Influencer marketing is now part of every good marketing mix. But since the wave of written warnings last year there is uncertainty in the industry. At the same time virtual influencers, multipliers created based on algorithms, and new forms of influencer-brand cooperation are stirring up the scene. Reason enough to ask Sebastian Romanus, Managing Director of the influencer and creative agency Studio71, how the industry is developing.
Sebastian, the Hamburg media agency group JOM recently predicted that brands are set to spend around half a billion euros this year on influencer marketing. What will good influencer marketing look like this year?
First of all, I have to say that the real size of the market is always one for discussion because the question is always which factors are taken into account. But in general terms it can be said that the market is certainly growing around 20 to 30 percent per year.
What ultimately defines good influencer marketing is a successful cooperation between the advertiser, the product, the right influencer and the right story for the influencer's target group and the brand. At the end of the day, the focus is on entertainment in conjunction with brand communication. This must be appropriate, coherent and authentic. The buzzword that comes up again and again is authenticity.
Can you think of a good example?
One cooperation we find particularly successful at Studio71 is the branded entertainment campaign around YouTuber Luca's pizza. A lot of factors contribute to its success: we worked with a manufacturer - Gustavo Gusto - to bring an influencer-driven product to market with the help of Rewe and Edeka. With this cooperation, we have shown that influencers don‘t only create digital awareness, but can also sell physical products.
What one tip would you give start-ups thinking about building influencer marketing into their marketing mix?
I'd advise start-ups just as I would corporates. The most important thing is to get a perfect fit between brand and influencer. It doesn't matter whether it's a smaller company with a small budget or a global player with large financial resources. Ultimately for the brand it's all about evaluating who is the right influencer is. Only then can the corresponding effect be determined at the end of the campaign.
Which trends will we see in the future?
Moving images are becoming increasingly important across all platforms. Instagram TV hasn’t proven so strong so far, but even this will grow in 2019. Snapchat is becoming an increasingly important discovery platform. Vertical content is something that companies focusing on content will need to think about. Most of the time we hold our phone vertically in our hands, so companies need to consider how best to use this format. The third important point for me is the production of live content: be it live communication or live streaming - from YouTube to Twitch.
What do you think, will virtual influencers become influential this year?
This is certainly an exciting topic. I can well imagine that in the future there will be cool cases related to artificially created influencers and that these will also have a certain significance and shelf life. But I don't think we've gotten that far yet, because influencer marketing currently depends on brands communicating with a community via real people.
One of the dominant themes in the industry at the moment is ad labelling of influencer postings. At the beginning of January we saw the partial legal success of blogger Vreni Frost on this issue. How do you rate the whole thing?
I think everyone agrees in principle that labelling is important and has ultimately led to a professionalisation in our market over recent years. This development has been driven by all those involved: advertisers, influencers, partners and agencies.
The written warnings have now in fact led to the opposite, as now no one can see what has been self-financed and what has been externally financed. Therefore the actual meaning and purpose of labelling has actually reached the point of absurdity. In this respect I find the verdict quite interesting.
Do you predict that future verdicts will go the same way?
That's a very good question. If only we knew! I can imagine that things will continue in this direction and that, at the end of the day, agreement will be reached with all those involved on a labelling law that makes sense. Unfortunately, that is not the way it is at present.
What do you currently advise your customers when it comes to ad labelling? The more the better?
Because we belong to the ProSiebenSat.1 Group, we have always set higher standards than many other providers on the market. But I wouldn't necessarily advise a customer to label all postings for the hell of it. The most practical method at the moment is probably commonsense labelling. If a reward has been received, then there is an incentive and any post should be labelled. But if I pay for the product or the service myself, then I personally get nothing from the link. In these cases I find labelling rather misleading.