In an over-stuffed armchair beside a blazing log fire, a man sits contentedly sipping whiskey in perfect, companionable silence. Not a lot else happens in this 45-minute video; a light smile plays at times on the man’s lips and, at one point, he crosses his legs. And of course, he sips his whiskey—a generous measure, poured from a bottle of single malt Lagavulin placed strategically on a nearby table.
This is an example of influencer marketing at its most simple and its most powerful. The uneventful video, part of Lagavulin’s My Whiskey Tales campaign starring US comedian Nick Offerman, became a viral YouTube sensation, resonating with young consumers not usually accustomed to drinking Scotch. Winner of a 2016 Shorty Award for Best Influencer and Celebrity Campaign, the tongue-in-cheek idea was simple, yet highly effective; it played off of the popularity of Offerman’s on-screen character Ron Swanson, known as a man of few words with a passion for good whiskey.
"The world of marketing is bewildering in its scope; designing your product or service entails one specific set of challenges, but engaging your target market with that product or service is a whole new ball game."
The perfect combination
The Shorty Social Media Awards judges explained their decision as follows: “How can a video go viral, especially in today's media landscape, where millennial males watch online videos for two hours longer than any other digitally viewing demographic? How can a brand break through the clutter to make the "dusty" single malt whisky category culturally relevant? The answer: the perfect combination of the right content creators, the right influencer, a great idea and a strategically executed campaign that can set the fire ablaze.” Read more about the My Whiskey Tales campaign in this PR Newswire article.
The world of marketing is bewildering in its scope; designing your product or service entails one specific set of challenges, but engaging your target market with that product or service is a whole new ball game. The democratisation of content brings new opportunities but also presents obstacles: how to reach audiences increasingly immune to traditional marketing methods and increasingly influenced by their peers and social media personalities?
In Lagavulin’s case, the answer lay in adopting an unusually playful tone, utilising social platforms and connecting with an influencer who embodied their brand messages. Understanding what defines an influencer, the impact that influencers could have on your brand, and even how to become one yourself can help you leverage your brand and raise your profile.
What exactly is influence?
Influence is usually defined in the following ways:
- The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.
- The power to shape policy or ensure favourable treatment from someone, especially through status, contacts, or wealth.
- A person or thing with the capacity to have an influence on someone or something.
As the world continues its massive embrace of social media, consumers now expect fellow consumers to inform (or influence) their purchasing decisions. Instead of looking at companies they now look to their friends and their favourite Twitter or Instagram personalities for guidance and inspiration. For opportunistic brands, the rise of the social media influencer creates a world of possibilities. It opens up a new channel in which to engage with consumers more directly and—crucially—more organically.
The psychology of influence
In order to use influence or become influential, it’s important to understand how it works on consumers and on ourselves. According to Allison+Partners, a strategic PR firm specialising in media digital marketing, brands must understand the forces that fertilise and shape the influence ecosystem in order to be successful.
“Familiarity and trust are the core ingredients to inspire credibility among stakeholders… with a greater understanding of customers a brand can deliver personalised experiences, develop a degree of familiarity with consumers, and create interactions that have much greater efficiency and authenticity,” write Cathy Planchard and Corey Martin.
According to Hubspot, some of the core principles of marketing psychology include reciprocity, social proof and anchoring. Read Hubspot's full guide to understand how to connect on a psychological level with your target audience.
"As the world continues its massive embrace of social media, consumers now expect fellow consumers to inform (or influence) their purchasing decisions."
The power of influence
Allison+Partners recommends identifying the influencers who will have the greatest impact. “More and more, it’s the 'who' that determines the success of content reaching targets, raising awareness, and changing thoughts and actions. By understanding essential 'personas of influence,' brands can more efficiently tailor content communications strategies.”
Word-of-mouth recommendation now accounts for one of the chief driving forces behind sales. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.” Those that were acquired through word-of-mouth had a 37 percent higher retention rate, demonstrating that there’s an ideal opportunity for brands to leverage the power of word-of-mouth through the people that consumers already follow and admire.
Becoming an influencer
So how do you become an influencer yourself? Quite simply, it comes down to engaging, interacting, listening and creating great, authoritative content that resonates with your audience. Mashable has collated some tips to take on board as you get started (read the full article for more about becoming an influencer):
- Create lots of insightful content relevant to your industry.
- Know what your audience wants, and give it to them.
- Don't focus too much on your company or products (a good rule of thumb is to provide useful industry-related content 80-90% of the time, and promotional content no more than 20%).
- Be authentic
- Build up your audience (but quality matters more than quantity!).