Brand allegiance, loyalty, authentic messaging, do’s and don’ts
With the rise and rise of social influence, more and more brands are reaching out to influencers to help them introduce their newest product or service. They are recognising that influencers have a dedicated community of fans to whom this news is relevant and might convert to customers. But the more proposals that influencers receive and agree to, are they in danger of turning from brand advocate to brand profligate? And how engaged will audiences be when it looks like authentic content has tipped over into sales messaging?
Types of influence
There are several ways an influencer might deliver a brand message and the frequency and level of reward might change depending on the level of commitment to the brand and the type of deal on offer. Here is an overview and a chart expanding on this:
- Review – testing and feedback of a product, maybe with ambivalence
- Endorsement – genuine recommendation or support for a product or service
- Ambassador – regularly receive products and possibly payment for content
- Affiliation – irregular content produced for payment of clickable links
Deal or no deal?
To summarise where a brand and an influencer would ideally find themselves in this partnership (this is of course a generalisation, but for the most part accurate):
Brands are looking to partner with influencers offering product and little or no financial reward, in exchange for an endorsement that consumers will trust.
Influencers are looking to partner with brands as a long-standing ambassador, producing authentic content in return for regular product and, ideally, payment.
A successful partnership (see the red line on the chart) comes when the brand-influencer proposition crosses over multiple times, both in terms of payment for advocacy and/or in exchange for trustworthy opinion and content (on the influencer side) and reliably informed purchasing criteria (on the brands side). Navigating the red line by way of an agreement that works in terms of amount of content vs reward is what represents a good deal for both parties.
More about the red line
In order to maintain your credibility as an influencer, hopefully what still resonates now as much now as it did when you started out is your raison d’être:
What are you talking about, who for and what makes you different?
These factors are super important when considering the trust your audience has in what you are saying vs brand reward. Influencers and brands should always keep this in mind when discussing partnerships. This is the one metric that matters, authenticity. Because consumers are becoming more and more educated as to their buying power and how that purchasing decision is informed, it is of the upmost importance that a truly believable brand story is delivered by a genuine advocate of that product.
There are exceptions to that rule and your tone of voice and genuine pledge as a credible, knowledgeable person in your field will of course allow you some slack, but try not to stray too far from home base and the one metric that matters, the red line.
How to stay authentic
When you started out documenting your adventures and your progress, did you explicitly set out with the aim of producing content with a view to getting sponsorship? We’re guessing not. For some, perhaps. Either way individualism is really important. People talk about an online persona, the word ‘persona’ is derived from Latin where the origins of the word mean ‘mask’. Having a digital profile is all well and good as means of sharing your story, but when you create an online persona in collusion with a brand (no matter how explicit) you might be in danger of becoming disingenuous.
No matter where you are at on your influencer journey, we would encourage you to consider brand advocacy as if you were very new to the idea of partnership and wanting to maintain your individualism. This might not be easy at times, especially with rewards on offer! But perhaps consider the following tips when partnering with brands, so as to maintain authenticity:
- Pick your partnerships; who do you love and who do you want to love you?
- Stay positive and (if necessary) deal with rejection; be graceful and/or offer feedback
- You might move partnerships or start new projects; make sure you explain your reasons (to the brand and your audience)
- Be genuine and always do your best
We wish you the very best on your brand journeys and encourage you to reach out to us with any questions, dilemmas, ideas.
Just drop us a line on email or via social media.