Influencers: A Brand's MVP


National brands continue to invest big dollars in national television media, but trying to generate “breakthrough creative” is a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. The American Association of Advertising Agencies found in 2012 that it cost an average $354,000 to produce a 30-second commercial spot. Add focus groups and the over $100,000 for every 30 seconds of prime time air costs, and it’s easy to spend more than $500,000 to produce and air a national TV spot just one time.

Despite this huge expense, brands still get it wrong and find themselves periodically apologizing for awkward or offensive execution. Compounding the problem is that younger viewers watch 10 fewer hoursof TV per week than they did just five years ago.


There Is A Better Way

Today, this expensive path can be avoided by using a “fail quickly” concept made popular by Google, a company that doesn't spend a lot of time waiting for products to be perfect before releasing them. Google releases a minimum viable product (MVP) and gains input from how consumers engage with it. Then improvements are made.

The plan I’m suggesting, simply stated, is to hire groups of influencers who are particularly strong content creators to build branded content around the various product themes you wish to test. This is what we do at my company, and the results are often very interesting. For example, for a food product, you might test the quality of ingredients, convenience to harried parents, nutritional value and great taste.

With a budget of roughly 10% of the cost of producing and airing one ad, you can have many influencers creating and sharing dozens of pieces of content around these themes with their audiences. Picture an influencer cooking a dish from a food brand. She could focus on closeup shots of the quality ingredients or even provide some backstory on their origin. For one client, we sent influencers to the client's farms to track the product all the way from farm to table. It was a great way to show quality rather than simply claim it.


Test And Score Each Piece

Once you’ve established your campaign design, it’s critical to then score each piece of content for performance. We’ve built an algorithm to do it automatically for our programs, but you can build your own scoring methodology. We commonly score on a mix of engagement, virality, reach and content quality.

We’ve consistently found that 15-20% of influencer content significantly outperforms the rest. In this high-performing content are insights that can tell your brand what use cases, features or benefits excite audiences the most. It’s more effective than a focus group because it takes place in the real world and you get the added benefit of the exposure of an influencer marketing program. For our clients, content that is aspirational or inspirational seems to rise to the top.

As you analyze the performance of all the branded content, you might find some interesting insights you didn’t expect, such as:

• Does the gender of the influencer impact performance?

• Does the appearance of humans in the content change performance versus content without humans pictured?

• Does the platform (Facebook vs. Pinterest, for example) impact performance?


Analyze The Audience

Beyond the best performing content, I'd also suggest analyzing the best-performing segments of the public to inform your later ad targeting. In other words, by figuring out what age, gender, location and interests are common among your engaged audience, you can learn what your audience cares about and who they really are.

For one client in housewares who asked us to target females of a certain age, we were able to find the engaged audience had above-average education levels and were highly likely to own homes in the mid-priced tier. These sorts of insights are critical to developing brand-produced creative that leads to business results. As advertising idol, Robert Lauterborn, said, “The only sustainable source of competitive advantage is superior knowledge of the customer.”


Reuse Content

Finally, while the advertising team is taking these real-world learnings and applying them to the next campaign, the social team can be using the highest-performing content on brand social channels. Just be sure that your contracts with your influencers allow you to reuse it.


Learn From Digital

A lot of influencer marketing today isn't leveraging the massive advances in digital marketing we’ve all seen over the last several years. But by taking a page from digital design (launch your MVP and fail quickly), brands can quickly gather massively important insights. Best of all, these insights are being gained while the influencer content is working for your brand, not within the closed doors of a small focus group of 10 people.

(Original article