WHY BRANDS MUST INCLUDE INFLUENCER MARKETING IN THEIR PR STRATEGY.

Bada Akintunde-Johnson Nigerian PR Report 2020

By BADA AKINTUNDE-JOHNSON – VIACOMCBS NETWORKS AFRICA

 

I remember receiving a brief in 2010 from a PR agency asking me to work on a campaign as a social media influencer for one of the biggest non-alcoholic beverage brands in Nigeria ahead of the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa. I wondered why such a huge brand needed me and the rest of the guys they hired for the same purpose at the time. Clearly, with their seemingly limitless budgets they could afford to buy millions of advertising spots on major television and radio networks or sign superstar celebrity brand ambassadors to guarantee the audience reach they wanted for their campaign. 

 

At the time, I had a little over seven thousand followers on twitter and another five thousand friends of Facebook which made me wonder what posting on my pages was ever going to do for them. The money was good though and the experience promised an opportunity to learn some new things so I obviously wasn’t going to question their rationale or reject the offer. I took the job, got mobilized and delivered what was required of me over the course of the campaign. One of my deliverables was to post my experiences using the product a certain number of times per week. I simply told what I considered a regular story of me using the product. Turns out, as I would later discover, that this particular type of endorsement is exactly why influencer marketing proves very powerful and effective.

 

My initial surprise was chiefly driven by ignorance I must admit now, because I naively viewed the strategies or tools needed to deliver an effective campaign through the lens of my traditional advertising practice and clearly underestimated the evolution that was gradually taking place within the marketing landscape. I worked as a copywriter in one of Nigeria’s top creative advertising agencies at the time so you could say I was a carpenter who looked at every challenge like a nail that needed a hammer solution. In hindsight though, I have nothing but respect, admiration and praise for the brands that saw into the future, recognized the immense power of this ‘new way’ and started prioritizing the use of social media influencers as a key part or as the core of their PR strategies. 

 

Figure 1: Comparison of Influencer marketing and print advertising between December 2016 and June 2018

Permit me at this juncture to clarify for the avoidance of doubt, that neither this article nor figure 1 above attempts to conclude that traditional marketing methods no longer work. Rather, my position is that marketing campaigns especially in this part of the world, will work even more effectively when traditional methods are combined with influencer marketing. After all, a campaign is said to be effective only to the degree of its integration of multiple tactics fit for different platforms or audiences. I’m sure we all remember the marketing mix from our early introduction to the study of marketing and promotions.

 

In the last 5 years, brands have collaborated extensively with influencers on campaigns thereby growing what used to be nothing more than an ancillary marketing tactic to an estimated 10-billion-dollar a year industry. The question then is: why has influencer marketing become so important universally over the years? Why is it important to have social media influencers form a big part of the strategy for any PR campaign? The table below from one of the world’s leading influencer marketing companies Mediakix shows clearly the top objectives that brands achieve by using influencers in campaigns. I’ll like to touch on the top five based on the rankings in Figure 2 below, which I believe reflect global trends as well as reinforce my experiences and learnings within the marketing and PR spaces locally. 

 

Figure 2: Mediakix bar chart showing common goals of the influencer marketing strategy

 

DRIVE BRAND AWARENESS AND IMPROVE ADVOCACY

 

Influencer marketing can create more awareness for brands and for much lesser budgets than traditional marketing. In a recent survey, out of 81% of marketers who use influencer content, 51% of them said that it outperforms brand created content. The reason is easy to see. Influencer marketing is a modern adaptation of word-of-mouth which has been an effective marketing strategy for as long as human societies have existed. Influencers typically enjoy very loyal if not almost religious or cult following. These followers perceive them as authorities in the areas of their interest or expertise. This makes it easy for them to confer their credibility on the brand. Add the rapport they already cultivated with these audiences and you see why they can help build an army of brand believers, evangelists and promoters. It is very organic, authentic and guarantees better engagement that humanizes the brand and makes it more relatable and lovable over time too. 

 

SALES AND LEAD GENERATION: 

 

Traditional marketing has always struggled to convince that it can deliver conversion. It does a great deal for top of mind awareness but not so much for ‘making the cash register ring’ as the legendary David Ogilvy would say. Not so with influencer marketing. This is because there are measurement metrics, which clearly help with tracking results. Brand mentions, click-through rates, referral traffic, custom links, downloads, subscriptions, redemption codes, landing pages among others help to drive tangible and measurable sales. To add to that, a brand using influencers has access to critical personal information or data that can prove very useful in direct marketing through newsletter subscriptions and account setups. The best measurements, to me, are the ones that allow you to use metrics that tally directly with the campaign objective. Sales metrics for sales objectives and awareness metrics for awareness-based campaigns. Influencer marketing does deliver great ROI, without a doubt. According to a Tomson study, businesses earn $6.50 for each dollar spent on influencers with the top 13% earning $20 or even more on each dollar spent. Those are definitely super impressive numbers and I would like to believe the Nigerian picture isn’t much different, if different at all.

 

Figure 3: Tomson study on revenue per $1 spent by businesses on influencer marketing

 

REACH NEW AUDIENCES: 

 

Reaching audiences or the right ones are becoming more and more difficult for traditional marketing. In more developed climes, like in the US, ad blocking usage is 40% on laptops and 15% on mobile – as audiences show more and more irritation for pop-ups and banners. It is common knowledge that during ad breaks on radio and television, people pick up their mobile phones, go use the bathroom and do other things till their favourite shows come back on. With influencer marketing, brands beat these challenges quite easily and can even extend their campaign messages to audiences who otherwise wouldn’t have paid it any attention whatsoever or seen it. Influencers have access to and can share with brands key audience data like age, location, gender and interests, which help to make targeting a lot more focused and impactful. Want your campaign to hit the bull’s eye target audience or reach new audiences? Influencer marketing provides a reliable way to target more accurately. 

 

My experiences working with some of the biggest brands clearly show that there is still a lot of skepticism about the effectiveness of influencer marketing in this market. Much as its been used in Nigeria for some time now, compared to the rest of the developed and to a certain degree, other developing nations, we are still very much at the embryo stages. There are many brands that still only employ the ‘safe’ traditional options, which clearly are less measurable and less effective in isolation. If you are one of them and the points I have articulated above still don’t ignite a rethink or spark up a need for some adjustments, maybe the table in Figure 4 below will convince you better why influencer marketing should form a critical part of your PR strategy going forward. If you aren’t still persuaded by now maybe some truth in the numbers will do the magic. After all, we generally believe that numbers don’t lie. The numbers below tell key truths that all stakeholders should consider going forward. 

 

Figure 4: Table showing percentage of respondents who distrust various advertising formats, by generation

 

Now as head of a multi-brand multinational media business in market, I consider any campaign plan delivered to me without an influencer marketing component incomplete. Maybe someday in the future when the numbers no longer add up, my opinion will adjust to the reality of then. For now, the numbers do add up. They certainly do and many brands have been taking advantage of this for years now. Time for yours to join this group of companies maybe?

 

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