‘Influencer’ will soon become a mainstream profession just like any other

Influencer marketing has the potential to be the go-to medium for marketers – as long as the industry gets its act together on ROI and fraud, writes AnyMind Group's Vivek Misra – who is one of the speakers at Mumbrella Asia's Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore on April 16

You only have to take a look at some of the headlines today to see the impact influencer marketing has on the marketing industry. Everyone and anyone wants a piece of the pie. It is a discipline that’s growing so rapidly that it will one day be a mainstream – and coveted – profession. Of course, in some markets, it’s already reached that point.

There are already grooming schools for prospective-influencers, hired visual merchandisers for product shots, influencer agents and a new wave of niche influencers popping up. There is even an awards industry for them.

Vivek Misra: ‘Everyone wants a piece of the influencer pie’

And the marketers have jumped in head first. According to a recent study, four out of five marketers believe influencers to be effective outreach tools, and two-thirds surveyed intend to increase their budget allocation for the medium this year. Yet, while everything seems rosy on the surface, in reality there are some big issues that need to be resolved across the board.

Marketers are generally still in the dark on how much they should be paying, and for what kind of activities. Effective, worthwhile conversations about return-on-investment can only take place when pricing models and figures across the industry become standardised. Any deep liquid market will eventually lead to efficient price discovery – which will be a great step forward for all participants and the industry in general.

At the other end of the spectrum, brands who spend money on influencer marketing want to track their returns, along with measuring the impact of various pre- and post-touchpoints as well. Does a long term association or relationship with an influencer alter perceptions of a brand? Does it have any other kind of effect? These are questions the industry does not yet have clear answers on.

And of course there is the enormous elephant in the room. Fraud. As with any lucrative vertical, bad actors have infiltrated the market; utilising techniques such as the coordinated bulk creation of fake accounts to try and cash in.

This behaviour has already caused some financial and reputational damage to the concept of influencer marketing. It will continue to do so unless better regulations is sought by the marketing community. Having said all that, there is definite cause for some optimism.

We can actually draw a parallel with the early days of digital advertising. The digital advertising industry has since used a combination of technological improvements, processes and self-regulation to overcome these challenges. I expect similar, or even faster, evolution on this front in influencer marketing.

At the same time, influencer marketing is seen as a commerce enabler. Digital-first brands and e-commerce organisations have experienced much success working with influencers and key opinion leaders. Most demonstrably in China, where spikes in influencer marketing activity run parallel with spikes in product sales.

Influencer marketing on the whole remains a more authentic way for a brand to talk to its audience. People don’t want to just stare at a logo, they want a two-way conversation.

We can take a look at what Tic Tac did in a couple of South East Asian markets. With a new campaign centred around encouraging consumers to design their own packaging but without an Instagram account of their own, they collaborated with popular – and relevant – influencers such as Diana Rikasari – to reach their audience quickly and with the authenticity that comes from the influencers’ personal endorsements.

It’s not a question of if, but more when and how influencer marketing will become a standalone vertical. Marketers will soon be equipped with the ability to measure return on influencer marketing spend with tools like advanced fraud detection and pricing mechanics, and perhaps even a regulatory body at some stage.

Influencer marketing will definitely become more of a given, rather than an experiment, for marketers as times goes on. And pretty soon ‘influencer’ will be a normal job title for people. You heard it here first.

Vivek Misra is the director of corporate strategy for AnyMind Group, formerly AdAsia Holdings. He will be speaking at Mumbrella Asia’s inaugural Travel Marketing Summit in Singapore on April 16


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