The last few years have seen a massive rise in influencer marketing. People have made millions and leapt to stardom creating videos around their passion points on YouTube. Industry thought leaders are followed religiously on Twitter. Millions follow guys with ripped torsos and girls with strange looking thigh gaps on Instagram…
Whilst the most influential people still tend to be musicians, actors and sports stars, digital platforms have democratised fame just like they have facilitated the democratisation of how, when and where we consume content.
As such, I was a little surprised this weekend when I read the backlash following Burberry’s collaboration with Brooklyn Beckham, where the 16-year-old celebrity was hired to shoot its latest fragrance shoot. Calls of “nepotism”, “devaluation of photography” and claims that all Brooklyn would have to do is “press the button” not only failed to understand the audience, but what Burberry had undoubtedly set out to achieve.
Funnily enough, just a few hours earlier I’d watched the majority of Burberry’s ‘Snapchat story’ that featured Brooklyn’s content and had thought what a great job they had done. I then flipped over to Instagram to check out Burberry’s recent posts where the #ThisisBrit photography created by Brooklyn was prominently featured on their page.
For me, going in with an influencer like Brooklyn Beckham and a Snapchat and Instagram distribution strategy, they ticked a lot of boxes:
- Partnering with an influencer that personifies what Burberry stands for to their younger audience (that the Brit sub-brand is clearly targeted at) with global appeal
- Focused on the core platforms that resonate most with this audience (not just the biggest)
- Created content specifically to fit with the style and consumption behaviour of how this audience engages with content on these channels
- Had reached millions of their core audience across the world via Brooklyn’s and Burberry’s social channels
Burberry is a brand that really knows what it’s doing when it comes to digital. From the award-winning kisses campaign, to live streaming fashion shows with Periscope, WeChat, and LINE, interactive YouTube videos and an e-commerce strategy that has seen burberry.com become its biggest store. It’s no surprise Burberry came top of the pile in L2’s digital fashion index and was one of only two brands to be awarded ‘genius’ status.
I don’t expect photographers to really appreciate the complex world of digital marketing, but in the case of this campaign the photography was a vehicle to facilitate the story (it wasn’t really about the photography). If, however Mario Testino gets the boot and Brooklyn is called in to shoot Burberry’s autumn / winter collection, then yes there would certainly be grounds for uproar!
Facebook and YouTube, the practical alternative?
As great as this campaign is, there are some pretty notable questions that going with an Instagram- and Snapchat-only strategy with an influencer raises. Such as:
- Measurability: Snapchat in particular is notorious for the lack of analytics, insights and measurement available to advertisers making KPI setting and ROI almost impossible to measure
- ‘Walled gardens’:: Instagram offers no click-thrus to third party sites and Snapchat has only just started allowing ‘deep linking’ to discover content
- Reach: Numbers wise, there are still millions more 18-24 year olds on Facebook and YouTube, particularly in Asia where Snapchat and to a lesser extent, Instagram, are pretty small in comparison
- Longevity of content: The ephemeral nature of Snapchat means the content you spent all that time and money making disappears after 24 hours.
I’m a massive fan of Facebook and YouTube as advertising platforms. Both offer massive scale, great targeting (and re-targeting) and are very collaborative when it comes to third party verification and measurement through the funnel. However one big advantage that Instagram and Snapchat has is that additional paid media support is not necessarily required – i.e. posts from influencers and brands can still be reached by a significant amount of their followers on these platforms without additional media dollars.
Putting it into context
It’s important to connect these up with the broader, connected communications strategy across variant platforms in the convergent media landscape, whilst measuring effectiveness against KPI’s that matter.
With 71% of Snapchat being under 25 and 53% of Instagram users under 29, they are clearly platforms that are in tune with the Burberry Brit audience’s social behaviour. They also play two different roles in the consumer experience; snapchat is the ‘it’ platform for those young and in the know, Instagram plays the discovery and engagement role. However I see no signs of this being a “campaign” but more of a nice brand building collaboration with a top influencer. Also let’s face it, how many brands can credibly pull off a partnership like this?
Most campaigns last for months and require significant paid content distribution, targeting consumers throughout the funnel to meaningfully build equity and drive sales. At the end of the day, partnering with an influencer can add a lot to a campaign; the endorsement, the association and (sometimes) their creative capacity and organic reach. However a campaign is typically made of of much more than some influencer posts that are here one day, gone the next. Paid media is typically still required to drive the necessary reach and frequency across a sustained period to deliver the required campaign KPI’s. As such, this collaboration has reminded us of the need to:
- Be where our audience is: Means targeting on scaled, sophisticated platforms via paid media (including Instagram now it’s open to ads)
- Create content for the platform: Understand how different platforms are used and customise the content accordingly
- Connectivity of communications: Think of the role of each media interaction, how they connect up and contribute towards the brands broader objectives over a sustained period, that may include the use of influencers
- Focus on business objectives: Be clear on the KPIs focusing on the ones that really matter
The above image was taken at The Projector, the only arts house cinema in Singapore. Seemed rather fitting…