Influencer marketing, including making use of brands’ own staff to help promote products, should no longer be treated as an “add-on” but used as a core part of ad campaigns, experts at Ogilvy have said.
Brands are largely featuring influencers only on the peripherals of their marketing strategies, such as on social media, according to Rahul Titus, Ogilvy’s UK and EMEA head of influence, who is behind a new report laying out the key shifts in influencer marketing set for 2022.
Encouraging employees to become influencers is an approach that more agency clients should use, to reflect the lessons learned about the importance of word-of-mouth information sharing during the Covid pandemic, he added.
During this period, brands rethought their internal communications with employees, by moving away from top-down instructions from executives and instead using staff to promote changes to ways of working, and the same tactic is expected to become more common among external campaigns, he said.
However, the ongoing challenges around using influencers will remain in the coming year, according to Ogilvy’s UK influence expert, who warned that some brands are still “silly enough to break the rules” by encouraging influencers not to disclose payment for ads.
By reviewing its own campaigns, Ogilvy has found the use of an influencer on a marketing channel can increase the return on investment – whether that be impressions, sales leads or another metric – by up to 30% each time.
The report, released today and co-authored by Titus and his North America counterpart Ansley Williams, said: “By getting all teams into a room upfront at the start of the campaign, rather than working one team to the next as you move through the chain – from conceptual creative to earned and paid media and beyond – you’re able to better identify moments of integration.
“Moreover, by bringing influence into the loop sooner, you can spot opportunities. By ensuring influencer briefs work within the wider campaign plan, and that the content is set up to be trackable, you can more effectively manage production budgets and assess ROI against true business results."
Titus told Campaign many brands do not realise the value of featuring influencers at every stage of their work – or how to use them in more effective ways.
He said: “If you look at influence in silos, it doesn’t drive as much impact. The issue we have with a lot of brands right now is they end up putting a little bit of budget on the side as an add-on.”
Titus added: “A lot of brands, when they start thinking of influencers, become quite similar. I am personally sick of seeing someone holding up a product and posing with it on a social media post."
Influencers do not need to be a “social media star” with lots of followers – they can be someone from within the brand’s company, he said.
“On the B2B influencer side to things, using employees as influencers is incredibly powerful, but it is such an untapped part of marketing.”
Titus predicted this would change in 2022 as more employee influencers are used in mainstream media.
“If you look at how the pandemic has changed marketing comms generally, people want to hear from brands, but not directly from their C-suite. So you’re seeing a lot of these brands using advocates within the organisation to put that messaging across.”
However, he warned more regulation around the use of influencers is needed, to tackle problems such as influencers being involved in fraud or not disclosing paid ads, which can sometimes be suggested by brands themselves.
“Brands that are silly enough to break the rules for short-term gain will never win the long-term battle around influencer marketing. When I talk to brands, even if they say ‘it’s only one post on social media at 2am’ I say, no, because that one post at 2am could come back to bite you five years later,” Titan said.
Industry body ISBA recently launched a code of conduct to help improve influencer marketing.
Earlier this year, a study by HypeAuditor found that more than half of influencers on Instagram were involved in some kind of fraud or fakery.
Over the summer, reality stars Chloe Ferry and Lucy Mecklenburgh were among those called out by the Advertising Standards Authority for failing to disclose paid ads.