You’re doing it wrong: Common mistakes brands make when working with creators

Credit: Steve Gale
Credit: Steve Gale

When a creator is excited about a brand partnership, creative has room to shine.

From celebrities to emerging influencers on platforms like TikTok, marketers have every opportunity to find the right talent to partner with to bring their message to life. 

By investing in influencer marketing, a brand is choosing to work with a generation that has unique ways to entertain, validate and inspire their audiences. Every strategic and creative choice is about that creators’ voice and relationship with their audience. 

So when brands demand too much control, they miss the chance to meaningfully engage and excite that audience — and reach the full potential of influencer marketing. 

Here are three things to avoid when working with creators. 

1. Misguided talent selection  

For influencers, budget, brand requirements and terms of the deal determine campaign fit; for brands, audience reach and demographics, creative formats and brand affinity matter most when choosing influencers. Both incentives must be aligned for a partnership to work. 

Brands often misjudge the talent they should engage with, missing creators that fit their goals. Instead, they set up short-term, transactional partnerships while expecting creators to work as long-term ambassadors. They look at the creator’s taste as an indicator of creative fit, rather than the target audience. They search for creators on the high-end of their reach goals without the budget to pay them, causing production delays.

Every campaign requires its own nuanced, custom approach to creator selection based on that brand’s goals and budget. 

2. A heavy-handed process

Marketers often look for short-term metrics, but it’s the small, subtle moments that occur over the course of a partnership that meaningfully impact overall success. 

When marketers assert too much control over the creative process, change goal posts, set unrealistic expectations and create preventable delays or tedious reviews, they stop influencers and other agencies in the mix from doing what they do best. Everyone ends up phoning in their efforts just for the paycheck. 

Creators are savvy, so marketers need a clear sense of their must-haves, early buy-in from key stakeholders and a trust-the-process mentality before putting them on a campaign. When creators feel positive about the process, they are more inclined to go above and beyond. And if the campaign goes smoothly, it could lead to a fruitful long-term partnership for both sides.

3. Underinvestment in quality 

The old adage “you get out what you put in” applies here, and not just about under-budgeting. It’s also about under-indexing on quality. 

Influencers are the creative powerhouses in any brand relationship. They know what will resonate with their audience, and they have aspirations and ideas that a brand can help them pull off. When messaging or product shots are disconnected from the influencer’s voice and style, content feels disjointed, diminishing quality and leading to tune-out. 

When a creator is excited about a brand partnership — either by the support of a healthy production budget, or the ability to support a cause they care about or collaborate with other talent— creative has real room to shine.

Brittani Kagan is head of talent, associate partner at Portal A


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