Marketing Briefing: How brands and agencies are speeding up their pursuit of influencer trends

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Finding up-and-coming talent to partner with as well as trend spotting has long been crucial for marketers and agency execs who want their brands to be a part of culture in a way that keeps them relevant with young audiences. In recent months, that’s only gotten more important with the accelerated growth of influencer marketing, shifting content consumption habits and the continued fragmentation of the social media landscape.

Determining ways to get brands’ content to pop online has never been more difficult — social fragmentation is partially responsible for changing what viral means, after all. Brands that want to play in the space are having to adjust their workflows, according to agency execs, who say they’re working with clients to change approvals processes so that their speed from a potential piece of content to execution is significantly faster to make sure that they will release said content within a trend cycle. 

“Brands need to have a workflow that allows them to brief creators really quickly and turn content around in a week,” said Sophie Wood, senior creative strategist at influencer marketing shop Fohr, adding that the shop has been working with clients to create the kinds of workflows that allow them to do so. “Relevance is so important in social media. Trends can last a week or two so brands need to be able to work quickly… In the past, it would take like eight weeks to turn around influencer content and now we can brief it and get it turned around in like five days.”

Mother in New York has talked to clients about having separate cultural identification work streams that have different approvers and processes, explained Hannah Tabor, a strategy director at Mother New York. “We’re sending over ideas over email where one person gets a say versus the whole organization,” said Tabor. “You do have to fundamentally shift how those approvals and that process works to get those ideas over the line.” 

“Marketers always want to have a pulse on who’s next so that we can then strategically partner with that talent before they hit it big – often the challenge that we encounter is being able to accurately predict this,” said Gabe Gordon, CEO and Co-Founder at Reach Agency. “As a result, at Reach Agency we have a dedicated creator team figuring this out for our clients on a daily basis.” 

Aside from moving faster, brands also have to be more comfortable with having less control over how their brands are talked about online. “The cultural conversation is something that has to have a life of its own,” said Tabor. “You can’t control it too much or people won’t want anything to do with it. It requires a mindset shift as much as a process shift.” 

Aside from the process and mindset shift, which varies for each brand and agency, marketers are asking agencies more regularly to keep them in the loop on up-and-coming influencer talent who could be right for their brand. It can be tricky to figure out who to work with for brands as “new creator talent is emerging all the time,” noted Bianca Guimaraes, partner and executive creative director at creative shop Mischief @ No Fixed Address. “Nano, micro, mid or large — it doesn’t matter. What matters is the creator’s love for the brand and the level of follower engagement versus the number of followers.” 

For brands with smaller budgets, in particular, there’s more urgency to find and sign up-and-coming talent for the potential cost savings, especially with squeezed budgets over the last few months. 

“Emerging talent can certainly be more cost effective than working with established stars, so for brands working with smaller budgets this is sometimes the right wheelhouse,” said Mary Semling, svp of celebrity and influencer for Platinum Rye Entertainment, The Marketing Arm’s talent- and IP-procurement branch. “Brands also tend to get more bang for their buck in deals with up and coming talent — more service days for production, more PR hours, more social posts.” 

It’s not just about saving money by working with emerging talent but finding them at the right time. 
“For brands, the key is to find the right creator earlier because once a creator is established and working with a ton of brands and signed to an agency, the prices go up,” said Evan Britton, CEO of Famous Birthdays, a media company that pitches its offering as the Wikipedia for creators. In recent years, it added the capability for brands and agencies to use its data to determine who the rising creators are at the moment. “When they’re breaking out, that’s when they can really scale in a more efficient way with them.”

3 Questions with car rental platform Turo’s chief marketing officer Andrew Mok

What is Turo’s current social media strategy?

Our approach is really to leverage as much of our user-generated content as possible. Nowadays, the 2023 consumer, they’re so good at spotting corporate marketing and things that look stock, boring or super corporate. They want real. They want UGC. They want stuff that looks like their friend produced it. We really keep that in mind. That’s why creators [are] a big part of what we do. Also, the content that we create, we try to give it more of that UGC-type vibe.

Between Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and other social media platforms, there’s a lot of content production. How does Turo manage that? 

The approach is very different with social media. You want to set a direction and you want to have quality guidelines, but really get a lot of at bats [or opportunities]. You want to put a lot of stuff out there and let the data speak for itself on what works and what doesn’t work. In order to have this strategy of putting out lots of content, we need lots of people. We have lots of partners, lots of agency partners that we work with. But we also work with lots of creators and influencers of different sizes. It’s not just the big mega ones. It’s also the smaller, up and coming ones. And we’re really proud of the in-house capabilities that we’ve built. A lot of marketing teams, they rely heavily or completely on outside agencies. Most of our content is actually produced in-house. We’ve got a very robust team of designers, videographers, copywriters.

A lot happened this year between the strikes in Hollywood, Google’s antitrust battle and more. How did Turo manage its marketing through that? 

You’re starting to see lots and lots of brands coming out and thinking about diversifying away from Google, and not being so addicted to this performance marketing drug that Google has created with SEM. We’re taking steps in that as well, investing more and more in brand marketing. We perform a rigorous analysis of all our marketing activity, including our brand advertising. Coupled with data about our target audiences, specifically how they consume content, helps us better inform our media strategies. Last year we saw channels such as podcasts, social media, and online gaming really resonate with our audience. As a result, we increased spend by 15% year-over-year on these outlets. — Kimeko McCoy

By the numbers

Diversification has been a big theme in marketing over the last few years as advertisers look to spread their dollars across various media channels and become less reliant on the likes of Google and Meta. New research from Exclaimer, an email signature management software company, shows a breakdown of what the marketing media mix looks like going into 2024.

  • Heading into 2024, marketers are most interested in exploring organic social media (75%), influencer marketing (74%), and email signatures (59%) to reach their target audiences.
  • However, the research shows that consumers prefer to communicate with brands via emails over social media, with 52% preferring emails followed by 15% preferring text messaging.
  • While marketers may be prioritizing exploring social and influencer strategies over email, when it comes to where their investment dollars are going, email marketing is the priority channel (78%), followed by social media (66%) and SEO / content marketing (56%). — Kimeko McCoy

Quote of the week

“We kind of reverse engineer the programmatic component of it, where it’s less about finding the right audiences for the brands, and it’s finding the right brands for the communities… You can’t just find one creator, you have to find literally a community of creators for each brand.”

— Gaz Alushi, president of measurement and analytics at Whalar, at Digiday’s Programmatic Marketing Summit in New Orleans last week, on how the shop is helping marketers understand creators within programmatic terms.

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