September 13, 2022

Is This Thing On? Hot Takes: Why Influencers Matter

In the latest episode of “Is This Thing On?”, our Director of Influencer Marketing and Content Partnerships Max Bass and Creative Director Lindsey Brand discuss the evolution of influencer engagement with creators vs. influencers, and why influencers should be a part of your media mix.


A Business Agency

In the latest episode of “Is This Thing On?” GALE Director of Influencer Marketing and Content Partnerships Max Bass and GALE Creative Director Lindsey Brand discussed the evolution of influencer marketing covering:

  • The difference between creators vs. influencers
  • How working with influencers has changed in recent  years
  • Challenges and best practices when working with influencers and creators
  • Why influencers should be a part of your media mix

Tune in to hear their expert opinions. 

Please find the full transcript of the conversation below for easy reading, and please make sure to have a listen on Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Audible, iHeart, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, or wherever else you listen to podcasts!


Bob Knorpp (00:00):

Is This Thing On.

Speaker 2 (00:06):

Welcome to Is This Thing On, an audio series from GALE exploring marketing life and random thoughts with business leaders from around the globe. On this episode, GALE Director of Influencer Marketing and Content Partnerships, Max Bass and GALE Creative Director Lindsey Brand speak with host Bob Knorpp about innovation in the media landscape. Let's join the conversation.

Bob Knorpp (00:33):

So talk to me a little bit more about working with creators today. A lot of people have problems working with creators, keeping them in line with compliance on regulations, et cetera, doing ads appropriately, egos, things like that. Max, maybe you can start. What are the biggest challenges that you face and how do you overcome them?

Max Bass (00:52):

I think some of the biggest challenges are in the fact that today campaigns live in so many different places. Social media is segmented. Our audience may be across different platforms in multiple places, and we're trying to use influencers to reach them potentially across different channels. And I think in a lot of sense, in my view, the onus lies on the brand to pick the right creators, to brief them properly and to manage them throughout the process of the campaign. And I think in a lot of cases, there's an assumption that because the creators are doing great organic content for themselves, that they're going to take your brief, fully understand your brand that you've been immersed in and then run an element of your campaign on its own. And really, I think that's not the case. I think that every influencer campaign needs hands-on management from start to finish.

Lindsey Brand (01:46):

Yeah. And in addition to that, it's not enough to just tell them what to do. It's really working with them. And the brief itself has to cater towards their look and feel and give them the leeway to be who they are and what works well with their audience. They know their audience best, and brands really have to give that leeway to the creators they work with and balance between brand and their authentic self.

Bob Knorpp (02:12):

Yeah. We talk a lot about authenticity in this business, trying to present yourself as authentic, that doesn't seem to be an easy challenge. You can put together the best brief ever, and still an influencer can run rogue and do something on their own. And that's challenging to the brand overall, as far as trying to make themselves authentic in this space, how do you navigate that?

Max Bass (02:39):

I mean, the only things coming to mind, to be honest with you, are preventative measures. They're all preventative measures. It's things like, was the content going to be approved? Was the content set? What is an influencer going rogue in this sense? Are they saying something negative about the brand? That to me is like not a great job vetting. Obviously you're going to have instances where you may see a piece of content differently, but hopefully there's an approval process in place so that you can make those checks and make those edits and give that feedback. I've done this on multiple brands and then across the board and I can't even point to an instance of an influencer doing something that hurt a brand, without, at all in general.

Max Bass (03:27):

And, I think that, there is a cancel culture of things that happen outside of what may be going on with your campaign, and there are extraneous factors, but, in my view, there are certainly reactionary, disaster scenario planning events that you need to be prepared for. And if an influencer posts something, you need people to get in touch with their team, or get in touch with them to get them to take a post down or reword something or reframe something. But ultimately it's on an agency or the brand to have a process in place to get the influencer onboard, what the campaign needs to be, manage them. And as Lindsay was talking about, actually work with them on the content, co-create with them and then make sure that they've checked all the boxes for approval, your hashtag, hashtag ad, et cetera, et cetera. And, I think anyone who's working with influencers should be prepared for those types of steps and those types of boxes being checked and more.

Lindsey Brand (04:28):

And it's also about flexibility. I mean, your brand that you're working on has to understand that these are human people. They do this all the time, but as in creative, sometimes you try to do something and it just doesn't work. And you have to be really flexible to the concept. And maybe that didn't work, but they’re slightly adjusted. You can't go apples to apples and anyone who's been on a major production or a set or a commercial and film content knows that, even your clients know that, nothing always goes directly as planned. And sometimes you just have to adjust. And as long as it's not, like Max said, negatively impacting the brand, I think we're totally flexible to do that with influencers, which is great.

Bob Knorpp (05:11):

So, if I could summarize just really briefly, just to make sure that we put a fine point on this, it comes down to vetting, briefing, involvement, flexibility, and crisis planning. I mean, it really comes down to those key elements to make sure that everything runs well. Am I right?

Max Bass (05:29):

Certainly. And I think, just to add on to what Lindsey is saying, I'm working on an influencer campaign right now, and I've had several instances where the client has given feedback or suggested feedback. I've gone to the influencers with it. I've had a conversation with the influencers and their team about why they've made certain choices and how they want to respond to the feedback a little bit differently or more strategically to make the content right for their audience. And, those types of insights for them are certainly not things that we're going to have when we're selecting the influencers and they come out of the process of briefing and then continuing to work with them throughout. And so, I think a lot of instances, that's just an example of how it is just a really collaborative process of getting content out the door when you're working with influencers and each side being open to listening to what the other side has to say.

Bob Knorpp (06:15):

One of the things that we talked about before we started recording was Lindsey, you were recently at VidCon and you mentioned that creators are being positioned as “decentralized media companies,” which sounds really, really exciting and sounds like a total pain in the neck at the exact same time. So maybe you could talk a little bit about that. And how do you both feel about this description? Does it cause more problems than it solves? Or is it a really good thing for you guys?

Lindsey Brand (06:43):

Yeah, I mean, I like the term, I think it makes sense as we treat them as media companies inside itself, they market themselves as this media company because they’re usually cross-platform. So it's not just TikTok, but it's also YouTube as long form. They have different audiences on each, based on the amount of content you want will be what they give you and their price tag attached. I've gotten [inaudible 00:07:13], right, quite a few creators actually, while I was attending VidCon and just picking my brain about when you hire influencers, what are you looking for? What do you go about? What's a right price to the amount of content that you're getting? And it really depends on each individual influencer of course, and the scale and what they bring to the table and their authenticity, but they are these little media companies within themselves because they have that scale, that growth just inside themselves, which is incredible.

Bob Knorpp (07:48):

Yeah. It sounds like it is. How about you Max? What do you feel about the term of “decentralized media company” when you're talking about an influencer? Is that something that works for you or is it problematic?

Max Bass (08:00):

It works. I think that where I would push on this is just that it's been this way for 10 years, or at least seven years, I think that as long as influencers as Lindsey said, building audience across multiple different platforms, that's what media companies are doing, as long as, I think, some of the oldest meme accounts, we're getting deals from brands, five, six years ago, Buckcherry, I don't know if you can keep that in the podcast. That's the one that keeps on coming to mind, it’s like they were getting brand deals, the fat Jewish, they were getting brand deals and becoming media companies in 2015, in 2014.

Max Bass (08:48):

And so I love the term. I hope that people wake up to it really quickly and recognize the value because I think that it shifts the conversation more towards what we were just talking about towards co-creation. You're not using someone as an influencer. You're using someone as a creator. And I think that's a really, really important difference because influencer to me is really about reach and a reach by it is just not it. These influencers can do so much more. In fact, they are working with them because they have a unique relationship with their audience. And hopefully you can drive recall and conversion and all of the other considerations, all of the other good metrics that brands are looking for that are down funnel.

Lindsey Brand (09:32):

I love what you said about making them. They're not influencers, they're creators now, and it's a partnership. And I really think that's the biggest shift that we've seen in creators, especially what it used to be is really seeding. And by that, we mean giving free product to the creators and to influencers and sending it to them and hoping they post about your product. And we've really gone away from that now, it's really a partnership, them being the creators that are helping you build content and building your brand, as opposed to sending them free product, hoping they post about it. Influencers really don't like that anymore. It's been a really hot topic of taking advantage of creators because they are creative people who have their own personal brand and they are these decentralized media companies that want to be treated as such.

Max Bass (10:25):

And I think that it's just different industries are taking advantage of these decentralized media companies in different ways. There are industries where what you were talking about, here's my product, plug it, works. The way that the music industry is using TikTok right now is incredible, but also terrible. It's great for their marketing and great for the companies, but bad for the artists. But a lot of the songs that are just being plugged by random people across TikTok, it's getting attention, it's getting the awareness out and it's, might be the right strategy, at least for what they want to accomplish.

Bob Knorpp (11:07):

I'm hearing what you guys are saying, but at the same time, I'm a little bit disturbed about this term “decentralized media company.” Because when you talk about a media company, a media company sells ads and they sell promotional space. They're not very good partners. They do occasionally partner with you. And I'm talking about media companies in general, but those partnerships are always some kind of promotion and that's anything but authentic, which is what we've been saying since the beginning of time that we need brands to be doing, they need to show up authentically in the social space. How do you take a brand that wants to be authentic, do a partnership with an influencer, who's a media company really, and still come away with an authentic promotion?

Lindsey Brand (11:54):

I think people have changed their perspective on what is an ad. We've really seen that in a lot of Tweens that are participating now, especially in gaming. And Max can speak more to that, too. They don't mind if it's an ad, they want entertainment. And if we're a brand, that's going to give that to them. I think they're all for it. It needs to be authentic to that creator, of course, 100%. But as long as we're being transparent, we're not trying to hide the product. We're not trying to really, I mean, sell you something, yes. But, however, it's more about the brand love aspect and being straightforward with people. It's not trying to deceive them. It's giving them a really fun experience from their favorite creators. And they're okay with that now, is what we're seeing.

Max Bass (12:46):

Yeah. I mean, I'm someone who's never... I mean, I think you need to look underneath the term, right? Media company, to me, media company, I came in, media companies being built in this space of what we'll call Web 2.0, super exciting, seem like an endless possibility. Anyone could gain followers. Anyone can generate reach, anyone can create content. I think that that is incredible. And I think that the evolution of Web 2.0 has allowed these people to run ads, but they run the ads on their channels no matter what, on their YouTube, they're running ads, they're running pre-roll, they're running mid-roll, on Twitch, they're running pre-roll, they're running mid-roll, they're running ads anyways. And to me, those are the ads that people really don't like, those are the modern media companies.

Max Bass (13:35):

It's the programmatic stuff that's just running in people's faces that often it's not the strategy itself, but it's often that those ads are repurposed TVCs or things that don't consider the environment or the audience that they're running to. And what you're able to do, and I think where you're able to find that level of authenticity with influencers is to create content with them, that is right for their audience, to find influencers that make sense for your brand, and then also deliver value, through that experience, through that content with that influencer. And if you're focused on those things, then, I think any stigma around a term media company goes away because of how you're executing.

Bob Knorpp (14:18):

That sounds really great. I mean, it sounds like it's a better way to approach it, to think of them as true partners and help them to understand what the purpose is. I mean, it goes back to what you said in the beginning. I mean, it's about vetting, briefing, flexibility, basically price planning, keeping yourself in order, making sure that you have all your t's crossed and your i's dotted. There's one more thing I wanted to talk about because Lindsey, I think it was you who circulated an article about how we're entering an error of unapologetic bad taste. And I found this read really super interesting.

Bob Knorpp (14:52):

It codifies a lot of what we're seeing in this space. Talk to me a little bit about what this means for brands because brands want to show up authentically, but they also want to show up with a certain aesthetic that they've cultivated over time. The brand is important. How do they become part of this unapologetic era of bad taste where you're maybe not as aesthetically pleasing as you've been in the past and how do you still be authentic and natural in that space?

Lindsey Brand (15:25):

Yeah. I love that article. I think it's such a balance and really hard to be honest for creatives like myself and other people we work with because you want to create beautiful work and that will never go away. There's always a place that you want to create gorgeous work, but I think it really now depends on the platform. And as long as you're making the content that seems fitting to the platform, I think you have the best of both worlds. I think you can create beautiful ads and beautiful pre-roll and TV and gorgeous out of home. And then on the opposite side, I think you can get very real with people on TikTok and Snapchat and reels and be able to create things that people can relate to. It's just such a different medium. And I think as things like TikTok take over social media, we just have to adjust slightly to what we're looking for and the style that we look to do on those platforms.

Lindsey Brand (16:43):

Just making it organic to what people are already seeing. I mean, influencers have millions of followers and it's not polished at all. And that's their look. And I think it was something like 75% of Tweens right now. They're not looking like I want to grow up to be a firefighter. They want to grow up to be a creator and it's because they can relate and create these videos themselves and they think, wow, I can really do this.

Lindsey Brand (17:11):

And I think that's really important as well. It doesn't need to be super polished. There's a huge throwback culture right now to what hurts me to say throwback is early 2000s. Very, very much hurts, but I was at a really awesome TikTok party this past weekend. And they had us make our own tote bags and all of the nostalgic elements to it were a Nokia phone and a Game Boy and really fun things that are a throwback. And I think that's part of this unapologetically bad taste. People want to be in those early 2000s. It wasn't known for a great taste there, but people love to experience throwbacks as well as just seeing themselves in the content that they create.

Speaker 2 (18:01):

This has been, Is This Thing On, the GALE audio series. For more information about this or any other episode in the series, visit gale.agency/ideas. And to learn about GALE and how we can help you with your marketing efforts, visit www.galepartners.com. On behalf of the entire team at GALE, thanks for listening.