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Look, like, love: from search to social and the power of influence

17 June 2020Rosie Barrett

Back in February Forbes reported that 63% of brands were planning to increase their spending on influencer marketing this year.

And whilst the arrival of COVID-19 might have dampened some of these aspirations, with 49% of consumers claiming that they depend on influencer recommendations to make a purchase decision, the power of the influencer can’t be denied.

In this month's episode of The Experience Makers, we’re delving into this trending topic, discussing just how powerful influencer marketing can be. Our host Gemma Milne is joined by Wunderman Thompson experts, Stacey Neumann and Chloe Cox to understand why millennials and Gen-Z are trusting their peers and influencers over brands themselves.

The Experience Makers episode graphic

What do we mean by ‘the power of influence?’

Peer to peer marketing and the initial rise of the influencer came at a time when there was a general trend towards declining brand loyalty. The introduction of social media gave individuals a voice, democratizing the ability to broadcast opinion and increasing trust between peer groups. Brands needed to reconsider their strategies to re-build trust and credibility.

The term ‘influencer’ began to make its mark and individual endorsement started to have a big impact on purchasing decisions. As is often the case, the first wave of influencer celebrity gave way to a swell of consumer skepticism as soon as it became apparent that large amounts of money were changing hands for inauthentic advocacy. But this hasn’t killed the influencer. A new breed has evolved, and they’re having a big impact.

The rise of the micro influencer

Micro-influencers have emerged as the antidote to the first wave. They hold a mirror up to the target audience, they are like-minded, they actually use the products they are endorsing, and the delivery is authentic. They, like the brands they promote, understand, and take into consideration, that every move they make can have serious repercussions in relation to their following and the reputation of the brand. These micro-influencers are helping brands to promote an authentic voice with their relatable personalities. Chloe highlights the rise of re-commerce and the shift towards peer to peer selling on platforms, such as Depop, as the breeding ground for these niche players. These sites are helping micro-influencers to find their feet before launching on mainstream social sites, such as Instagram.

There’s a trend towards people starting small but creating a groundswell around them. Not only are they authentic but they have a genuine expertise.

Stacey Neumann
Chloe Cox, Gemma Milne and Stacey Neumann in Soho Radio studio
*Please note that this photo was taken pre-social distancing

Fashion brands leading the way

There are different levels within the influencer community - aspirational and accessible - which the fashion industry has really got to grips with.

Gucci, for example, have Gen-Z individuals on their advisory board but are also working with celebrities, such as Florence Welch (Florence & the Machine), who have become aspirational influencers for the brand on a long-term basis. At the other end of the scale, affordable fashion brand, Pretty Little Things is engaging with more accessible influencers, such as Love Island stars, to actually collaborate on capsule collections. The fashion industry seems to be leading the way.

Sustainability and accessibility

Young consumers are becoming more interested in sustainability and focusing on brands that are seen to be doing good and giving something back to the environment. This generation don’t always want to buy new and are huge advocates of peer to peer selling sites.

Influencers are also helping to shape and promote accessibility within the world of fashion. Stacey talks about Sinead Burke, a dwarf influencer, and about Wunderman Thompson’s own accessibility campaign for Tommy Hilfiger.

Influencers are finally helping the fashion industry to move away from size zero models and an unrealistic representation of the consumers that are actually buying their products.

Discovery v. Search

Wunderman Thompson’s Future Shopper report has found that 49% of 16-24 year olds look for purchase inspiration on social channels. Brands need to be discoverable, not just searchable. Where it used to be just about Google rankings, today is all about establishing yourself on the right channels, with a focus on tagging, hashtags and keywords.

Rather than searching for specific products, social searching is about gaining inspiration. And young consumers are doing this proactively, as well as passively. Posting a question about a specific brand on your story and getting immediate and relevant responses from your peer group can be much more constructive than a direct search online. How can data help? Data is essential across the board. To help choose your influencers, better understand your consumers and identify their needs. Data also helps to identify trending and real time conversations that brands need to be reacting to, without having to rely on third parties.

Download and tune in for more...

Stacey and Chloe provide some fantastic advice throughout this episode, including how to choose your influencer and adopt an ethos and tonality that reflects what you stand for. The first point to consider is what you want to use your influencer for? Success is about finding a simple message that can beat the algorithm. Emulate the behavior on the channels and make sure it’s consumer-centric. Test and learn. We don’t want to give everything away, so make sure you download the episode now!

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Author: Rosie Barrett
Published: 17 June 2020
customer insightdatadigital marketingsustainabilitymarketing campaign

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