The Future Of Social Advertising: The Definitive Guide (Part III)
If influencers are the new celebrities (and more effective ones at that), we can apply a lot of the same learnings from the pre-internet era to today.
The success Nike had with Jordan is a blueprint for esports and influencer endorsements. Just in 2019, the Jordan brand generated $3.1 billion in sales. We can look to the George Foreman grill to see how products can be white-labeled and brands built around personalities.
Most brands have failed to fully embrace influencers in the way they have other endorsements. The overriding perception is that influencers are distributors. They’re media tactic utilized to push a message out into the world.
This is a tactical mistake. One that is incredibly short sighted.
Influencers are making a living via their platforms. This is their career. If you’re a soda brand and you pay influencer X for a single activation, what happens 6 months or a year from now? What if that influencer gets a compelling offer from a competitor? What should they do if it means keeping their business afloat vs just scraping by?
If they take the deal, it dilutes the credibility of both the brand and the influencer. Imagine if Nike had paid Michael Jordan to wear shoes for one game? Where would they be today? We’re applying that mode of thinking to influencers.
There are a handful of brands that are approaching the space with a long-term outlook.
Adidas, for example. The brand signed a multi-year deal with Ninja. It’s the type of endorsement contract typically reserved for professional athletes.
The first shoe Adidas + Ninja released sold out in 40 minutes.
Ryan Kaji, a 9 year old from Texas, has built a massive following on YouTube doing toy reviews. His main channel has more than 41 billion views and over 25 million subscribers.
In collaboration with Bonkers Toys, Ryan now has his own ‘Ryan’s World’ branded products, including: clothing, toys, books, app, video games, and toothbrushes available in Target and Walmart.
How’d they sell?
GFuel, an energy drink company is doing something similar (as I outlined in an earlier post). GFuel partners with hundreds of influencers and gamers across YouTube and Twitch as part of their ‘Team Gamma’ program. The company works with each creator to develop custom flavors and packaging. This allows creators to promote ‘their’ flavor, which makes for some uniquely powerful marketing.
They’ve launched five flavors with Faze Clan, the largest esports organization. In collaboration with PewDiewPie, who has over 106 million subscribers, GFuel launched ‘PewDiePie Lingonberry’ featuring PewDiePie branding on the can.
This approach is serving GFuel well. They’ve become the fastest growing energy drink company.
According to Google Trends searches GFuel have exploded in the last year. They surpassed the previous number 3 in the category, Rockstar and are now on par with #2, Monster.
This is impressive given how the category has been dominated by Red Bull, Monster, and Rockstar for the better part of the last two decades.
The beauty industry, in particular, has also successfully embraced influencers.
Morphe has built a massive business around influencer branded products.
Much of their business has been driven by partnering influencers and launching full makeup lines around them. James Charles was responsible for their biggest sales day in 2018 and The Jeffree Star X Shane Dawson collab for their biggest sales day in 2019. Sales for Jeffree and Shane’s palette was massive. They sold out 1 million units in 30 mins and the surge in demand led to shopify crashing.
Fully creator owned and operated brands are also becoming more commonplace, as I outlined in a recent article:
“The scale of some of these brands is becoming seismic, with many disrupting the dominance of traditional players in their respective spaces. For example, married YouTube duo Ethan and Hila Klein, of H3h3 Productions, developed their own apparel line called Teddy Fresh. The brand now has a distribution deal with national retailer Zumiez and has gotten so popular that it even launched a collaboration in February with Nickelodeon staple SpongeBob SquarePants.
Additionally, esports Team 100 Thieves operates a massively popular streetwear brand, having recently been dubbed the “Supreme of esports” by The Verge. YouTuber David Dobrik created a disposable camera app, which has generated over a million downloads.“
I’ve seen the power of influencers when they’re excited and invested in something. While the average Facebook branded video is watched 4.57 seconds, influencers are generating watch time in the 10’s of minutes, with retention rates averaging 80%+.
Their fans form powerful parasocial bonds, and the most recognizable & influential personalities for GenZ & Millennials. This isn’t something that is going to slow down, it’s only going to increase.
Brands must find the courage to trust influencers, to make them into partners instead of just distributors. If they fail to do so these influencers will soon grow brands rivaling their own.
There’s a common misconception that Napoleon’s military dominance was the result of superior technology.
In reality, he didn’t have access to anything different from other armies. Instead, Napoleon adapted his strategies to make the most of the existing technologies. Where the Prussians relied upon what had always worked in the past, Napoleon focused on what was going to work in the future.
He evaluated all the tools available to them and deployed them based upon what was objectively going to the most effective.
He wasn’t the first to use artillery. However, he was the first to consolidate his cannons to be focused on specific targets. Others dispersed them across battle lines.
Napoleon didn’t have superior wagons or transportation – instead he unbundled his troops. He had his men carry their own supplies instead of travelling with slow moving supply wagons. In this way Napoleon’s army became the fastest, and most maneuverable army on the planet.
His troops weren’t the first to use rifles in battle. However, Napoleon was responsible for making it the dominant weapon used by his infantrymen. Rifles shot further and with more accuracy than muskets, but much slower than rifles. Napoleon chose accuracy over speed.
The right approach made all the difference.
You cannot insulate yourself from the future. You must be like Napoleon and approach the world with an eye for the best tools available.
Oftentimes this means foregoing comfort and familiarity. It will mean discarding methods that have worked in the past in favor of new opportunities. It will mean focusing on innovation over dogma.
If you take on this agile mentality it will get you as prepared for the future as you can. This is a litmus test for your capacity for change. This is about being resourceful and adaptable.
The moment to try couldn’t be better. We’re desperate to connect to one another and the technology and resources to do that are all here.
Dark social is the opportunity to form intimate, meaningful relationships with consumers. Live-streaming is the opportunity to bring consumers into our world, feel as if they know us and know the brands. Influencers become the friends and face of the brands of tomorrow.
These opportunities are right here for the taking, because everything I’ve shared is happening now and the market is still largely untapped. The brands that embrace these strategies will be the ones that succeed.
In the words of William Gibson “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.”