In order for someone to become an accomplished influence marketer, she has to strike a delicate balance.
Creating and distributing branded content, especially when working with influencers, involves a mix between being aware of the needs of content creators, who are rightfully protective of the audience they have built, and brands, who wanna make sure their message comes across in an effective (and controversy-free) manner.
For WHOSAY's Senior Director of Talent Management, Ty Jones, the key is knowing how to "toe the line" between influencers who demand creative flexibility and brands "that wanna keep as much to their own voice as possible." No pressure.
Jones made the remarks at Digital Hollywood Spring conference held on Wednesday, May 24th at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, California, where he shared a panel with BEN's Michael Bertolina, Carat LA's Anathea Ruys, and Jam City's Josh Brooks, among others in an event titled, "Branded Entertainment Marketing - Across Platforms - Leveraging Image Content and Celebrity."
"We involve the talent as much as possible when we're putting these creative treatments together," Jones said, adding that they also talk to the brand about "letting go off a little bit of creative control."
When done right, this mix of letting content creators "do what they do best" and fulfilling brands' expectations, including exclusivity could render fantastic results.
Jones recalled a campaign WHOSAY developed for Chevy a couple of years ago, starring Alec Baldwin as Abe Lincoln. "It was to promote their Best Day Ever campaign, which is kind of the opposite of April Fool's Day [...] So we had creative calls with [Baldwin], and he's not used to doing a lot of these branded campaigns, so you wanted his voice to be heard."
The result? One of WHOSAY's most successful campaigns where the self-confessed history buff surprised a history class at Occidental College in character to an amazing reaction from students who helped make the content viral by posting and reposting their "Best Day Ever"on their social media feeds.
"That's something we can kind of toe the line with; it feels right for him, he's getting paid for it, obviously people know he's getting paid for it, but we're still creating really impactful content that we think is genuine to both what Chevy wanted and what [Baldwin] wants to portray as a history buff and just as a smart guy in general," Jones explained.
Jones acknowledged there's been a lot more education since the early days of influence marketing, when prospective brands only looked at the cool factor. "One question that I don't like getting [is] 'how much does so and so cost?' It's like if you start off on that foot, you're like OK you're just looking for X amount of followers, you're not looking at engagement, you're not looking at brand authenticity."
Fortunately, as influence marketing experiences growing pains it also offers more case studies and—ultimately—more data to look at when trying to decide what works and what doesn't. One thing is clear, even if it sounds cliché at this point, being authentic and genuine will always win at the end of the day.
"Our day to day [at WHOSAY] is knowing talent," Jones points out. Maintaining relationships with these influencers and content creators by engaging with their social feeds, the projects they are part of, and the causes they’re passionate about is crucial to keep authenticity. ("Is this person actually a rock climber? Do they wanna use these random equipment things? Even though they're an actor, you actually would think they'd use that?")
The bottom line is; as a content creator, "you obviously don't want to be boxed out of things," including other potential opportunities. "[Influencers] feel like your window to post that content, that branded content, is just for a limited time—whatever it is; a few days or weeks," Jones says. "And then, after that, you're good. You put your content in there and your fans also know, 'OK, they liked that shoe or that brand, but now, maybe a few months later, they'll like a different one. [And that's OK] because they're going to tell me, in their own voice, why this is actually really good and why I [should] like this.'"