How and Why Brands Need to Up Their Influencer Game

By Pierre Cassuto

Influencer marketing is no longer in its infancy. Globally, it now feels like it's going through its messy teenage years but is quickly moving toward maturity. One sign is the shift from campaign-based influencer interactions to fully-fledged always-on influencer programs.

Many of the leading companies are now featuring bespoke pages for creators to apply to join such programs and benefits. And while the competition for top creators is getting fierce, brands are often seeing ROI up to 10 times higher than the one they get from a standard influencer campaign. 

What These Programs Actually Look Like

Always-on influencer programs offer more safety to creators. They can stop chasing brand deals and instead focus on the creative by producing better content. As an insider, creators often get access to discounts and offers that can be shared with their followers, as well as early access to products for reviews or hot-off-the-press information from the product teams. These deals also offer them an affiliate commission for any sales they help generate for the brand, which grows their motivation and fully empowers them as an extension of the marketing and sales team.

While up-and-coming creators often only get these benefits, top-performing creators also get a monthly retainer from the brand; they are expected, as a result, to sign a category exclusivity agreement while they remain part of the program, while also giving advertising usage rights for their content.

The brands also get access to greater benefits than from a stand-alone campaign collaboration. Creators are often willing to negotiate better rates with those who are willing to commit to a long-term relationship. They also get far more loyalty both online and offline as these creators will often embrace their roles as promoters and step into other conversations to defend the brand, recommend it, or share insights as to what the sentiment or emerging concerns around the brand are.

Brands who offer uncapped affiliate commissions and are transparent with the creators via solution partners also receive on average 10 times more content from creators than they normally would as creators add another revenue stream. 

Finally, many savvy marketers turn to these creators within their program to replace traditional creative production expenses, either purchasing content rights outright or rewarding top content creators with additional fees to use their content in their social media ads. Combined with intent data from the creators' organic content, these ads perform 5 to 6 times better than studio-created ads. 

Casting Events

Because these relationships take time to craft and require a commitment period to test, many of the companies will host events for creators. These events provide an opportunity for the marketing teams to meet the creators, talk with them and observe them. Are they creating great content while there? Do they seem professional and share similar values? Do they use the brand and appear excited at the idea of working with it? Have they got interesting insights to share with the marketing team?

Astute marketing managers use these events to get a feel for which creators they want to invite to become part of their program, almost like a secret job interview. These also allow the marketers to start developing a personal relationship with creators, understand what drives them, and what other incentives they can offer to these creators in addition to cash for a win-win relationship.

Transparency Is Key

Creator programs have shown to hold huge ROI for marketers who embrace them as a core part of their marketing strategy. Unsurprisingly, it's digital-native D2C businesses that have led the charge and taken big bites out of traditional companies' market share. Successful implementation requires pulling resources out of the standard advertising campaigns & channels workflow and redeploying them to a CRM-like program.

If either the creator or the brand feels the relationship is no longer working, they should be able to opt-out of the contract quickly and easily. To help with this process and like in any good relationship, transparency is key. Marketers should be upfront with creators as to what they expect from a behavior and success perspective and creators should do the same.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Pierre Cassuto is the global CMO at Humanz.