Blake Marts, Director of Product Marketing, Influence | April 20, 2020

How “Smart Brands” are Maximizing The Impact of Influencer Marketing During the Pandemic

While spending on influencer activations is down, online viewership and engagement are up. Way up. As an example, an April 8 article in Business Insider quotes one influencer marketing agency as having seen a 76% boost in the number of "likes" for sponsored posts on Instagram in the two weeks prior. 

Much of the viewer activity increase can, of course, be attributed to consumers having little else to do as they shelter in place. However, full credit must be given to those brands that are seizing the current opportunity to engage -- and gain relevance with -- shoppers through the delivery of genuine, thoughtful and helpful messaging.

So, what are these “smart brands” doing right with their influencer marketing that other brands should emulate? (That is besides being smart enough, in the first place, to recognize the incredible engagement and activation opportunities created by active and authentic influencer marketing.)

They’re keeping it real.

Authenticity has always been the single most important element of influencer marketing and the need to be genuine has never been greater. The brands getting the most bang for their influencer marketing bucks right now are those that are keeping this top of mind. The content they’re distributing is being carefully developed and they’re making sure that it’s ringing true. Everytime.

Consumers are being inundated with “we’re here for you” messaging and, overall, it’s being well received by audiences that are feeling isolated and in need of support. However, consumers are, understandably, very much on guard and any messaging from any brand that comes across as disingenuous is going to be ineffective and the brand responsible is going to take a serious hit.

They’re being flexible.

“Pivoting” is the word of the day as businesses everywhere are reforming business models, restructuring internal operations and repositioning their promotions as they fight to survive in an economy roiled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands that are currently seeing success with their influencer marketing are demonstrating that same kind of flexibility and fluidity.

Among other things, they’re engaging creative and versatile influencers whose efforts were previously focused on promoting products in other verticals. Smart brands are leveraging these popular and highly-capable “niche” influencers to build interest in their products among the actively engaged audiences these influencers have already built; audiences with the appropriate demographic make-up and high interest potential in the products they’re now sharing about. 

They’re preparing for the “new normal.”

While there’s no small amount of disagreement over myriad issues related to COVID-19, what everyone does agree on is that things will never be the same. How consumers work, how they shop for groceries and how they interact with brands and retailers have all changed. And the changes that have already occurred will -- to one degree or another -- be permanent. Genuinely attuned brands know this and are preparing accordingly.

The ability to speed messaging to a marketplace that seems to shift almost daily is becoming ever more critical. Influencer marketing campaigns that speak convincingly to evolving consumer needs can be executed with the velocity necessary to effectively meet those needs and, in doing so, positively position sponsoring brands as responsive to their customers. Going forward, these “quick launch” campaigns will have a place in every smart brand’s marketing toolbox.

With grocery e-commerce expected to continue its explosive growth (even as the panic buying subsides), influencer marketing will play a critical role in helping grocery retailers retain their share of the permanently expanded pool of online grocery shoppers. Future influencer campaigns supporting specific shopper marketing efforts -- and online grocery shopping in general -- must help enable a seamless shopping experience while delivering much-needed digital promotions to a tech-savvy and economically hard-hit consumer audience. Smart brands are already pursuing the marketing partners needed to build out these capabilities.

Marketing and advertising, like every sector of the U.S. economy, is experiencing unprecedented disruption and answers are in much shorter supply than questions. But what is not in question is the fact that influencer marketing remains essential to brands effectively engaging and activating shoppers. Influencer marketing has always been successful in helping brands convert shoppers and, regardless of how the uncertain future develops, that will continue. However, to ensure that is the case, brands will need to be smart about their influencer marketing. Very smart.

Blake Marts, Director of Product Marketing, Influence