By Alec Harden-Henry, Commercial Director, Influence Network.
The story of influencer marketing in 2020 is still being written, but whatever way you look at it, the year has proven to be a pivotal point for the sector.
Whether it was travel influencers being forced to adapt during the early wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, brands gravitating to influencers as billboards became a moot point, or a self isolating population looking to relatable social media influencers for reassurance and inspiration, influencers have rarely been out of the marketing headlines throughout the year.
A recent report found that, in the 12 months to August 2020, 73% of marketers increased the amount of resource allocated to influencers, with retail, legal and manufacturing showing the largest gains. In September, Business Insider charted, in some detail, the changing face of growth in the marketplace.
Advertising spend over the festive period traditionally only goes in one direction versus the rest of the year. Like everything else this year, marketing plans will vary wildly, but the tradition of advertising heavily at Christmas will remain for many brands.
Despite the wider economic climate, there is evidence that consumer spending will remain robust. 91% of consumers plan to increase or maintain their Christmas spending versus last year, in at least one shopping category.
Add all of that together and you have an environment within marketing where consumers want to spend money, brands want to spend money attracting those consumers and marketers want to spend more of their money with influencers. The result? Influencer Christmas.
Walking the tightrope of Christmas advertising in 2020
The prevailing market trends are not the only thing pushing brands towards influencers over the festive period.
Advertising over Christmas 2020 is going to be tricky.
Do consumers really want to see images of large happy families gathered round a table, when they may not be able to do the same thing themselves? Do they want to be aided in forgetting the rest of the year? Do we really want John Lewis, Disney, et al., making us cry?
It’s difficult to judge the mood of a family celebration during a global pandemic.
Influencers will potentially offer brands a solution. The attraction of particularly smaller micro and mid-tier influencers is their sense of relatability. At their most successful, we know these tiers of influencer are trusted by their audience, who even see paid partnerships as genuine and authentic.
In 2020, we see these influencers as going through the same challenges as us. They must also negotiate lockdown, manage a happy Christmas, make sure their children enjoy the festive period and emerge happy on the other side.
Are consumers more likely to place their trust in ‘someone experiencing Christmas like me’, or in this year’s Edgar the Dragon? There’s a swathe of brands who will use Christmas 2020 to find out the answer to that question.
Addressing seasonal demographic shifts
Christmas can be complicated for brands when it comes to demographic targeting.
The traditional example is children’s toys. The demand at Christmas for a certain toy is driven by children’s exposure to it. Think the great Buzz Lightyear ‘crisis’ of 1996. Toy Story reached so many children and generated so much demand that Disney and Mattel were forecast to have missed out on as much as £300m in sales.
Whilst the demand comes from children (the end user), the purchase is made by an adult and hence the need to shift around with demographics. There’s no point in generating demand from children if parents don’t trust the product or brand and won’t sign off on a purchase.
Influencers this year present brands with the opportunity to hit different demographics with relative ease.
A retailer like John Lewis, for example, would usually target parents, but by working with younger influencers, perhaps specifically toy, gadget and entertainment influencers, they would be likely to begin to generate the demand and convert that demand to purchases through their traditional advertising.
Food is likely to be another successful area for influencer marketing this year. Aldi has seen sales surge during the pandemic. As consumers shop around to make Christmas that bit more special this year, they may well be tempted by recommendations from trusted influencers towards budget retailers, allowing spending in other areas to maintain or increase.
Influencer Christmas: standing out
Whatever the reason brands may have for gravitating towards influencers during this festive season, there will be the simple promise that the sector still offers the chance to stand out from the competition.
Despite the changes in the wider marketing environment in 2020, and the growth in influencer marketing, many brands are still tentatively ‘dipping their toe’ in the influencer marketing waters. This leaves those who have embraced and succeeded the chance to offer something different and genuine from the big budget TV campaigns.
Whichever way you look at it, for influencers themselves and certain brands, Christmas 2020 is set up to be the year influencers take over the festive period.