Are Influencers The Holy Grail Of Jewish Marketing?
A discussion on Jewish influencer marketing and how to go about conducting a successful campaign.
Jewish influencer marketing is increasingly becoming a popular, powerful, and versatile way to promote offerings spanning a broad spectrum. Proper planning and implementation is key to capitalizing on this potential.
With things changing so rapidly in the world of marketing, it is sometimes difficult to sort through which platforms to pursue. Often, it takes time for new platforms to mature and grow before a comprehensive and decisive decision can be made regarding their potential. Influencer marketing is an outlier in this regard.
While it is true that various forms of influence based marketing campaigns have been around for decades (and even centuries), the influence of the 21st century that takes place on social media has seen a definite and meteoric rise. The reasons behind this seemingly sudden and widespread growth are varied, but the primary factor is because it has shown to be an effective and cost-efficient way to meet marketing goals. It should be little surprise then that 75% of marketers stated that they are willing to increase their influencer spend. With so many of those in decision making roles for marketing spend seeing the value in influencer campaigns, the market is expected to balloon in the coming years. Predictions range, but conservative estimates slate more than $2.3 billion to be spent on influencer marketing by the year 2019.
Agencies and consultancies in the marketing space are also seeing the increased demand for influencer focused campaigns and are taking action to capitalize on this burgeoning market. Havas, one of the most significant media, marketing, and PR conglomerates, has recently invested in an internal influencer division to ensure that their clients are at the cutting edge of influencer marketing.
As with any marketing campaign focusing on the Jewish audience, there is a unique dynamic added to the mix, and influencer marketing is no exception to this rule. When executed correctly, our experience has shown that Jewish influencer marketing lends itself to better than the already impressive results for mass-market influencer marketing. We believe this is largely due to the Jewish audience’s tight-knit nature, which creates a reverberating effect for campaigns, which we have termed “the firecracker effect.” It is much easier to generate buzz beyond the actual promotion through word of mouth within such a concentrated community instead of mass-market campaigns that are much more general and lose that domino reaction.
While influencer marketing has gotten a lot of buzz and impressive returns to back it up, it is important to note that some believe that it is a bubble of sorts. These concerns range from transparency and measurement concerns to oversaturation of the market. We think that many of these are well-founded and need to be considered when embarking on influencer based campaigns. With that said, we also believe that as the market matures and more robust solutions for measurement, optimization, and compliance come into the fray, we will see a further cementing of influencer-based marketing as an attractive option in the marketer’s tool chest.
The rationales out there explaining the general rise of influencers and, specifically, the most popular platform, Instagram, are varied. We see an across the board rise in video, seemingly becoming the most well-performing form of content. Also, platforms like Instagram, which now allow for bite-sized forms (such as Instagram Stories) of content, fit our documented decrease in attention span. As a matter of fact, according to a study performed by Microsoft, the average human now has an attention span shorter than a goldfish! (Eight seconds for a human and nine for a goldfish.)
One of the most notable and unique benefits of influencer-based marketing is reaching a highly engaged and loyal audience. Whether it is influencers who share their life through photos and videos on Instagram or those who make vlogs and other related content on YouTube, the extent of the personal connection they create with their audience is impressive and unparalleled.
These audiences take recommendations from influencers to heart, and more importantly, they take action. A study by locowise found that 75% of users take action after seeing a post. This is rooted in the amount of trust they have in a particular influencer and the desire to be loyal to their recommendations. Whether it be a purchase or app download, we see that adequately executed influencer campaigns perform very well. It is based on this foundational relationship that cannot be found in other mediums.
Another advantage of Jewish influencer marketing is negotiating and getting favorable pricing compared to the returns on such spend. Depending on the offering’s nature and whether the influencer has an affinity to the brand, strategic negotiation can result in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Some of the most significant and attractive advantages to influencer marketing are magnified when employed in a Jewish marketing context. This is especially apparent when looking at how campaigns of various types tend to travel once they hit “the airwaves.” Whether it be sharing among friends or on social media, in a tight-knit and interconnected community such as the Jewish one, there tends to be a snowball effect for campaigns.
On another note, with the increasing saturation of targeted media opportunities such as Facebook and the surge in the use of ad-blockers, it is getting increasingly difficult to reach your optimal customer in a meaningful way. Influencer marketing provides unique value in this respect as it is native promotion by nature and is appreciated by the influencer’s audience. It is important to note that too much of such advertising, especially if not in line with the influencer’s “core brand” and not transparently disclosed, can have the exact opposite effect resulting in decreased engagement.
Disadvantages & Potential Pitfalls
Though there are significant returns to be had by working with influencers to promote your offering, some substantial potential disadvantages and pitfalls exist.
Some of the most common and significant challenges are examined below:
1) Off Message
An influencer that is off message from your brand or offering is a multi-faceted issue. First, an off-brand campaign will likely harm both the campaign’s performance and overall brand equity and consumer perception. Also, depending on the messaging’s nature, the fallout can even extend beyond merely campaign performance and even rise to the boardroom and beyond depending on the enterprise’s size. For example, one only has to look at the damage done to YouTube and large advertisers who had ads displaying next to various forms of questionable content. This resulted in a substantial loss of revenue and perhaps diminution of several brand’s overall image. To ensure that influencer partners are in line with your brand ethos, an “influencer marketing” style guide might help. Such a guide can help ensure that influencers you work with stay true to your organization’s culture and priorities.
2) Oversaturation & Off Brand Promotion
Another common issue with influencer marketing arises when there is an oversaturation or constant off-brand promotion of numerous offerings. This is most often seen on Instagram. Influencers are approached with opportunities, and they find it hard to turn down the opportunity to make what can, at times, be substantial amounts of money. If the promotion is not well thought out and strategically managed, the influencer’s brand gets diminished. In the most extreme cases, we have seen drastic and wholesale drops in influencer’s engagement from their audience because they, in essence, became a constant infomercial.
In addition to influencers who make the mistake of continuous promotion, there is also the issue of influencers who take on opportunities to promote something that is not in line with their brand. This will vary depending on the influencer. Many influencers can advance a wide range of products and services because, by nature, “their brand” is broad in nature. At the same time, an influencer who is not genuinely interested in what they are promoting will often lack the ability to portray the authenticity necessary for a campaign’s optimal performance.
It is important to keep these two issues in mind when choosing influencer(s). An overview of the brands they work with, their style, level of promotion saturation, and engagement are essential aspects to consider in the decision-making process.
3) Purchasing Engagement
Due to the stress put on engagement and the potential opportunities of large audiences on social media, some influencers resort to questionable and even fraudulent tactics to meet these aspirational goals. These tactics most often take the form of buying an audience and engagement. For obvious reasons, this is harmful to potential advertisers who look at the vanity numbers without doing the proper due diligence and delving beyond merely the numbers.
There are various ways to know whether an influencer is purchasing engagement that ranges from manual reviews to more tech-focused solutions that analyze engagement. Brands of all sizes deal with this issue, including Sephora, which is trying to weed out a lack of authenticity and fake engagement from their influencer campaigns.
4) Difficult Personalities & Challenging Negotiations
One of the most frustrating aspects of an influencer marketing campaign can be managing and negotiating the campaign. This is in part because of the unique personalities that often come along with influencers. Remember that these are people who stand out from the crowd for one reason or another, which is why they have a substantial following. This following can reinforce the ego or other character traits that all human beings have to some extent. This can translate into a demanding and difficult influencer. Navigating these challenges correctly can make or break a campaign. This is a good segue into the next discussion regarding how to structure an influencer relationship. We have seen that established relationships with an influencer can have a substantially positive impact in this regard.
Direct vs. Agent
One of the most fundamental questions that must be answered when embarking on an influencer marketing campaign is working with influencers directly or going through a marketing agency. As has already been said regarding multiple pointers in this discussion, there are potential advantages and disadvantages with each.
The two most significant advantages of using a third-party to plan, implement, and optimize an influencer campaign are based on the established relationships they may have and the know-how and experience. The value of these links is magnified because they often can shift additional clients to influencers with who they prefer working with. Therefore, influencers are more inclined to offer more attractive pricing and provide more value concerning promotion through extra exposure and enthusiasm. This, combined with agency expertise, should result in both a more seamless and efficient campaign and cost savings by eliminating wasted spending.
The primary concern and touted disadvantage of engaging a third-party for influencer campaigns relate to increased cost. In actuality, as mentioned previously, established relationships often lead to more beneficial negotiations, and firms with expertise in this area help to formulate highly effective campaigns. What usually results is a campaign that performs in a vastly more positive way. With that being said, if a client has established relationships and associated expertise, it is possible that campaigns can function similarly without an outside expert party. The challenge is keeping up to date on the fast-changing influencer landscape in a high niche market such as the Jewish audience.
While not standard concerning Jewish influencers, we see an increase in influencers being managed by talent agencies. These agencies add more structure to the negotiation and execution process though there is less room for negotiation regarding pricing when dealing with such talent management companies. One of the largest of these management companies is Gleam, which is backed by Dentsu Aegis.
Applications Around The Globe & In All Categories
The categories of products and brands using influencer marketing campaigns range across the board. From tech-based offerings to food and everything in between, there is a practical use case to be found that has seen impressive returns.
Some specific sectors that have historically seen diminishing returns from traditional advertising, such as print, should pay extra attention to influencer marketing’s potential benefits. Brick and mortars like restaurants, clothing stores, and supermarkets that are continuously losing market share due to encroachment from on-demand delivery services like Amazon and other E-tailers can gain a lot from engagement with the right influencer. The goal is for the influencer to stress and contrast the value of the brick and mortar relating to experience and price. Also, combining that with their recommendations and encouraging their audiences to visit and see for themselves. While it can indeed help spice up the campaign with influencer specific promotions and special offers, these should be looked at as investments for long-term patronage from the influencer’s audience. We have seen great performance from local micro-influencers (explained in detail below) to help differentiate local kosher supermarkets, restaurants (both fast-casual and fine dining), and clothing stores.
Even those competing in the e-commerce world use influencer marketing to gain share from the biggest player, Amazon. While not a traditional influencer personality, Buzzfeed’s Tasty recently partnered with Walmart and its subsidiary, Jet.com, to gain access to Tasty’s young and highly engaged millennial audience. Musselman’s partnered with Jewlish during the Chanukah season to capitalize on the infamous latke and applesauce combination in a more Jewish focused context.
The use cases for influencer marketing are practically endless. In addition to brick and mortars focused campaigns, we see campaigns beyond consumer-based offerings as well. These include government focused campaigns in both a strategic communications role and general marketing in a tourism context. Take, for example, Israel’s recent campaign that brought six internet-famous dogs to the country through Vibe Israel, a non-profit that focuses on strengthening Israel’s image.
In addition to the general market, we have used influencer marketing as an integral part of the marketing mix for a wide variety of clients. These range from multiple different categories and in our various practices, including Jewish focused public relations, general marketing, and kosher focused campaigns.
Various Platforms But One Leader
There are many primary platforms in the general market where influencer marketing occurs, but in the Jewish market, the platforms of popularity are more limited. For the time being, Instagram is where the lion share of opportunity and influence can be found. Increasingly, interaction via Instagram’s Stories feature takes engagement share from both first to market competitors like Snapchat. The Stories feature is so popular that we see cannibalization of sorts regarding engagement on the traditional profile feed and Facebook’s other social platforms. To put the Stories feature’s growth and popularity into perspective, it is estimated that more than 200 million new users were added since the feature launched a bit more than a year ago. This is merely another indicator of how much content is out there and how important it becomes to have a platform that provides the most engaging experience.
While Instagram is certainly the most significant player in the influencer space, we see a slew of podcasts entering the fray and a smattering of YouTuber’s which are usually influencers who built followings on Instagram and are now looking to diversify.
Strategy Over Vanity
An ongoing theme in practically all of our discussions about Jewish centric campaigns focuses on the core components that are precursors for a successful marketing strategy. These same foundational blocks also apply when planning an influencer campaign. This is true regardless of whether the influencer campaign is part of a broader marketing mix or acting as a standalone tactic.
Identifying your optimal audience for the offering at hand is the priority. Once that has been accomplished, an intimate understanding of said audience should be undertaken. This will allow for the careful and well-grounded choice of the most effective and relevant influencer options. That is to say, which influencer captures the attention of the most significant share of your optimal audience. After selecting an influencer, strategic planning of specific objectives, messaging, and promotional details should focus on steering away from vanity metrics.
So, what should be written off as “vanity metrics”?
These metrics are those that do not translate into meaningful value for your organization’s bottom line. For example, there are countless outfits in the wild west market of “social media marketers” that offer to get businesses “likes” to their Instagram, Facebook, or other social media profiles. What often seems to happen is that these likes or other page engagements are bought and come from bots or users in countries with little to no relevance for the businesses offering. The ultimate goal should be to get real engagement from relevant people that could become potential customers.
Another issue related to vanity metrics when discussing influencer campaigns is the all too popular contests. These take numerous forms, but they revolve around the chance to win something if followers like or comment on the business’s page. These competitions could translate into significant value if appropriately structured. At the same time, they oftentimes result in an increase in vanity engagement from users who have no relevance or interest in the product or service being offered.
Measurement & More Measurement
Gauging any advertising campaign’s performance is an integral component of ensuring that your spending provides a positive return. This is true with influencer focused advertising as well. To accurately measure a campaign, it is necessary to know what you are tracking. To that effect, specific objectives should be clearly delineated, and ways of gauging progress toward reaching them should be properly planned. In the world of influencers, goals range across a broad spectrum. Some of the most common are purchases, new user sign-up, and non-vanity focused engagement.
An Achilles’ heel of influencer marketing has always been the proper measurement of performance and subsequent optimization of campaigns. While there is a continuous stream of solutions to this problem coming to the market daily, this is still an issue. We make sure to develop creative measurement capabilities for each influencer campaign so that clients benefit from ongoing optimization of their campaigns—these range from unique promotional and influencer specific landing pages to specialized influencer measurement solutions.
The Value Of Micro-Influencers
In a discussion of influencer marketing, we would be remiss if we did not mention micro-influencers’ value. This term is not strictly defined but usually refers to those with a relatively small yet marketable audience. It is important to note that an influencer considered substantial in the Jewish market context would often be considered a micro-influencer when taken in the general market context.
Depending on the specific circumstances, the potential value proposition of working with micro-influencers varies. For starters, in a study by L2, micro-influencers were found to provide more value in return for spending when compared to influencers in the “middle tier.”
In addition to the potential for better returns on spending, micro-influencers are often easier to negotiate with, provide more attention to the campaign, and even have a more loyal and engaged audience. Unilever has seen the value in micro-influencers and utilized many of them to campaign touting their margarine brand, Stork.
While we have certainly seen how “more authentic” micro-influencers can be incorporated and provide unique value, there is still a substantial place for larger and more established personalities. Also, using larger influencers and micro-influencers in tandem can sometimes result in the “perfect blend.” This often takes the form of using more established and larger influencers for high-impact campaign launches while having micro-influencers do more of the daily engagement.
Finding The Right Partners & Negotiation Is An Art
Influencers are no less than partners. An influencer campaign’s success truly depends on the dynamic and work of the personalities you work with. As mentioned, the influencers you choose should understand and believe in the brand or product they are promoting to ensure that the campaign portrays authenticity for the best performance.
In the Jewish market, there is substantial overlap among different influencers. That is to say that influencers are not strictly delineated to particular niches. While in the general market, influencers usually promote offerings native to their category, whether it be food, fashion, fitness, etc.), in the Jewish market, influencers are more general and lifestyle focused and promote a variety of offerings across a broader range. Therefore, the influencer you decide to work with does not necessarily have to be native to promoting the category of product you have on offer. Instead, the focus should be on who the influencer’s primary audience is and how relevant it is to your offering.
Part and parcel to any successful influencer campaign, negotiation can be the most challenging and frustrating part of the process. This is the negotiation phase. There are several reasons why this phase can, at times, be quite difficult. One of the primary reasons relates to the relative experimental stage that influencer marketing currently finds itself in. There is very little concrete guidance as to what market rates for influencer focused campaigns should be. To illustrate, a recent study by Rakuten established that 86% of marketers weren’t entirely sure how influencer fees are calculated. This confusion is exacerbated by the challenges relating to the performance measurement of these campaigns. Without quantification of the ROI emanating from influencers, it becomes difficult to negotiate fees in line with the returns they bring. As stated in regards to tracking campaigns, this lack of knowledge, understanding, and transparency is hurt the influencer marketing industry’s overall maturity.
With these concerns at the forefront, we advise clients on ways to mitigate these potential pitfalls strategically. At the start, we can bring historical benchmark data from influencers and associated ROI as a negotiating base. Furthermore, especially in scenarios where we have established relationships with an influencer and have the power to shift spend in either a positive or negative direction, interests are much more in sync for a significantly more beneficial rate and a more robust promotion.
In addition to the negotiation specific dynamics and tactics to get mutually beneficial agreements with influencers, we have also seen rising popularity in the alternative, performance-based compensation structures. This shift from the once mainstream models varies greatly depending on whether specific campaign benchmarks are met.
For example, if a company engages an influencer to get new users signed up to their subscription platform, instead of a one-time fee, the influencer would be paid on a Cost Per Acquisition (CPA). With such an agreement, the influencer and company’s goals are much more closely aligned and, in certain situations, could be substantially more profitable for the influencer. With that being said, some issues can arise with such a structure. The most common is where the offering at hand lacks in significant regard, and the response is expected to be lackluster in the influencer’s opinion. In essence, in such a circumstance, where the influencer does not believe in the product’s strength, whether warranted or not, it is better for both parties not to work together.
In addition to alternative compensation structures becoming more common with offerings relevant to the Cost Per Acquisition metric, we see branching out into more traditional sales-focused offerings. For example, the department store Neiman Marcus has recently launched an influencer program. The program allows influencers from various platforms, ranging from Instagram to traditional bloggers, to sign up and partner with Neiman Marcus. In return, influencers chosen to work with the department store will receive commissions based on the sales generated from their audience. Influencers part of the program will also receive free merchandise and potentially be a part of industry events. Promotion of the department store must be approved before promotion, allowing for substantial protection of the Neiman Marcus brand. This performance-based structure is the direction we see the market sway in as all stakeholders have vested interests in success.
With the mentioned examples of alternative fee structures, one can see that negotiation is an art. Base on experience, we find that creativity goes a long way in this regard. With flexibility on both the influencer and client’s end, the discussion tends to be a lot more fruitful and pleasant. It is also helpful to remember that if a substantial value is being offered to an influencer’s audience regarding a contest prize, there is potential for promotion without an associated influencer fee. We have found that these opportunities are most abundant during the Jewish holidays and during peak vacation times.
One thing’s for sure, though, for influencer marketing to cement itself as a marketing tactic with longevity in the marketer’s toolkit, there must be a steady decrease in negotiations taking place “in the dark.” A combination of hard and soft metrics should be considered to arrive at a fee with an influencer. These include the nature of the partnership – a one-off versus a long-term engagement, the size of the influencer audience and their engagement, the work involved in the content promotion, and a plethora of other scenario-specific minutiae.
Transparency, Authenticity, & Compliance
In addition to the challenges that arise in the negotiation stage, there is much discussion around transparency, authenticity, and compliance with influencer marketing. Influencers are often hesitant to disclose relationships with brands for fear of criticism or feelings of resentment from their followers. After all, there is a delicate balancing act that influencers must undertake when trying to bring in maximum revenue while avoiding the over-saturation that kills engagement. Prudent influencers are aware that an audience can start to feel “used” if there is too much blatantly promoted content. Simultaneously, there are guidelines from the FTC that need to be followed concerning the disclosure of paid promotional material. Therefore, we advise influencers who we work with continue to be cognizant of the potential pitfalls of taking on too many partnerships.
With that being said, promotional content in moderation that includes proper disclosure can be quite advantageous for both the influencer in terms of increased “brand authenticity and, in turn, partners as well. In a study conducted by Traackr, the use of hashtags like #ad has increased by more than 50% over the past year, and engagement with these posts has almost quadrupled, showing that transparency is rewarded. On the other hand, when disclosures are executed poorly, such as when the #ad tagline is hidden among different hashtags, a post will see 50% to 80% less engagement when compared to the same influencers’ non-paid posts.
Predictions & Going Forward
Based on the impressive performance and returns that we see for properly executed Jewish influencer campaigns, we expect that influencers will be in higher demand in the years to come. As more robust measurement solutions come online, we can expect industry transparency to improve and performance to get even better, further expanding influencer marketing’s popularity. At the same time, we expect that the influencer space will become oversaturated, which we already see to a certain extent in the Jewish market. This is because the big influencers are continuously growing their audience size while smaller ones are having trouble winning a limited audience segment’s attention.
We also predict that there will be more of a shared risk between brands and influencers. This will take the form of alternative fee structures that are gaining traction beyond the influencer market and even entering the traditional CPC campaign category. These revised compensation models will be based on performance and focus on meeting campaign-specific objectives and benchmarks rather than influencers charging based on the number of followers they have (vanity metric). As these agreements become more popular, we will end up in a more mutually aligned market where brands pay for the value they receive, and influencers are compensated for the value they add. When incentives are aligned with brands and influencers, influencers usually work more diligently to meet campaign goals, which leads to better results for the brand.
In addition to the new capabilities that performance tracking solutions will bring to strengthen the influencer market, we also expect the proliferation of solutions that allow for deeper insight levels rather than merely top-line metrics such as impressions and clicks. This will be in the form of parameters that offer granularity in the same way Facebook does. Such improvements will significantly raise the potential and use case spectrum that influencer marketing avails itself to. These new developments will ensure that influencers become a valuable asset in the marketer’s existing options portfolio.