BRANDING BREAKDOWN: INFULENCER MARKETING- Contextual Essay

This semester I have successfully produced the information/ research based digital artefact ‘Branding Breakdown’ focusing on ‘Influencer Marketing’. Hosted on WordPress the blog looks to help social users to gage further understandings on the operations of this marketing field. Through this content, my aim was to showcase the methods and strategies brands implement to attract us into buying products. I my research behind this topic to enlighten readers on how this form of marketing has both positive and negative attributes, as well as the exploring notions of trust for consumers with distribution of authentic products. Initially, this artefact was constructed to just showcase the facts and methods behind social influencers. Whilst this did look to be an an informative platform, I wanted to push past descriptive content as these sites are already available. Looking to stand out amongst competing sites, I focused on constructing a source for audiences to discover more about this practice, looking at techniques through the relation of physical examples to illustrate how authenticity and what to avoid. Speaking with Chris, I also wanted to conduct several interviews to gage young individuals experiences with this marketing strategy. With competing blogs only focusing on information based content I looked to produce a mix of scholarly and peer opinions, covering all areas of this marketing strategy, leading more readers towards this site as it host all this content on a single platform.

Although influencer marketing targets a wide range of audiences, I looked to target my content towards young individuals due to their prevalence throughout social media. Focusing on these individuals I was able to use popular influencers as examples to further explain the message of my content. With influencers like ‘Bella Thorne’ and ‘Lili Reinhart’ directing their own branding to target young people, implementing them throughout this blog helped to ensure my content was easily understandable. With this artefact targeting young individuals, utilising topics from this audience looked to produce engaging content through the use of this prevalent issue. Although WordPress is a great source to host this artefact I was worried that it wouldn’t have the potential to reach my target audience compared to traditional social platforms. With this in mind I utilised Cooper Smith’s article from the Business Insider Australia to determine the platform that best targets my demographic. With the article providing statistics and information on many social apps, Smith’s research compares the opportunities these platforms offer revealing Instagram to have a strong connection with young adults, with users stating they use the app “several hours a week or more”. Using this research I focused my examples around influencers with popularity based on Instagram. While this platform wasn’t the most suitable to host the amount of content, I found implementing these aspects ensured that young individuals were able to connect with these arguments.

Looking at this artefacts trajectory, with the influx of influencer displayed across social platforms, this blog looks to be a valuable source for individuals. This content is beneficial as it illustrates these techniques, whilst also helping to simplify this strategy for social users who are not familiar with these processes. Businesses are also able to utilise and compare this content to their own campaigns, to further build their brand and best target young individuals using these techniques. Hosting both successful and unethical case studies from other business will look to drive these businesses towards more ethical behaviours, as they are able to learn of others mistakes. With influencers already curating a large following the longevity for audiences intrest in this blog will remain stable, as these flowers are constantly researching to ensure they can trust these individuals.

Although I have previous experience with blogging already throughout my degree, when first commencing this artefact I utilised sources like Crick and Winfield’s article on academic blogging to assist with maintaining professionalism throughout my content. Although these post display are more relaxed style of writing, I wanted to ensure I was conveying my arguments clearly so readers were able to benefit from this work. During the course of this artefact, it was easy to identify the success and limitations regarding our project and social platforms. Reinforcing its positive attributes, my choice of WordPress worked the best in highlighting my content. Managing these posts with the sites features was very simple to navigate due to my experience of blogging in the past, leading to a consistent outflow of content weekly. Having all my posts featured under one tab extension, the pages were easy to find having the content and cases studies as the focal point. WordPress as a platform was a great way to feature other fields of media like photos, gifs, news and videos to visually support my content. This was most beneficial when embedding examples from Instagram as I was able to utilise the benefits from both applications. However, a limitation that I did face was having a lack of customisation ability when designing the overall blog. When first constructing the page it was difficult to sort through templates and find a design that showcased my work clearly without changing my overall blog. Along with this I did have to replace some added plugins as they were producing the page to slow down. Luckily these issues were easily manageable and I was able to configure a design that best showcased both my media and written work.

In conclusion, through research and testing, I definitely feel we have been successful in producing original work that many young people can turn to as a valuable source of information and interactive content. Looking at providing both a supportive and entertaining service, this platform is definitely something I look to continue throughout the following years, inside and outside of my studies. Undertaking this project has shown me through establishing guidelines and targets throughout research and collection of data, this will therefore ensure the best quality work as well as a deeper understanding towards your audience and overall topic.

Contextual Essay References:

Full References List:

Proposal:

  • Brown, D., & Hayes, N. (2008). Influencer Marketing: Who really influences your Customers?. London, :Routledge.
  • Lu, L. C., Chang, W. P., & Chang, H. H. (2014). Consumer attitudes toward blogger’s sponsored recommendations and purchase intention: The effect of sponsorship type, product type, and brand awareness. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 258-266

Relevant Research Post:

Post: An Introduction to Influencer Marketing:

Post: Cost and Pricing:

Post: Authenticity:

Post: The Shift of The Celebrity

Post: Interviews and Consumer Thoughts

 

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Influencer Marketing: The Shift of The Celebrity

We as a society are constantly consuming various forms of media. As we tour our homes today, every corner of a room is filled with countless means of new technology, providing hours of entertainment. The development of digital media has revolutionised the way we view news, information and entertainment. Any major historical event from the past 50 years we have witnessed happening through a screen. From the horrific events of the 9/11 Terror Tower Attack to man’s first steps on the moon, this documentation and new wave of technology creates an extent sense of connection, bringing individuals together through discussion and reaction.

Growing up in the early 2000’s traditional media played a huge role in my upbringing. My generation was probably one of the last to shape their nights around a television screen, tuning in to watch our favourite programs at a specific date and time. With this medium having such prevalence at the time, these featured celebrities and their influence were pushed as spokespeople for many brands. (Think Michael and Britney for Pepsi).

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Screenshot from Pepsi’s ‘Generations Campaign’ paying tribute to musicians Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Ray Charles

However, from what we can see shown throughout this blog, Today’s audiences don’t hold this past way of consuming media. Although CD’s, DVD’s and Television has given place to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, people are also turning to other forms of entertainment platforms like social media. With TNS global market research company reporting that 71% of this millennials use social media daily and 76% watch online videos, the number of hours spent watching old forms of media are diminishing with each generation.

With the introduction to social influencers through online platforms, many are challenging past mediums with the shift towards producing their own content. This has proven to be well received as shown through their success in views and followers, which each influencer pushing activities that target specific niches.
Example: Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) Instagram: 9.6m Followers

Kayla Itsines is an Australian personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur. She is the creator of a series of fitness ebooks titled Bikini Body Guides, and a meal-planning and workout app, Sweat with Kayla. While this content has previously been made before by various other fitness trainers, Sweat with Kayla has generated more revenue than any other fitness application. Being named one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet, Kayla notes her success at leveraging social media to promote her brand. Itsines’ interval workout regimens may not be revolutionary, but she leveraged an enviable body, #transformation pics, and an achievable lifestyle into a true fitness empire.

Estimated income: $17 million from “Sweat with Kayla” app alone, $150,000 per Instagram post (Data retrieved from Complex.com)

Looking at these online individuals influence, their factors of credibility challenge the notion of the traditional celebrities. Look at actress Jennifer Lawrence for example. She is a traditional celebrity as a result of numerous acting roles over the last decade. Although she has a large following she isn’t apart of the online world, having no accounts throughout social media. Comparing her to the popular influencers of today, audiences are more attached to these online stars rather than traditional celebrities. A survey executed by Variety compared the 10 social influencers against the 10 traditional entertainment stars with the highest Q score among teens, a widely recognized measure of influence by advertisers and marketers. Testing a sample of 1,500 people aged 13-17 , these individuals were asked how these 20 personalities stack up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Looking at the respondents data it was the social stars that rated on all counts a quarter of the top 20 list, including the top three influencers ­— KSI, PewDiePie and Vanoss -Gaming. Other findings found in these surveys noted that young individuals have “emotional attachment to social influencers as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrities” (Variety), with these being perceived as “17 times more engaging” (Variety).

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Screenshot of ‘Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’ (@PewDiePie) to the left and ‘Olajide William “JJ” Olatunji, Jr’ (@ KSI) to the right

What I have gathered from this data is there is a deeper relationship between audiences and social influencers over traditional celebrities. There is a relatable sense throughout influencers as they act on free will, whilst tradition stars are often orchestrated by PR strategies to act in a particular manner. The relatable factor acts as a new wave of media for the public as audiences and consumers are able to get to know these individuals on a deeper level, due to these people being more likely to share their lives and experiences more openly. According to a study commissioned by Google, 40% of millennial YouTube subscribers say that their favorite content creators understand them better than their friends and 70% of teens admit that they can relate to those folks more than to traditional celebrities. This also looks to drive more engagement with audiences through making connections with viewers. Looking at the platform of Instagram for example, audiences are offered direct contact with these individuals through private messaging and open field commenting. As this career is built off strong fan bases, these infulencers are constantly connecting with audiences to maintain their relationship and audience .

Before the eruption of social media, a standard celebrity endorsement would involve a long-term collaboration full of lengthy conditions between the brand and high-profile figure. Nowadays, this arrangement has been facilitated with the rise of social media’s popularity. The emergence of this ‘modern celebrity’, combined with changing consumer behaviours, means that brands and influencers have the capacity to be more flexible, by collaborating over short-term projects, strategically chosen by both parties to ensure relevance, which in turn leads to authenticity. From what we can see the traditional celebrities influence on audiences has declined over recent years with the introduction to this new form of marketing. My advice for these individuals would be to maintain an online presence, utilising both traditional and social methods throughout their distribution. A great example of this shift can look at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he has understood the concept of a modern celebrity, adapting himself into the online environments and now embrasing a total of 77.3 million followers on Instagram alone.

References:

 

 

Post 6 and 7:

Over this week I have conducted an new interview with my grandma that I am pretty happy with. Again, her interview was fairly long so I have begun editing down to the main points so it is more cohesive with video. As she is very unwell at the moment it was quite challenging to find time where she was well enough to talk, but I am happy with what I have collected. Listening to this sound piece, it offers a great description of these areas as well as her thoughts and feelings. I have begun editing my video and I am looking forward to see how both this sound piece and film will look together.

The next week-

This week I have decided to alter my project. Although we are drawing close to the due date, over the past week I have been brainstorming ways to push this idea further. After drawing up designs and testing I have decided to move towards an projection/installation piece rather than an single screen, as I think I can design something that would create my work to be more engaging. Describing my final idea further I am developing an installation piece that illustrates my grandmother’s feelings towards her neighborhood and it’s changes. I have focused this project on one subject rather than capturing six perspectives to steer away from journalistic aspects. For my work I am capturing film from past and present years to display the immense differences in my grandmothers area. This will be presented against a fake window frame on the wall to symbolize her witnessing these changes whilst her own surroundings remain the same. I am still creating a sound piece that features more of a ranting style to convey her frustration (which I found more entertaining). In my last talk with Aaron he mentioned that I should showcase aspects of isolation within her home. With this is mind I have decided to create a living room setting to accompany my projection, featuring items from her house to depict her perspective. These items look to invite audiences to sit experience her thoughts and emotions through the combination of the projection and sound piece.

Mock Design:

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Blog Post 9- Week Eleven: Game Rules and Final Thoughts

Game Title: What’s Trending?

‘What’s Trending?’ is an interactive based board game utilising Google’s top trending searches.

How quickly can you describe these trending topics?

Speed is of the essence in this fast-paced game – the more words your team can guess from your descriptions, the quicker you’ll cross the finishing line. What’s Trending? is separated into yearly segments ranging from 2001- 2017, with answers varying from diverse categories.

From popular culture, How-to searches, sports and even world news this game incorporates all interests as it’s enjoyable for all generations. When it comes to nostalgic and exhilarating entertainment, ‘What’s Trending?’ simply has no rivals! Relive iconic moments in history and see if you can keep up.

Objective of the Game:

Work in pairs to discover Google’s top searched results from 2001-2017. Progress is made by correctly guessing what your teammates are describing, the more correct answers, the further you advance on the board.

Preparation:

  • Unfold board. Set up tokens at starting position
  • Place clue/answer cards in corresponding sections and prepare timer to start at 0.
  • Evenly divide into teams of two or more
  • Decide amongst each other who will begin first
  • Each round team members are nominated as either describes and guesser (Alternating each round)

Starting the Game:

  1. Each round begins once the 30 second timer is flipped.
  2. The describer’s take a card corresponding to the year their token is placed on the board. (As the start position is on the year 2017, this is the segment each team will start)
  3. The ‘describer’ to use clues that help the ‘guesser’ discover the answer on the card. Once the question is successfully answered the round continues using cards from the same year until time runs out.
    Players are only allowed to skip two question cards each round. If you are unable to answer the question and needing an additional skip they will have to go back and answer a previous skipped question before doing so.
  4. The describes will then count the number of cards that were correctly guessed in that round and move their playing token forward to that number of segments.
    Example: If a team collected 3 correct guesses, the would move 3 space forward on the board.
  5. The round then begins for the next team corresponding to where their token is on the board
  6. Players will then make their way around the board until one team reaches the finish mark

Description Rules:

When describing you must NOT:

  • Say the name or letters of the answer.
  • Say the word or any derivative eg. if the word is “post” you may not say “postage” or “postman”; for “swim” you may not say “swimmer” etc.
  • Use “rhymes with” or “sounds like” type clues.

When describing you CAN:

  • Gesticulate, act, mime but not mouth the word
  • Use inside jokes or past experiences in addition to clues

To further gain a further understanding of ‘What’s Trending?’ and this design process I have linked my weekly blog posts below:

  1. Blog Post 4- Week 6: Contribution to the Group Game
  2. Blog Post 5- Week Seven: Initial Ideas
  3. Blog Post 6- Week Eight: Game Prototype and Inspiration
  4. Blog Post 7- Week Nine: Game Prototype with Attention to The Abstraction Involved
  5. Blog Post 8- Week Ten: Game Play Testing

Final Thoughts: 

As this session and game development comes to end I have learned a lot from this process. Looking back I can see that I have definitely benefited most from play testing and peer feedback. Though sometimes it can be difficult to take criticism, the critiques that I have received have been a great source of advice for my final game product. Doing these weekly blog posts have also ensured I have stayed up to date with my work and development in time for game play at the end of each week. This has not only made this process less stressful but also has given me the opportunity to make the most of our lessons. From what I can see ‘What’s Trending?’ has been well received with audiences of many ages which has made this hard work and on occasion, challenging experience worth it.

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Screenshot of Game Play

Blog Post 8- Week Ten: Game Play Testing

After finalising my question cards, this week I wanted to focus on play testing and gathering feedback on my game. With this creation experience, although research with personal trial and error has been a successful method, it is the feedback and game making experiences that have proven to be most beneficial throughout this development. As I was unwell this week and wasn’t able to attend my tutorial, I decided that I will utilise my family members for game play this week to gage new responses. I decided that I was split my time up in the game, using the first half to play and the second to take notes and ask questions throughout and after each round. This play testing was also done with ages ranging from 12- 53 years old as I was looking to see if this game would be enjoyable for a large target market.

Before commencing this gameplay session I felt it was important to let my test members know that I was looking for honest and sometimes even harsh feedback. Although I did benefit from the feedback given from my peers in class, I was eager to see what my family members thought on ‘What’s Trending?’ as I knew they wouldn’t be afraid to hold anything back. Whilst hosting past game testing I did notice certain players were cautious of over sharing their opinions as they didn’t want to start conflict that lead others to negatively critic their own game. Although I’m not a confrontational person, looking back at past weeks I did feel as though people were holding back from being honest which could have potentially affected my overall work. Luckily for me, most of my play testing groups understood the importance of this feedback, being very supportive and constructive.

Feedback Gathered;

Pros:

  • Enjoyable
  • Different from other games
  • Relatable
  • Easy to understand
  • Good Presentation
  • Diverse (players will know at least one answer)
  • Sense of nostalgia
  • Educational

Cons:

  • Difficult to explain if you don’t know the answer yourself
  • Limited skips make it hard to advance
  • DIfficult for young individuals to play when playing rounds in years below 2005
  • Older ages have the upper hand as they were alive longer during past years
  • Game can spark an argument or two
  • Younger players needed one or two practice rounds to understand how to play

After finalising this play testing and reviewing my results I was very happy to see their were fairly the same amount of pros as their were cons. Looking at my cons specifically I look to utilise this research for my marketing and branding in my final project, comparing results and discussing why these choices were made. As we are drawing to the end of this project I am glad that I was able to utilise diverse individuals for my testing as I believe I gaged a great amount of responses that have helped to improve both my game and overall project.

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Final Game Board Design

Influencer Marketing: Authenticity

The Nielsen Global Survey of Trust in Advertising reported that “83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over traditional advertising” (2015).

Looking at these social marketing strategies, audiences are more responsive to products endorsed by ‘everyday’ individuals as they provide a sense of reliability. As shown throughout this blog, influencer marketing has proved to be highly effective across all social sites, through being a visual platform. Consumers see these posts as similar to a friend recommending them a product, rather than a celebrities blatantly being paid to advertise and sell. With celebrities and high profile accounts, consumers may see posts as aspirational, and follow suit as they want to emulate the influencer’s lifestyle.

Being a brand, your authenticity shows through the creative expression between your objectives, influencer vision, and audience connection. When considering influencers to partner with, businesses need to assure that the influencer’s overall personal brand aligns with the their core values. One of the biggests faults I’ve seen brands make when executing a campaign is handling creative control. For example, although scripting what influencers should say will portray the direct message of the product, brands who look to trust these influencers to convey their own messages benefit more from this marketing strategy as these individuals know how to create content that best resonates with their audience in order to maintain a high engagement and continue to grow their following.

With influencers often considering their social feed as a form of expression, providing creative freedom goes a long way. What sets influencer marketing apart from traditional methods is the authentic factor it provides audiences. Businesses need to ensure influencers align with their brand when choosing who to work with, while influencers need to remain credible when giving their reviews or opinion about a product.

Mara McCune, Vice President of E.L.F Cosmetics is one example that utilizes this practice throughout her own brand, stating;

“We ask them to be truthful – to share their candid thoughts on our products, tell us what else they want to see from Elf and tell us what we could be doing better…We have found that they understand who we are and are able to help tell our story without needing to provide specific guidelines.”

The byproduct of authenticity is, therefore, trust and loyalty. Remaining authentic is the foundation to keeping your audience. James Nord is the co-founder of Fohr Card which is a a service that helps match up brands and influencers. Nord has an optimistic opinion of how much honesty really goes into a partnership stating;

“The amount of influencers we have who come in and turn down $10,000 from us because the product doesn’t make sense for their audience is really encouraging for me. The fact that we have people turn down $30,000 deals because they feel like they couldn’t authentically speak on behalf of that product makes me feel really good.”

Although we would love to believe that all influencers generate authentic collaborations, for brands investing in the correct influencer is vital to ensure the product is promoted correctly.

Example: HiSmile (@hismileteeth)

Oral cosmetics company HiSmile are one of the leading teeth whitening brands throughout the online space, running adverts and sponsored posts across numerous social platforms. Launching in December 2014 with just $20,000 in capital, HiSmile has achieved a turnover exceeding $50 million and has plans to reach $100 million by the end 2018. The brand’s success can be attributed to its targeted social media marketing strategy and focus on influencers, including Kylie Jenner and Conor McGregor.

Discussing these strategies in an article with News.com.au, Brand owners Nik Mirkovic, 22, and Alex Tomic, 24 state they saw individuals like Jenner “as the pinpoint of that (16-24 female) demographic, she was the go-to and it was important for us to align ourselves with her,” (Mirkovic)

Expanding into the male millennial market the pair also saw McGregor as the “most relevant male for our demographic,” stating that they wanted to “ make noise in the male market and make it OK for men to purchase products like ours” (Mirkovic)

Although the this success is impressive, doing research I uncovered the strategies and lengths they go to work with these influencers, which isn’t always authentic to its customers.

Every individual who has promoted HiSmile expresses nothing but positive feedback for both the product and the brand itself. However, influencer Brittney Lee Saunders took to twitter recently voicing her opinion on the brand and showcasing their lack of authenticity with audiences. Saunders is a fairly popular Australian blogger herself with over 1 million Youtube subscribers and 604k Instagram followers. Posting a private message with the brand on twitter, she discusses why she isn’t able to promote their product due to having porcelain veneers (as they cannot be whitened). Going back and forth, the brand attempts to persuade the blogger stating these influencers like Jenner promotes Hismile even though they have veneers too.

However, throughout their article in news.com.au, the entrepreneurs talk on their work with the reality star stating “ they went through six months of negotiations and talks because Jenner was very clear that she has to test and review the product to make sure it aligned with her image.”

While this highlights Saunders authenticity with her audience it negativity showcases the unethical practices of Hismile product, brand and promotion , revealing their lack of care through as they profit off a fabricated product.

References: