The New Definition of Influencer Marketing and How Brands Can Keep Up



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How is influencer marketing changing and how do brands keep up?

In this session, David Hallisey, Vice President of Communications and Content at Petco, Matt Prince, PR & Brand Engagement Lead for Taco Bell and Justin Manfredi, Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Activision discuss how they use influencers and how that has changed over time.

How do you define influencers?

“I think it’s really important to start off by saying influencers and influencer marketing has been around for ages. What’s new is how someone or something becomes an influencer. We (at Taco bell) separate it into two different categories: social facing and brand reputation. Everything we do is driven by those two.” – Matt Prince

“It (influencer marketing) spans similarly across the board and has evolved over time. I think influence is a part of pretty much every initiative and every campaign in some way shape or form.” – David Hallisey

“Influencers for us, and to both these guys points, has changed over time. You have celebrity influencers, gamer influencers, partnerships with influencers etc. I think as an organization we try to find a balance between paid, owned and earned influence.” – Justin Manfredi

Where do the lines blur between PR and marketing with influencers?

“I don’t think they blur anymore, I think to external audiences they don’t exist. That line is really an internal phenomenon today. It’s something that is very much a part of everything we do. I think we have to think of consumers and influencers as well.” – David Hallisey

“For us, our strategy is to fuel the goal of the brand, but also to be a cultural-centric lifestyle brand. What drives culture is media, but now more than ever influencers are driving pop-culture. There’s a seat at the table for our influencer team on every activation we do.” – Matt Prince

“There isn’t much of a delineation, out of the gate we’re looking at all types of influencers. I think the one thing we pride ourselves on is looking at who we want to hold up and see if they have authenticity. You have to believe that person loves your brand and stands up for what your brand believes in.” – Justin Manfredi

How do you approach co-creating content authentic to your brand?

“We have games that in and of themselves are content. And we have a community who is passionate about that and takes the games apart and looks at them closely. Last year we went into the game and inserted a snaptag, (QR code) that took them to our snapchat. Within minutes the whole community was ravenous and we gained many followers. It was a genuine way to infiltrate where they are. We didn’t tell them to make videos about it, we went to them.” – Justin Manfredi

“We did a YouTube series last year with Toby Turner a gamer who has a talking dog. It seemed like a fit with a different and new audience; but we realized really quickly we were trying to micromanage. We ended up providing seasonal themes and products and let them generate the content. Letting them do their own thing was the way to go.” – David Hallisey

How do new groups become influencers?

“If you have Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, you have some influence and you are influencing your community. Good or bad, as a brand you have to take that input and respect that. As a brand you can’t say ‘I can do whatever I want’. You do have a responsibility to the consumer whether it’s your consumer or not.” – Justin Manfredi

“It’s important also to lean into giving average consumers the tool to become influencers. I’m sure you saw our Cinqo De Mayo Snapchat Filter. It took the average consumer and turned them into an influencer. You would normally have to pay a lot of money for Kylie Jenner to advertise a product, but she took a picture with that filter so it was an earned influence.” – Matt Prince

“A woman in the midwest had taken a product and renamed it and made a club around it that was actually international. But we had discontinued the product, so we decided to bring it back. Those things are great because it’s a real person.” – David Hallisey

How do you respond to negativity in the media toward influencers?

“It makes you rethink your strategy so it’s a good conversation to have. It makes you look at the engagement you have with influencers. There are agents now that run multi-million dollar businesses on influencers” – Matt Prince

“We’re all struggling with it, but as consumers do we really care? We understand there is some pay for play going on, but there is a balancing act going on. At Petco we don’t sell dogs, cats, or rabbits, instead we do adoption events every week. We adopt more than 400,00 dogs a year. To bring this to life using celebrities, some call them influencers, we tried to find a cross-section where people had their own stories to share.” – David Hallisey

“It’s not just about the influencers, but for content to be successful you have to consider how that plays across the whole ecosystem. It’s easy to pick at influencers and say they are paid, but I think those are the brands too that aren’t looking at their marketing objective. It’s a lever in that whole marketing mix and there can be too much weight on influencers.” – Justin Manfredi.

How do you plan on staying ahead of the game in the influencer market?

Influencers have agents and it has become a legitimate business for us and them as brands. I get hit up at least 3 or 4 emails a week from people repping influencers. It feels a little slimy, but there is a lot of money in that and I think that is going to continue.” – Justin Manfredi

“We really want to get people on the rise. Saturation is something we all struggle with. The influencer market is a bit of the wild wild west.” – David Hallisey

What are the important takeaways for influencer marketing?

“Authenticity and Respect. Just because someone is big, doesn’t mean they’re the right influencer. The other thing is respecting the community and the consumers and the content producers. Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it’s cheap.” – Justin Manfredi

“To have a filter system. If you don’t hold strong to your values, you’re not a going to be a good influencer. The other piece is collaboration, we try to bring people to the table (influencers) early along in the process and really work with them” – Matt prince

“I think it’s about being thoughtful and finding the right balance; the balance of utilizing influencers in a right way and looking over the long haul. We try to create content that is evergreen whenever possible.” – David Hallisey

How do you recruit and manage influencers?

“It’s all over the map for us. There are a fair amount of celebrities that want to engage with a pet-oriented brand so sometimes people reach out to us, sometimes we reach out, there’s not a platform necessarily for us.” – David Hallisey

This event took place at Social Media Week in Los Angeles. Sign up for SMW Insider to access the full video of this event and 50+ other #SMWLA sessions.

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