The influencer post

Mark Ritson wrote an op-ed over at Marketing Week on influence. Whilst it lacked nuance on the subject area, a lot of what it said is true. Go over and have a read; I’ll be waiting for when you come back.

Whilst I disagree on the finer points, what Ritson wrote needed to be said. There needed to be a turning of the tide on influencers from boundless optimism to a greater degree of sobriety and critical analysis of the influencer opportunity.

I first noticed this boundless optimism when I attended the In2 Innovation Summit in May last year.  Heather Mitchell on a panel. Mitchell worked at the time in Unilever’s haircare division where she is director, head of global PR, digital engagement and entertainment marketing. I asked the panel discussing influencer marketing about the impact of zero-based budgeting (ZBB) and the answer was ducked. ZBB requires a particular ROI on activity, something that (even paid for) influence marketing still struggles to do well.

This was surprising given the scrutiny that other marketing channels were coming under, I couldn’t understand how influencer marketing merited that leap of faith.

This time last year I noted:

Substitute ‘buzz marketing’ for ‘influencer marketing’ and this could be 15 years ago. Don’t get me wrong I had great fun doing things like hijacking Harry Potter book launches when I worked at Yahoo!, but no idea how it really impacted brand or delivered in terms of RoI. Influencer marketing seems to be in a similar place.

Just five years ago we had managed to get past the hype bubble of social and senior executives were prepared to critically examine social’s worth. In the meantime we have had a decline in organic reach and massive inflation in both ad inventory and influencer costs. What had changed in the marketers mentality?

Onward with Mark Ritson’s main points.

Ritson’s Three Circles of Bullshit

A very loose reference to Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy trilogy; but for modern marketers

The First Circle of Bullshit: Are the followers real?

  • Are they bots?
  • Are they stolen accounts?
  • Are the user accounts active any more?
  • Has the account holder padded their account with bought followers and engagement. Disclosure – I ran an experiment on my Twitter account and still have a substantial amount of fake followers. More on this experiment here.

The Second Circle of Bullshit: Are influencers trusted?

  • Ritson did an unscientific test that showed (some) influencers would post anything for a bit of money

The Final Circle of Bullshit: Do they have influence?

  • Some influencers are genuinely authoritative; but this is a minority of influencers out there
  • Ritson alludes to the lack of organic reach amongst an ‘influencers’ followers which is likely to be 2% reach or less
Trends in influence

I looked at Google Trends to see what could be learned in the rate of change in searches over time. Consider Google Trends to be an inexact but accessible measure of changes in interest over time.

Global interest in influencers have been accelerating

Influence: Google Trends

There has been a corresponding rises in interest around paid influencer marketing

Influence: Google Trends

There hasn’t been the same interest peak in organic (PR-driven) influencer work

Influence: Google Trends

All of which supports the following hypotheses:

  • it’s become on-trend from the perspective of marketers, agencies and ‘influencers’
  • A significant amount of influencers are in it for the money – which brings into question their (long term authority and consumer trust)
  • A significant amount of influencers have an exceedingly good idea of their value (more likely overly-inflated)
  • Ego is less of a motivator for becoming an influencer than material gains
What would influence look like?

Propagation of the content by real people. Instagram, a particularly popular influencer channel, has made sharing posts difficult for followers historically. Re-gramming was a pain in the arse for the average Instagram user.

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If we look at the mainstream media and how it is shared on Facebook we see that only five media brands are consistently in the top ten most shared media properties. ‘Traditional’ influencer status isn’t necessarily a garrantor of consistent successful propagation either, if Newship’s data is to be believed.

Attributed sales. Some luxury brands in China have had success collaborating with influencers and selling through their channels; the post child being Mr Bags collaboration with Longchamps.

How is the best way to use influencers in marketing?

Assuming that you are using influencers in the widest possible sense at the moment.

Treat the majority of influencers as yet another advertising format

That means that reach, the way the brand is presented, and repetition are all important – smart mass marketing following the playbook of Byron Sharp.

  • Viewing your influencer mention in that prism, it means estimating what the real reach would be (lets say 2% of the follower number as an estimate) and paying no more on a CPM rate than you would pay for a display advertising advert
  • Ensure that the brand is covered in the way that you want. Some luxury brands have managed to get around this by keeping control of the content; a good example of this is De Grisogono – a family-run high jewellery and luxury watch brand. They work with fashion bloggers that meet their high standards and invite them to events. De Grisogono provides them with high-quality photography of its pieces and the event. They get the  high standard of brand presentation which raises the quality of the placement
  • Get repetition with the audience by repeating the placement with other content that delivers the same message with the same high standard of production

All of this might work for a luxury brand, IF you found that the amount of agency time and creative work made commercial sense. It is less likely to work for normal FMCG brands. What self-respecting influencer is going to be bossed around by a breakfast cereal?

Thinking about micro influencers, probably the area that has had the most interest from marketers recently due to them appearing to be better value than macro influencers.

Brown & Fiorella (2013) explanation of micro-influencers:

Adequately identifying prospective customers, and further segmenting them based on situations and situational factors enables us to identify the people and businesses – or technologies an channels that are closest to them in each scenario. We call these micro-influencers and see them as the business’s opportunity to exert true influence over the customer’s decision-making process as opposed to macro-influencers who simply broadcast to a wider, more general audience.

Brown & Fiorella focus on formal prospect detail capture and conversion.

This approach is more likely to work in certain circumstances; where there is low friction to conversion (e-tailing for discretionary value items).

It starts to fall apart when you deploy their approach to:

  • Consumer marketing
  • Mature product sectors
  • Mature brands

You would also struggle with many B2B segments where social provides a small reach and little social interaction.

Work with real influencers on long term collaborations
  • There is more likelihood of having audience trust if they can see and understand the long term relationship between a brand and its influencers
  • Better brand placement easier, with an influencer that ‘gets’ the brand
  • You’ve got a better chance of being able to get access and fully understand the underlying analytics of their accounts (which should be a prerequisite for long term relationship)
  • You can look at collaborations and attribution payment models that raise all boats
  • You can lock out rivals out of relationships
More information

Mark Ritson: How ‘influencers’ made my arse a work of art | Marketing Week
Edelman Digital Trends Report – (PDF) makes some interesting reading
Instagram Marketing: Does Influencer Size Matter? | Markerly Blog
Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing by Danny Brown & Sam Fiorella ISBN-13: 978-0789751041 (2013)
Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach
Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks – Stanford University and Facebook Data Science
PLOS ONE: Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks by Lorenzo Coviello,Yunkyu Sohn, Adam D. I. Kramer,Cameron Marlow, Massimo Franceschetti, Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler
Senior Execs Not Convinced About Social’s Worth | Marketing Charts
Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy – Cha et al (2010) – (PDF)
Visualizing Media Bias through Twitter. Jisun An. University of Cambridge. Meeyoung Cha. KAIST. Krishna P. Gummadi. MPI-SWS et al – (PDF)
Mr. Bags x Longchamp: How to Make 5 Million RMB in Just Two Hours | Jing Daily
It’s time that we talk about micro-influencers

The long and the BBH of it

This started with a blog post that talks about the IPA’s The Long And The Short Of It (TLATSOI) role in the planning and strategy process of the ad industry.

Thermometer

The Long And The Short Of It Needs The Wrong And The Shit Of It. Feel free to go and have a read and come back.

TL;DR

The IPA’s original research had flaws in the methodology:

  • Focusing purely on successes brings in biases due to the research being taken out of context. Context provided by the ‘complete’ population of good, mediocre and awful campaigns rather than award winners
  • There aren’t any lessons on how not to truly mess up
TLATSOI isn’t a LinkedIn article

Its easy to throw shots over the table when someone has done a lot of work. TLATSOI isn’t an article on the ‘five morning habits of Warren Buffet’ to make you successful.

Les Binet and Peter Field analysed 996 campaigns entered in the IPA Effectiveness awards (1980 – 2010). That would have taken them a considerable amount of time to do. They then managed to write it all up and distill it down into a very slim volume on my bookshelf.

The work is an achievement and Binet & Field deserve our gratitude and respect. Secondly, other marketing disciplines don’t have their version of TLATSOI. We couldn’t critique TLATSOI if it didn’t exist.

Let’s say we want to stand on their shoulders and build something more comprehensive than TLATSOI. Just what would it take?

Working with what you have

Binet and Field worked with what they have. If you’ve ever written an award entry you’ll know pulling it together is a pain in the arse. 996 award entries represents thousands of weeks of non-billable agency time. This was also strained through their empirical experience in the business, which adds a ‘welcome’ bias.

Now imagine if that kind of rigor in terms of documentation and analysis was put into mediocre campaigns. The kind of campaign where the client logo barely makes into the agency credentials deck.

Without a major agency (nudge, nudge, wink, wink BBH) providing all their warts-and-all data, the initative won’t start.

It will be hard to get what is needed. Agency functions aren’t geared up to deliver the information. A technological solution would take a good while to put in place; and like all IT projects would have a 70% failure rate.

In an industry where careers are made and talent attracted on ‘hits’; theres a big chunk of realpolitik to address.

How would you keep a lid on the dirty laundry?

We live in a connected world. To the point that there are now likely to be four certainties. Birth, death, taxes and data breaches. Imagine a data dump, some Excel skills and what was a bit of snark would do to an agency’s reputation? The stain of an ad agency equivalent of the movie industry Gold Raspberries would likely bury careers.

What do we measure?

My friend Rob Blackie started some of the thinking on effectiveness data SLA tiers

A = Tests the objective directly using a Randomised Control Test (RCT) in a real world environment (e.g. measured at point of sale).
B = RCT tests of proximate objective (e.g. brand), direct measurement of impacts without correction for population bias or confounding factors (e.g. a sunny week drives a lot of ice cream consumption). Or case studies (independent), quality survey data on changes in behaviour, testing in an artificial environment. For instance a Nielsen Brand Lift study
C = Case studies (non-independent), data sources that may contain significant bias compared to the underlying population. For instance: Award entries.
D = Indicative data such as PR coverage, social media Likes and similar.
E = Anecdotes. Extra points for quality, and reproducibility across different suppliers / evaluators.

There are challenges capturing long-term branding factors such as advertising ‘ad stock’ or ‘carryover‘. That then takes you into fundemental questions:

How long is the minimum viable time of campaign duration to be considered for assessment?

How long should we be measuring long term branding effects? How do you measure ‘clientside’ quality issues:

  • Resourcing / budgets
  • Product
  • Ambience in the case of client-owned channels
  • Adequate quality briefs. Are the objectives written well? Are they relevant to the business
  • Mission creep or changing company agendas

All of this means that getting to the greater volume of poor campaigns as well as the best is easier said than done. The best way to kick it off would be having large agencies to work together on putting together data sets.

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五) | 금요일에 다섯 가지

Things that made my day this week.

The top thing would be catching up with old friends. ‘Old is gold’ as they say. I got to go to the Bicester Village outlet centre (as guide rather than shopper) and the contrast between the restaurants just outside the village was an eye-opener to my foreign guests. My key take away on their reaction: China isn’t going to be jumping up and down to invest in a post-Brexit UK. Bicester Village’s owner has already hedged its bets; it has twin outlet villages in Barcelona, Dublin, Madrid, Milan, Paris Shuzhou and Shanghai – all competing for global luxury buyer spending. They are either in nicer climes or more convenient for East Asian shoppers. They’ve been changing the way Chinese consumers buy luxury and Bicester may not reap the full rewards now.

This documentary on genre defying Chinese group Re-Tros and their first European tour in support of Depeche Mode. People often use the descriptor post-punk. They’re style definitely has a jazz or progressive rock-style improvisation feel to it. The 1980s descriptor ‘electronic body music’ applied to the likes of Front 242 seems to be as good a descriptor as any.

In what has become an internet tradition, Mary Meeker presents her annual trends presentation

And here are the slides

 

If Mary Meeker hadn’t convinced you about the robust state of innovation in the Chinese technology eco-system then this presentation by George S Yip may do the trick.

I started using the Usenet for the first time in years for a research project. I wanted to go back and understand longer term trends. The Usenet archives were a handy primer. The Usenet served a similar purpose to the likes of Reddit. I wanted a native application and this was the best Usenet client that I found. NZBVortex | Simply the best Usenet client for Mac. Many old favourites were no longer in development or supported by the latest version of macOS.

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Huawei sees building alternative to Android as insurance amid US-China trade tensions | SCMP – not a big leap from an OS point of view. The big jump would be the app store since both Google and Amazon’s app stores would be out of reach if Huawei were found guilty

Someone might’ve hacked the company that can hack any iPhone – BGR – another reason why backdoors are bad

Mobile advertising represents 91% of Facebook’s ad revenue | Marketing Interactive – I suspect that there is a lot of wasted ads here. Linking through to sites that aren’t mobile friendly or things that don’t work on mobile for instance

Kraft Heinz works with JKR to introduces quirky new biscuit brand JIF JAF | Marketing Interactive – Kraft Heinz launching product in China going head to head with Mondelez; that spun out of Kraft….

British adults using Facebook less to communicate with friends | Technology | The Guardian – according to Ofcom there is also a wealth divide in how Britons use the internet, with poorer individuals more likely to rely solely on a smartphone to get online and have “lower levels of online confidence and critical understanding”.

APAC markets exceed global benchmarks for viewability, brand safety | Digital | Campaign Asia – fraud rates for campaigns that optimised against fraud remained relatively flat, showing optimisation efforts are paying off by keeping fraud rates low. Singapore and Hong Kong had higher fraud risk at 20.7% and 14.0% respectively, because ad fraudsters tend to follow where the digital spend goes and where CPMs are higher.

Can This System of Unlocking Phones Crack the Crypto War? | WIRED – this sounds dodgy AF. If the US gets access, every country gets access

Facebook beats in Q1 and boosts daily user growth to 1.45B amidst backlash | TechCrunch – basically people don’t care if Facebook invades their privacy or usurps their government. All of that is a mere bagatelle

AMD earnings confirm it’s biting into Intel’s market share | VentureBeat – it likely won’t be permanent

Addressing Recent Claims of “Manipulated” Blog Posts in the Wayback Machine | Internet Archive Blogs – interesting hack that should be in the tool bag of reputation managers

U.S. DoJ probing Huawei for possible Iran sanctions violations: WSJ – interesting that they are getting dinged for similar things to ZTE. Stopping US vendors from selling to Huawei would be a bit less impactful than on ZTE. But it would retarget the Huawei R&D budget away from innovation to replacing American component technology and engineering services currently provided by the likes of Ciena or Qualcomm. This actually fits neatly with Mr Xi’s China 2025 manufacturing initiative that is designed to free the country from relying on international suppliers.

Amazon is releasing a new Alexa gadget specifically geared toward kids – Recode – but what about the privacy settings?

Meet John Hennessy and Dave Patterson, Silicon Valley’s first disruptors | Recode – great read about when Silicon Valley actually made silicon and solved ‘hard’ innovation problems, rather than sociopathic web services. You couldn’t have your modern computer or your smartphone without Hennessy & Patterson

Nike’s Converse Loses Chief Marketer to Supreme | BoF – not that Supreme really needs marketing with its over-subscribed drops. Unless they are changing direction to become more mass affluent?

A French billionaire is being investigated for bribing African officials for lucrative contracts | Quartz – this surprised me. France has used businesses like Total and Elf with the likes of Jacques Foccart to keep a relationship and control in the Francophone. Why are they turning on Bollore now? Especially odd when you think about how China is pushing western interests out of the continent

Electric Autos – Long life – I think it’s more complex, depending on vehicle range and driving patterns will factor into demand. Of course the shit is really going to hit the fan when lithium ion technology fails to provide for transport needs like long distance heavy goods vehicles, becomes too expensive and essential materials become too rare. There is likely to be a pivot to hydrogen combustion engines or hydrogen fuel cells due to superior energy density. The economics around risk, infrastructure and other capital costs will change.

A ZFS developer’s analysis of the good and bad in Apple’s new APFS file system | Ars Technica – this is a good guide. The thing that puzzles me is this. Apple had a working implementation of ZFS running on early beta versions of OS X and then decided not to implement it. Apple adoption of ZFS would be a major boost (it is already supported on Linux and Solaris). It takes about a decade for a file system to mature sufficiently; ZFS has that maturity and is still bleeding edge tech. Apple has a good relationship with Oracle so that wouldn’t be a problem, Larry Ellison is still the shot-caller over there and he still hates Microsoft and Google. Instead they build their own version, which has nice encryption facilities but lacks the data integrity features that ZFS has. It doesn’t seem to be about squeezing the footprint of ZFS for mobile devices either. Apple just decided to go it alone.

Things that made my day this week

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I spent a good deal of the week seeing the family. It was great to have homemade soda bread and finish off my Mum’s Christmas cake. Yes, you haven’t read that wrong, my Mum specialises in making rich fruit cakes for Christmas. They keep for a good few months afterwards.

A good deal of that was spent watching Homeland and assorted  films with my Dad. This included Accident Man – a pretty accurate remake of the Toxic! comic book character from the early 1990s by Pat Mills (of 2000AD fame) and Tony Skinner.

For a brief period from March to October 1991; the UK comic scene had a darker, more anarchic publication than had been previously seen. Toxic! was originally designed to address failings in 2000AD magazine.

The film is so anachronistic in its nature that its audience will be niche. That doesn’t reflect on the quality of the action in the film. It features Ray Stevenson, Scott Adkins (you’d recognise hime host of Hong Kong and Hollywood movies) and Ray Park (who played Darth Maul). Adkins is a bit lean to play the titular character Mick Fallon, which is a surprise given his Boyka role in the Undisputed franchise. Adkins to his credit manages to make it all work.

Both the director and the script writer managed to skilfully blend the unreconstructed misogyny of 1991 with with the great ‘unawoke’ attitudes of a post Brexit Britain.

Watching Wanted: Dead or Alive with Rutger Hauer shows how much the media portrayal of Islamic terrorism has changed over the past 30 years. The plot itself is a bit odd. Sex tape star Gene Simmons plays an Islamic terrorist looking to cause a Bhopal-type disaster as an act of revenge on the United States – where do you even start with that plot?

Hauer’s car has an early generation cellular phone and what seems like some sort of satellite navigation equipment with a monochrome CRT display.

Dated films weren’t the only things that I saw. Whilst I heard of a few people who had a Nissan Leaf; Merseyside is still firmly in the petroleum age. Most of the cars were a decade old on average and I didn’t see any obvious charging stations. Importation of secondhand cars from Japan is still a thing and both J60 and J80 series Toyota Land Cruisers seem to have a loyal following.

For something more recent and music-related, I can recommend this from Resident Advisor: How did UK garage become dubstep?

I think that we must be pretty close to peak-vape. I was in a Wilkinsons store and wandered past the cough and cold medicine section. Wilkinsons is a discount retailer that does a mix of food cupboard staple grocers, household cleaning products and over the counter pharmacy products. A good analogue for Hong Kong readers would be 759 Store.

On the top shelf of the unit above cough and cold remedies was vape fluid and e-cigarettes.

Douglas Rushkoff | Present Shock Economies – great YouTube video which explains why Amazon is likely to be more trouble over time than Facebook ever will be. Well worth listening to during a lunch hour.

Finally Asian Boss had some great vox pop interviews with Beijingers about what they thought of Sesame Credit which is a financial and behavioural credit system being rolled out in China.