In 2008, I started a new consulting job with a company that had recently founded an agency specializing in “word of mouth” marketing. I became one of the ambassadors of influencer marketing, pitching it to various clients. But the reception was icy - believe me.
At the time, the concept of “blogging” was too new and untested to convince marketers of this innovative strategy.
How things have changed! Word of mouth is now considered a firmly established marketing strategy among industry decision-makers. Bloggers are the influencers of today. You don’t have to be a successful athlete or a celebrity to be a digital opinion leader who can touch the hearts and minds of people. Bloggers’ ability to find the right voice draws readers in and turns them into loyal fans. The challenge for trade and industry is finding those influencers, approaching them the right way and convincing them to work together.
Trade and industry performance hinges on cooperation with successful influencers. The recipe for their success is their authenticity, one of the most fundamental principles brands benefit from. The more trade and industry rely on opinion leaders as part of their marketing strategy, the stronger the links that can be built between both sides.
After all, readers aren’t naïve. By now, all online users know that brands target websites and Instagram posts for product promotion and that the clickable links below Youtube videos are monetized.
If cooperation between influencers and industry is to succeed as marketing strategy in the long run, influencers must remain authentic despite the ever more aggressive courtship by the industry which supplies them with products to pitch. Equally, the industry has to remain open to and confident in its handling of online criticism. Finding the right mix of sensitivity and instinct will guarantee strong and successful influencer marketing, even if it takes a little work to make that success happen.
Julius Geis is a renowned expert in identity-based brand positioning for retailers and manufacturers. As CEO of ON ANY GIVEN MONDAY he consults globally successful brands in the sports, fashion and outdoor industry.