Word-of-mouth has always been a reliable tool for marketing. Add digital communities to the equation and the effect is intensified.
So it comes as no surprise that companies capitalized on this by paying big-name influencers big-time money to promote their products.
But as the market continues to become oversaturated with bot followers and influencers who are willing to endorse anything for a paycheck, brands have been forced to reinvent the way they approach influencer marketing.
The Evolution of Experiential Marketing
It is no secret that experiential marketing has become the norm across social platforms, particularly Instagram. Brands and companies crave the insider knowledge of how consumers experience their products or services.
This is where influencer marketing has flourished.
As of 2017, some 75 percent of companies were utilizing influencer marketing in some way, according to the Association of National Advertisers survey.
When influencer marketing first took off, the model was simple. Companies would pay influencers with millions of followers to promote their product or service through a post that would garner thousands of likes and comments.
However, so many brands and companies have seen less-than-stunning returns on investment with large-scale influencers. For example, when an influencer hits 1 million to 10 million followers or more, their engagement drops down to 1.7 percent.
Poor return on investment, coupled with audiences craving more authenticity, has forced the model to evolve.
A New Path to Reach Younger Generations
Younger generations tend to be more distrustful of businesses than previous generations, typically believing that they act in their own self-interest. Experiential marketing has the power to unlock these skeptical, close-knit communities by leveraging peer-to-peer connections by turning customers into micro-influencers (defined as users who have 2,000 to 10,000 followers).
For micro-influencers, every one of their followers is a friend, which means the clout they carry is backed by trust. This allows brands to reap the same benefits as a referral — high purchasing prices, little to no negotiation, shorter sales cycles — while tapping into a network of key demographics.
Mirroring the preferences of their audiences, micro-influencers actively work to create a sense of exclusivity within their compact communities. By shifting the focus towards promoting a sense of community rather than employing sales-driven rhetoric, brands working with micro-influencers can come across as more altruistic rather than advertising.
Micro-Influencers: the New Frontier for Brands
Companies like Johnson & Johnson and Glossier understand the power of marketing to communities well, with both companies placing their bets on smaller-scale influencers.
New Jersey-based consumer packaged goods giant Johnson & Johnson enlisted a handful of micro-influencers for their Clean & Clear advertising campaign, telling AdAge that the brand puts a strong emphasis on “influencers who aren’t famous per se but [are] doing things that other kids respond to authentically letting them tell their story and building the products and brands from there.”
And it’s working.
The micro-micro influencer campaign has helped boost Clean & Clear’s sales by 19 percent since February.
Glossier is another company looking beyond big-name influencers for more compelling advocates with less bank-breaking demands. Not only does the beauty brand produce inherently Instagrammable packaging, but the company also understands that the fan is the ultimate influencer.
Glossier has created an engaged community of fans and consumers through their representative program, which exchanges endorsements of their products for a combination of commission and product credit.
The catch? They only ask that these representatives share their values, produce content they like, have something interesting to say, and come from diverse backgrounds and areas.
This approach allows the brand to upgrade the fan from a casual consumer to a walking, talking Glossier evangelist.
The Future of Authenticity in Advertising?
Ultimately, advertising has always attempted to capture and mimic authenticity. Micro-influencer marketing is the byproduct of a democratized media landscape, where trustworthiness outshines product pawning and individuality outweighs conformity.
Perhaps the age of the timeworn #ad is coming to an end?