customer journey or purchase funnel.

Further down-funnel is where this type of digital tactic has room to blossom. I find the true value of influencer marketing at the consideration phase. By that point, the customer already has an awareness, and is moving closer toward conversion. The right influencer presenting themselves at the proper time to a receptive audience can be the key to turning consideration into intent.

The (admittedly very rudimentary) flow would go something like this:

I’m aware that I need new sneakers. Which ones should I consider purchasing? Oh, that person who I think is really cool likes Brand X. I now intend to buy new Brand X sneakers.” – Tim Brown, Marketing Insights Manager

Influencer marketing is a great means of brand awareness if you can align with the right ambassadors for your audience and convey authenticity

“The value of influencer marketing cannot be established as a priority unless we acknowledge there are many factors that help determine its efficacy. The ideal audience, their age range, and the country you’re targeting are just a few of the variables that determine whether a business might be causing a complete disaster or making the smartest decision ever when investing in influencers.

In general, there’s a fine line that can determine a tragic or victorious outcome, and it is represented by the authenticity the user perceives through the promotion.

Additionally, don’t forget that the reach of traditional means can differ widely just across national borders. Trying to push a product or a brand to the middle-aged group via broadcast ads in Italy—where watching TV daily is part of the family culture—will have a different reach in the same audience in UK, where paid licenses to watch national channels have been progressively cancelled every year in favor of ads-free subscriptions such as Netflix and Prime Video.

Certainly there are costs associated with the influencer and the commitment of building a relationship with them, but both can bring positive results by selecting micro-influencers who represent the target audience and can be trusted as a peer, even if they’re not Hollywood stars. The initial reach might be lower, but the engagement is likely to be higher. And not only are micro-influencers more affordable than macro-influencers, they’re also more likely get more user engagement because they’ve got to work for it through  competitions and actually replying to questions.

From a purely SEO perspective, specifically here in Europe, I believe that when it’s done right influencer marketing can provide organic, authoritative, and valuable content, which improves Expertise, Authority, and Trust (EAT) ratings. This content can also be shared and discussed, bringing more mentions to the brand and diversifying the backlink profile.

Bottom line: influencer marketing is a great way to get a brand and a product known, as long as you align your ambassador to your target, convey authenticity, and build relationships through and with the influencer to create valuable, engaging content.” – Giulia Panozzo, SEO Manager

Influencer marketing is a long-term profitable investment that requires key stakeholder buy-in

“Influencer marketing requires time and effort, two things that are often a hard sell for key stakeholders. They tend to want whatever will bring in the most leads in the least amount of time for the lowest cost or effort. That’s not influencer marketing—at least, that’s not influencer marketing done the right way.

If you want to make your influencer marketing program work, you need to break your silos and earn that buy-in from key stakeholders. Then you need to do your research, find the right influencer for your brand, and build a strong long-term relationship with them. This requires taking the time to meet potential partners in person. You’ve got to find out who they are and see whether they’re the best person to seamlessly bridge the trust they’ve earned with their audience to the products and/or services your brand offers.

When done right, influencer marketing can and does yield a positive long-term financial ROI, but it takes time, effort, and a human connection. It requires trust, and trust takes time to earn in any relationship, right? Trust can’t be stolen. It must be earned, or you are bound to lose it.

The right influencer should naturally resonate with your brand’s key buyer personas. They must have an established trust with their audience. Once you’ve found the right influencer for you, communication becomes key. Find areas of mutual benefit, discuss potential obstacles or worst-case scenarios, and clearly set expectations on both sides. Understand how they’ve come to earn their audience and find the most organic way to weave what you do into that as naturally as possible. Then step back and allow them to be themselves. If you’ve chosen the right influencer, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.

If you’re just focused on bringing in a name or familiar face for a one-off project, then it’s going to be a waste of money and your campaign is going to fail. If you want to find success with influencer marketing, you must think long-term, put in the time, and let them do their thing.” – Daniel Womack, Social Media Specialist

The concept of influencer marketing can work, but needs a more effective way to measure it

“I think a place for influencer marketing to work is with emerging brands that have an established footprint. That’s where the impact of a influencer may actually be substantial to their brand awareness.

From a measurement perspective, the biggest challenge is to be able to identify brand lift and directly associate that influencer marketing. In most instances, influencer marketing is most likely to have a very small window of impact, so you have to determine if that impact at the point in time is actually going to be measurable and persistant.

From an overall ROI perspective, it may be possible to have influencer marketing be more efficient. I believe it may have a much lower overhead considering production costs and other inputs in ad buying for display, TV, and print campaigns.

When it comes down to it, influencer marketing is the ultimate form of vanity marketing…but if it is able to prove itself from an ROI perspective by showing a measurable impact on the business, I would support it. That is, of course, if somebody is able to prove that they can measure the impact.” – Joshua Slodki, Director of Analytics and Paid Media

In short, the PACIFIC teams feels strongly that influencer marketing can be an effective marketing tactid—as long as it’s approached and implemented in the right way. Our recent Baja Menu campaign relied heavily on influencer marketing done in an authentic way, and it’s a good example of how this can be a successful tactic.