Behind the scenes of #ad: the trust gap between influencers and brands

By Adam Williams, CEO of Takumi,

The influencer marketing industry is under greater scrutiny than ever before. Question marks remain over authenticity, resulting in mounting criticism from consumers.

Just a few months ago, fashion influencer Marissa Casey Fuchs ‘surprise’ marriage proposal was revealed to be a pre-planned series of brand partnerships. Yet a lack of trust between influencers and their audience could be the result of a deeper divide between influencers and the brands they work with, caused by unclear industry guidelines and a struggle for creative control.

Despite these tensions, influencers are holding ever more power over our purchasing decisions, making it vital for both parties that these issues are addressed.

As influencers are a fairly new marketing channel for brands, the rules that govern it have grown – and are still evolving – around it. That means, regulations can sometimes be unclear or need updating, both for the influencers and the marketers footing the bill.

This is where problems arise: recent Takumi’s research found that 62% of influencers have felt under pressure from brands to break the ASA guidelines at some point. This shocking figure highlights a lack of adherence to regulation and the need for better education.

Building trust is the secret towards successful collaborations and creating authentic content for consumers. Once marketers have found influencers who suit their brand, audience and creative style, trust will be built in a number of ways, from compliance to clear briefs and empowering each other creatively.

In it for the Long Haul

Trust is built in a myriad of ways, and lays the foundation to build effective long-term commercial partnerships.

US influencers in particular are showing an appetite for this, naming long-term partnership potential it as the most important factor when choosing brands to work with.

Behind the scenes of sponsored influencer posts a battle for control is taking place between influencers and the brands they work with. Creative control was ranked by influencers across the UK, US and Germany as the single most important aspect of brand collaborations, but marketers aren’t ready to ‘let go’.

Thirty-nine per cent of US and UK marketers and 55% of German marketers want complete control over the contents of an influencer’s post.

Marketers should be encouraging their influencers’ individual creativity rather than trying to control it. Influencers build their audiences through their own unique style of content, and this is what their followers expect and want. Strict creative briefs demanding variations from an influencer’s unique and personal tone, risks damaging the authenticity influencers have built and jeopardising consumer engagement.

If brands and influencers can trust each other and develop a relationship that balances creative control, sponsored content will appear natural and is likely to have more success.

Keeping Things Clear

So, how do brands nail a balanced brief? One that is compliant and structured while at the same time allowing influencers to be independently creative? Our research has found that clarity is key with 67% of influencers agreeing it was the third most important factor to consider when working with brands.

Often this clarity comes from early engagement. If a brief can be formed collaboratively with influencers involved from the start, they are more likely to create content that aligns with their audience whilst satisfying the needs of the brand. A strong, clear brief is the first step towards a trusting, successful and lasting relationship.

The influencer marketing industry is rapidly increasing in size, having grown 300% since 2016 to a valuation of $6.5 billion.

Yet, if it’s going to continue to thrive, it’s vital that regulation and issues of trust are addressed.

Legality must be a concern shared by influencers and marketers, and one which is managed proactively by both parties. Clear communication between both parties will encourage creativity and ensure that everyone is happy with the results.

Until trust exists between influencers and brands, the industry will not fully gain the trust of its consumers.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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