BAT RADAR SURVEY ON INFLUENCER MARKETING
- 9 June 2019
- Written by: Tommaso Conte
The theme of Influencer Marketing has taken on increasing importance in recent years, due to the fact that this segment of the companies marketing strategy is perfectly compatible with a dynamic society and a market in constant motion and change. The transition from a contingent approach to a strategic one in the management of influencers requires new skills and new tools for companies.
In this scenario, the Bat Radar team wanted to monitor the “state of the art”, the perception, the evaluation, as well as the possible future developments of the influencer marketing phenomenon through a search within its own community. The research involved 220 subjects including companies, sector agencies and influencers.
From the macro to the micro: an evolutionary process
The awareness of the opportunities offered by the Influencer Marketing has been constantly growing, for some years now. This trend is confirmed by the choices made by marketing managers, ommunication managers and communication agencies, which, however, need to fully understand the strategies to adopt in relation to this promotion channel.
The cultural transition we are experiencing, which we need to become more and more aware of, is reflected in increasing investments in the functional segment (40% of companies invest up to 10% of their advertising budget in the Influencer Marketing, a substantial 25% invests up to 40%), a sign of the increasingly evident potential that this channel offers.
However, what emerges from our survey and which is becoming evident to an increasing number of players in the marketing world, is a progressive shift from the macro approach to the micro, caused precisely by the resonance that such a young phenomenon has had in the market and in the society. We are witnessing a radical change of vision and perspective in the choices made by the operators. The focus is increasingly focused on the “common person”, on the real ambassador, the micro-influencer. In fact, it seems that what made the fortune of the big names in today’s social world, namely the closeness to the brand and the credibility and reliability that came with it, is now reaching a saturation level in terms of market presence. If in the past the advertising of a product was seen as the natural consequence of the influencer direct experience on the product, today it is no longer the case. Also due to the new reforms on paid advertising, many influencers are perceived as sponsored, no longer independent. The loss of credibility appears as an inevitable consequence. On the contrary, micro-influencers are increasingly effective (provided, however, that they are able, in their environment, albeit small, to exert real influence). The micro-influencers are able to be close to their followers, to their own territory and to their area of influence and they are given greater naturalness, genuineness and truth.
The role of agencies
In this scenario, it is clear that the need of companies is to keep pace with the times, with the sudden and progressive changes that characterize the society of the twenty-first century, but without forgetting to remain faithful to their reference sector, which builds its bases on values such as trust and reliability.
The first figures involved in this evolutionary process are communication, marketing and brokerage agencies (influencer marketing agencies). We asked our sample of companies to express an opinion on agencies: 65% of respondents said they had never used the agencies, while only 35% declared the opposite. Investigating among those who use the agencies, it emerged the need for a change of pace: the perception of competence and authority is low in reference to the influencer marketing segment, due to errors in the identification of the targets, or obtaining disappointing results, or in any case different from those envisaged and hoped for, as well as the lack of credible pre and post-campaign analysis provided to the company. In support of this trend, the verbatim analysis on the future of the agency in the reference sector settle down. A trand towards independence is identified, confirmed by 55% of our sample, which puts the companies in the perspective of equipping themselves with internal marketing influencers.
The concept of change is what made the influencer marketing to flourish. The need for an evolution of perspective and strategy can be a threat to the existence of the agencies, or an opportunity for them to evolve and find their own space, in a market that requires guarantees and security.
The choice of the influencer
The focus of the marketing action and the most critical element in this segment is to be identified in the choice of the influencer figure. The search for the right profile is the most important phase of the entire promotional process, since the chosen profile becomes the vehicle of the brand image as well as the vehicle of the values of the company that launch the promotional campaign.
Given the aforementioned, it is then clear that the data indicating the breadth of the fanbase is not of great importance. The real change in recent years has been the shift in attention from the data expressed in absolute terms to the value transmitted and represented by the person.
But what exactly does this value correspond to? Is the value of the positioning? Is the value of the brand affinity? Is the value of representativeness? It is clear that these elements, taken individually, do not guarantee any tangible results to the company that invests. The value of an influencer is, in fact, the “influence”, or the ability to trigger word of mouth by turning on the sales engine.
If the influencer marketing agencies build very flashy, glossy, old school Instagram profiles (Vogue docet), perfectly representative for some brands, but are not able to generate engagement, understood as a real relationship between influencers and followers, no investment, for how minimal it is, makes sense from the customer. But also in the case in which, on the contrary, an influencer marketing agency pushes on the trend of the moment, the micro-influencers, choosing all the profiles of those who declare themselves micro influencers (including unspecifiable profiles), only on the basis of engagement rate, the results of the campaigns may appear disappointing (or even counterproductive for the brand). This happens because the aforementioned approach rarely translates into a value index, nor does it guarantee an adequate return on investment.
The alchemy needed to optimize influencer marketing returns is an extremely complex recipe to obtain and companies are trying less and less to delegate their choices to third parts.
The influencers are chosen on the basis of:
1. the representativeness for their brand (75% of our respondents indicated this as the main criterion of choice);
2. as bearers of positive values, even if not directly connected to the product or service that the brand wants to approach or make its own (50%);
3. on the basis of the engagement rate (38%);
Here is the confirmation of the attention to micro-influencers, understood as authentic people, able to exercise an ascendancy in their community, even if small and provided that they have a real centralization on themselves of the values of the brand and their reliability.
In conclusion, the research highlights how the true added value of an effective marketing strategy and, specifically, of the entire phenomenon of influencer marketing, lies in the concept of “value”. How much is an influencer really worth? Who decides his/her value? What value does he/she add to my brand and my company? Does he/she give me at least the value of the investment?
That an influencer is a micro or a superstar, for companies today is of little interest. What matters, and what influencers, brokerage firms and client companies will play as the game of the near future relies on concepts very different from the ability to “ignite” vanity, as indeed happened in the past. Companies are quickly returning to think about the traditional table of the marketing economy, evaluating the actual returns in economic terms of the actions and on the levers to be able to optimize the ratio of action to return.