In defense of influencer marketing

PewDiePie, Youtube star.
PewDiePie, Youtube star.

Why PewDiePie and Smosh have something over Jennifer Lawrence and Seth Rogan

From the apple-pushing snake of Adam & Eve to "Leave it to Beaver" ’s Eddie Haskell, the world has been blessed with a rich lineage of influencers. Whether they’re making fully fleshed-out web series episodes or six-second video bursts on Vine, influencers are commanding attention from viewers and brands alike. But are these campaigns worth the time and money for marketers?

Absolutely. Influencer marketing campaigns have an efficacy that brands can’t ignore. Influencers, much like toasters or broilers, do exactly what it sounds like they do: They influence others with the content they create, which includes affecting brand perception and sales.

Indeed, when it comes to younger audiences, YouTube personalities such as PewDiePie and Smosh score better in terms of approachability and authenticity than mainstream celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence or Seth Rogen. Social influencers can take a brand brief and explore it in their own voice, which their audience has already come to love — and in many cases, at the fraction of the price of a traditional celebrity.

So, why are marketers still hesitating? Much of digital media still lacks understanding about the measurability of these campaigns, especially when it comes to ROI. But now with huge data inventories and impressive advances in measurement technology, we can determine exactly how effective these campaigns are on influencing everything from brand awareness to actual sales. 

Research companies such as Datalogix and LoudDoor have shown real-world sales impact after consumers were exposed to brands via social media, with results ranging from increased brand awareness and elevated brand perceptions to actual lifts in in-store purchases. How do they do it? Spoiler alert: Big Data is watching you!

Datalogix, for example, identifies consumer purchase behavior via store loyalty cards and can draw a line between the time people are first exposed to brand messaging — such as viewing a Facebook post — and their in-store purchase to buy that same product days or even weeks later.

Still not convinced? Sixty-seven percent of millennials say digital delivers content they can relate to (vs 41% for TV), and 64% of respondents aged 13 to 23 report they would try a product or brand recommended by a YouTube personality.

And it’s not just about winning over Millennials and Gen-Z. According to a Burst Media report on Influencer Marketing Benchmarks, the average earned media value of an influencer marketing program is $6.85 for every $1 spent on paid media. Brands like Cointreau, Kia Motors and ASOS are all citing successful results from influencer programs, which not only support short-term goals of sales but establish brands for long-term relevance to the audiences that matter most.

When done right, influencer campaigns can make a meaningful connection with consumers and truly increase their ROI by creating fans for life. And as more and more internet traffic moves toward video, especially on mobile devices, smart brands will invest in content that captures and engages their target audience.

Michael Civins is senior account manager at Beeby Clark+Meyler.

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