5 ways brands can embrace the power of the new visual influencers

Zoella is leading the charge for the new wave of visual influencers
Zoella is leading the charge for the new wave of visual influencers

The new visual economy represents a huge opportunity, both for brands and the creative community, writes Nicola Kemp

The power of the YouTube superstar is well established. Zoella has fast become shorthand for the phenomenal reach, appeal and commercial possibility of vlogging.

Speaking at an Ad Week Europe event discussing the rise of the visual influencer

Adam Clyne, head of digital EMEA Weber Shandwick, said that whilst it was once words that dominated our communications culture, it is now images. With 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every hour there is an ever increasing pool of creators to add to the mix.

Yet there is one issue; consumer attention spans have now dropped to less than that of a goldfish at just eight seconds, so questions remain as to how brands can cut through the clutter?

In line with this here are 5 tips from the session in how to harness the power of visual influencers

1. Build authentic partnerships

Heather Mitchell, head of global brand PR and social media at Unilever haircare says consumers want credibility and authenticity. "Women are looking to influencers like Zoella for advice more so than traditional media and advertising channels," she explains.

2. Be transparent

While brands and agencies love to wax lyrical over the power of 'earned media' the fact remains that many brands are in fact paying for coverage. Leading influencers on Instagram, Vine and You Tube not only demand significant fees, but have agents brokering their deals. In addition marketers need to invest in partnering with agencies in order to find and build relationships with the right influencers. (Unilever works with Weber Shandwick).

Tiffanie Darke, creative content director at News UK, says that often brands want the content to look earned but ultimately brands' are paying for it.

"We are paying [vloggers] and disclosing, but we still have earned spaces, especially in print it is earned," adds Unilever's Mitchell.

3. Build your own channels

Of course the goal for many brands is to become media owners in their own right; launching their own channels to better harness the power of this new wave of visual influencers. Unilever created its own channel on YouTube, All Things Hair to promote its haircare brand and it is populated by a range of global influencers.

"It was such an obvious idea we knew there were over a billion how to searches for haircare advice and how to demonstrations. Women all over the world were wanting to do their hair in certain styles and we partnered with vloggers in key markets to generate advocacy and credibility," explains Unilever's Mitchell.

4. Quality trumps quantity when it comes to visual influencers

Securing the most high-profile, or most followed influencer is not always the right strategy for marketers. Instead they should shift their focus to building relationships over time with credible partners. "To me it is about quantity not quality I would much rather choose a partner with journalistic integrity and a credible voice," explains Unilever's Mitchell.

5. Be platform agnostic

It may surprise you to read that in a session dedicated to the rise of the new visual influencer, the biggest cheer was reserved for the assertion that print is not dead. News UK's Darke advised the audience to watch out for print, explaining: "Luxury is about having a beautiful medium" and pointing to the fact that digital upstart AirBNB has invested in the luxury magazine Pineapple, while  fashion giant Net-a-Porter has launched the beautifully designed Porter magazine.

Unilever's Mitchell added that in the beauty space print is never going away as it is "so important" for premium beauty brands. She added that Unilever has it's eyes firmly placed on Snapchat for future projects and highlighted the network alongside Pinterest as 'ones to watch'.

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