In an age of ad blocking, influencer marketing has grown as a way for brands to cut through the noise and connect with customers. The challenge? Even if it’s not direct advertising, consumers can still sense when influencer marketing feels too much like an ad and scroll past it.
It’s no secret to marketers: Consumers don’t want ads to disrupt their online experiences. About 90% of people skip over pre-roll ads, and 40% of adults use ad blockers to keep unwanted promos out of view, with the most cited rationale being to avoid interruption and annoyance.
In order for influencer marketing to effectively reach audiences without feeling disruptive—and for consumers to maintain trust in both brands and creators—campaigns need to be rooted in authenticity
The foundation of any authentic influencer marketing campaign is creators that align naturally with a brand, so consumers don’t feel like they’re seeing an intrusive advertisement. This isn’t always easy: according to a recent report, 78% of brands said it’s fairly or very difficult to find the right creators.
That’s because alignment isn’t limited to interests. Just because you’re a health and wellness brand doesn’t automatically mean every fit-fluencer will drive results for you. Instead, finding an authentic match means looking more closely at a shared audience, shared values and common goals. And even if your goal is to grow awareness, the right influencers for your brand won’t always be the ones with the biggest following.
In one activation, BEN worked with BlendJet to promote the brand’s new blender by targeting an on-the-go fitness audience—a natural match, so it seemed, for the brand’s health and wellness values. But during BEN’s testing and optimization period, the team discovered that the most engagement was actually coming from lifestyle and family creators using the product at home in their kitchens. Adjusting the creator strategy helped to build a scaled campaign that outperformed BlendJet’s strict customer acquisition cost target within two months of launching the campaign.
Sourcing the right creative partners comes down to having an existing network of relationships and the technology to discover new, relevant creators. At BEN, our AI allows us to think like a human and scale like a machine. Using keyword searches, audience similarity, and creator aesthetic, our AI combs through millions of creators to find the best matches. Our team of experts then vets those results—often pulling from their personal networks as well—to finalize a list of creators tailor-made for a brand’s needs and values.
Finding the Right Partners
Once brands have sourced creators, ensuring authenticity means trusting the match and avoiding being overly prescriptive about the content they make.
“Brands come to us all the time with prescriptive talking points, or specific instructions about what content needs to look like. But that leads to a video that the audience knows to be suspicious of, they won’t watch, and therefore is ineffective,” says Alec Wagley, Senior Director of Influencer Integrations at BEN.
Providing creators the freedom to develop content that matches what their audience wants and expects to see will ensure the content doesn’t feel like an ad. For example, BEN worked with Capcom to promote their Resident Evil Village video game beyond traditional gaming communities. BEN tapped creators in verticals like cosplay, food, metal working, films, and visual effects (VFX), with influencers putting their own unique spin on promoting the horror-based video game. By sourcing creators who effectively aligned with the Resident Evil Village aesthetic, BEN generated added value from creators eager to connect the game to their individual interests. Multiple creators posted beyond what was contractually agreed upon, and the campaign ultimately exceeded viewership goals by 1.5 times.
“What I always tell brands is, ‘You don’t tell Picasso how to paint,’” Wagley says. “You might say you want them to paint a beautiful countryside. But don’t tell them what colors to use, or what size to make the painting, because you’ll constrain them to producing a piece of artwork that isn’t their best.”
It’s the same with influencer marketing—being overly prescriptive won’t allow creators to do their best and their content won’t perform as well. Allowing a creative partner who has a natural connection to your product to speak directly to their audiences is at the heart of effective, authentic influencer campaigns.