Influencer Engagement Contracts: Why Brands Must Insist on Category Exclusivity

By LANRE EKEMODE – LSF|PR

In recent years, there is no doubt that the way brands interact with consumers has gone through great changes particularly with the increasing influence of social media. According to Hootsuite, more than 3.8 billion people use social media around the world, representing 49 per cent of the world’s total population. On average each user has more than 8 different social media platforms and spends 2 hours and 24 minutes using social media each day.

As we make a shift from the traditional, consumers are now more than ever make purchasing decisions based on social proof, relying on relatable and credible brand reviews from respected individuals on social media – the influencers.

Likewise, as brands recognise these changes in consumer behaviour, influencer marketing has become one of the most popular and effective ways to increase reach and brand engagement. For brands that want to establish a deep and meaningful connection with their consumer, influencer marketing allows authentic stories to be told in the most organic way possible, eliminating the obvious ‘sales’ tactics of other marketing techniques.

The effectiveness and popularity of this marketing channel have also made room for the growth of brand spend on influencer marketing campaigns. According to a report by Business Insider, the influencer marketing industry is on track to be worth up to $15 billion by 2022, an 87% increase from the industry’ up from as much as $8 billion in 2019.

Understanding how expedient ROI is, there is no doubt that now more than ever, marketers expect more value in return for the investment made on influencers. There is a need for more attention to be paid to how we engage our influencer talent especially as we find it harder to grab the attention of consumers in this noisy marketplace called social media. This being the case, we have seen brands enter into exclusivity agreements with influencers, barring collaboration with competitors on agreed platforms and/or during a stipulated period in a bid to protect marketing investment in terms of spend and creativity.

Let’s take this example, your brand engages influencer X whose 5m followers are targets for your marketing campaign, would you rather be top of mind to X’s followers or would you rather have a more fragmented share of mind because influencer X mentioned your competitor (whose product provides the same benefit as yours) in a video content? At this point, there is no gainsaying that the value brands receive from an influencer can be significantly lowered without exclusivity.

In terms of creating meaningful connections with consumers, exclusivity ensures consistency, believability and as a result, effectiveness in an influencer marketing campaign. If an engaged influencer shares content attesting to a unique selling point of your product, this message should remain consistent over a period of time. When said influencer collaborates with your brand’s competitor, it dilutes your campaign efforts, making it less organic and causing consumers to disconnect.

In conclusion, borrowing from the Peter Paker principle, “With great power comes great responsibility”. Brands cannot afford to empower influencers to raise their brand equity and at the same time have said influencers diminish campaign efforts by promoting the competitor in the struggle for category dominance. While some may argue that exclusivity unfairly limits professional opportunities for influencers, it is important for us to note and understand the fierceness of competition in this age. Exclusivity, just like other terms of any contract, serves as a balancing act, a guard dog, jealously protecting your brand’s objectives, ensuring that value is realised on influencer marketing investment.

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