Influencers have all the power. This year we have seen the market grow exponentially, but with power comes responsibility, and when Bob Dylan said "A hero is someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom", he couldn’t have been more right.
There’s a good reason why there were over 9.7 million #ad posts last year, which is set to rise to 14.5 million this year. Brands can’t get enough of influencers and they keep coming back for more, but what if one of their beloved influencers was to post a #ad for their competitor?
Take Alexa Chung (pictured above), presenter turned influencer, who has been the face of Longchamp for over three years and has now been dropped by the brand for her "countless" relationships with other brands.
Longchamp commented: "We’ve swapped. We’re going back to a real model. Authenticity is key and we think it adds more. Having a model seemed to make more sense."
But the hero influencers today are authentic, and in doing so are not just married to one brand as they have to retain some impartiality.
So how do brands figure out when less is more, or when less becomes inauthentic in its own right?
Weighing up your options
We have to almost rewind back to the basics to address the first stage of authenticity, which is simply finding the right influencer. It happens all too often that brands send out briefs to agencies looking for the cheapest or most readily available option.
Brands need to take their time, and find out who is a cultural fit, and genuinely likes the product.
If these are the kind of conversations you’re having with both agency and influencer, you’re onto a winner. However, if you go looking for a gun to hire, you’ll find an influencer that acts like a gun for hire and likely has an agent that looks at you like a hunter looks at a rabbit in the cross hairs.
So, don’t be surprised when they take the money and run.
Influencer relationships take time, and sometimes compromises, just like ones in your personal life. It takes time to work with them to ensure they are ambassadors, as opposed to mannequins, for your brand.
Chung worked with Longchamp for three years, which some might see as being way past the peak for a brand/influencer partnership. However, take yourself outside of the industry, where we are highly aware of these things – consumers had become familiar and comfortable with Chung as the face of the brand. Similar to your personal life, the ones that stick around and invest time in you are probably worth hanging on to.
Quite frankly one of the most annoying things we see is lack of appreciation, on both sides, of what each party is bringing to the table. That’s often at the core of how a relationship goes sour.
Influencers aren't simply an advertising medium, such as a billboard or digital banner, instead they have their own brand and following to protect. But similarly, brands aren’t just the influencers' cash cow. There has to be a genuine value exchange. My advice to brands – be transparent with influencers. Be explicit about your wants, and they will be explicit about what they can deliver. It just avoids disappointment.
Keep your balance
We’re all human, and no one can say they only like one brand of every type of product – or that they don’t swap between them – and influencers are the same. If as a brand, you request only your brand to be mentioned in a post it can actually have a negative effect. Keep it as natural as possible or the people you’re trying to reach just won’t buy it.
Ultimately it comes down to transparency, respect, and open communication. So, don’t find the line too late, like Longchamp has. Draw the line together, and you’ll find you both stay on the right side.
Matt Donegan is the managing director of Social Circle.