Amar Jacob on why influencer marketing is here to stay and rise
With so much going on in the marketing world, Amar Jacob, Social and Content Development Director at GroupM Ireland, believes that an integrative approach that combines social media and influencer marketing with e-commerce can be highly beneficial. All brands require is an understanding of social media content through the lens of consumer psychology.
Jacob currently works with European brands and has nearly 15 years of marketing experience. According to him, brands can increase engagement and reach by avoiding common blunders such as selecting influencers based on personal bias and not killing creative space for influencers.
He discusses everything needed to run a successful influencer campaign in a candid conversation with Archana Mishra. From prioritizing data to meeting KPIs through appropriate investment and a holistic approach to integrating everything into the metaverse, there is a lot to consider.
You began your career in India and are now the social media and content development director for GroupM Ireland. What is the most notable difference between running consumer marketing campaigns in these two countries?
If you think like the human race, we're all pretty much the same. But cultural understanding is the differentiator between the two geographies, and it defines your consumer marketing campaigns.
Cultural differences allow us to be nuanced in how we communicate, depending on the objective and messaging you're attempting to propose. For example, we work with many global brands here. All European brands' propositions are developed in Berlin, London, or New York. Our task is to figure out how to localize it so that it is more culturally relevant to that location.
I work for an alcohol brand born out of Europe. So all of the photography and messaging revolves around sunshine, beautiful vineyards, and romantic sunsets. All that sort of thing does not exist in Ireland. There's a fine line between localizing it to the country you're in and making it visually appealing.
Do you prefer social media advertising or influencer marketing in the face of cultural differences? When it comes to consumer marketing, which strategy is more popular?
Localizing works best. There are certain words that are super relevant to Irish people. But it's completely irrelevant to anyone outside of the country. It is critical for our social media campaign because we need to speak in the language of the audience we are speaking. As a result, we alter our social copy or the text on the screen in our social media campaigns.
Everything has changed since the pandemic. Previously, social media influencers were at the bottom of outdoor televisions, radios, and so on. Because traditional marketers worked with large global corporations, while most junior members of the marketing department handled influencers.
It wasn't ignored, but influencer marketing was more like a checkbox exercise. When the pandemic hit, it completely altered the game. Consumption increased at an exponential rate across all mobile touch points. Influencer marketing is now used by clients and marketers who are active on social media.
Another shift occurred in TikTok that resulted in the rise of influencer marketing. In Ireland, the average user spends 67 minutes per day on the TikTok platform. Instagram comes in second at 38 minutes. It is nearly twice as much usage on this single platform. So TikTok is all about original content influence and it has risen to influence the marketing crazy lens.
Still, when it comes to client discussions, social media takes precedence over influencers. Social media has become the brand's face as well as its voice. As a result, they concentrate their efforts on ensuring consistency.
Influencers are used as sort of drivers to increase activity at specific campaigns throughout the year, whereas social media is a consistent thread of communications 365 days a year. Then, at Christmas and Easter, we use influencers for a specific product push or new product development.
In your opinion, given that influencer marketing is the latest marketing buzz, what are some common mistakes companies make when developing a social media advertising and influencer marketing strategy together?
The biggest mistake I've seen is in the selection process, where clients or marketers may choose people based on their personal bias.
Selection is based on their assessment of the content, creativity, and the numbers displayed on the channel. They don't look at data, such as that influencer's audience breakdown? Or how frequently does this person post? What is the audience engagement rate that needs to be understood based on your business objectives?
That, I believe, should be the starting point. Look at the data rather than the names. Do whatever you want once you have data that you agree with. Once you've defined that, you can create a list of influencers to work with based on those criteria. You choose the personalities based on that.
The second error I see is brands over briefing influencers. This is a major issue because influencers are known for their personalities. As you use them as a voice to say your product, don't do anything to kill their overall creativity. I've seen failed brand campaigns use influencers by overbriefing them. I've noticed a significant drop in attendance and engagement from their audiences. Brands simply go overboard with the breathing process. Allow the influencer to do their job by taking a step back.
Besides the selection process and giving content creators the creative space, what defines a good benchmark for influencer marketing campaigns?
We run a lot of influencer marketing campaigns. Based on the previous campaign analysis, the new strategy is defined. The most important things we focus on are reach and engagement, which serve as a good benchmark for influencer marketing campaigns.
If you want to reach 20% organic engagement. You're not going to hit unless the engagement is very high and you have a consistent audience. You’ll have to put paid spending behind influence marketing gaps. By leveraging this, influencers reach out to a greater number of people. In Ireland, influencers that you work with are charged a different fee for organic posting versus paid posting.
Is it challenging to run influencer marketing campaigns in European countries?
Conducting every single thing under influencer marketing could be a thousand or 10,000 bucks. Each campaign has a payment schedule document as well as a briefing document.
As new creators emerge daily, three to four talent agencies are constantly trying to sign them. So the way this market works is that you have to go to the agents. It's difficult to approach people directly. People rarely represent themselves.
Deliverables for every campaign are all defined in advance. Then, if you have a good relationship with the influencer, you might ask them to go above and beyond. But, in general, they have every right to refuse.
How do you maintain a 1:1 relationship with creators when everything is so process-driven? What are the most common challenges you face when working with influencers? And do you have any top tips for dealing with the difficulties?
Influencer marketing is organized here. Traditionally, celebrities were the right influencers. And celebrities were aware of this, so they acted accordingly. This friction is different when influencers are sitting at home by themselves, shooting all these funny videos. Then they became a part of the following. As a result, the ascension to stratum differs slightly. I treat them as if they were a colleague or a friend. I take a collaborative approach.
What are some of the KPIs clients are after when they approach you for influencer marketing campaigns? And do they correspond to the KPIs that you, as an agency, would prefer to pursue? Overall what key metrics are relevant for brands/e-commerce to track from influencer marketing campaigns.
We have a smart formula and strategy for influences. According to my understanding of our market, no one else is taking such a scientific approach, but we are there right from the selection process.
When it comes to KPIs, it all depends on the client's campaign's goal. If I've got an FMCG product, it's all about reach. I just want as many people to see it as possible. It all comes down to the level of investment when we discover an influencer has X amount of reach and then build the strategy around that.
It's almost as if you strategize backwards. For example, telling clients what a $5,000 influencer can provide. And this is a KPI we can stand behind because we've already completed our selection process for you. So that's defined ahead of time and then kind of banged at the end. That's a little different because you're counting on early engagement. You're looking for a six to ten percent engagement rate. At the very least, we must direct them to the website or purchase. That's how we go about it.
Everything is dependent on investment. If you want to improve your KPIs, let us know. You should up your investment. We are direct with our clients, telling them that if they cannot make that kind of investment, they will not receive those KPIs.
Because we're talking about social media and influence marketing, I'm curious about your marketing tech stack.
We currently live in an attention economy, so I'm always on the lookout for what other brands and content creators are up to. I spend two to four hours a day on TikTok and YouTube. So there's almost an obsession with creativity and content and how people do it, right down to the font used. Try to comprehend their work through the lens of consumer psychology.
So I frequently use Canvas8. I use quite a bit Nielsen, GWI, which is great from a research perspective. And then I'm constantly using marketing.ie, which is like the marketing website for Ireland.
Because my world is content creation, my marketing technology is really entertainment platforms. The majority of the tools on TikTok, Meta, and YouTub had decent analytics. If you dig a little deeper, you can find information there. That's my world of tech.
Given that you spend so much time going through social media content, is there anything that has recently struck you as the best thing you have seen for consumer marketing?
I am currently obsessed with all things in the metaverse. My next push is there. I am not too much into social and influencers now. It's kind of like it's happening. The new innovation is in the metaverse. And so I have a lot of appreciation for brands that have integrated marketing campaigns like social media, and influencer marketing into the metaverse. And connecting that to their overall brand objective.
And some brands are doing it exceptionally well. For example, Samsung's flagship digital store, 837 X, is a replica of their massive 837 store in New York. You can use a digital avatar to browse through this online store. This is the next step in the evolution of e-commerce. You're essentially creating virtual online stores where people can walk around and have a digital experience.
The store has games, a conference room, a disco, and a slew of other activities, all of which are related to the product. It connects brands to consumers while they are in a virtual space.
In traditional marketing, big brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's are way ahead on all fronts. From product design to packaging design, amazing 3D outdoor billboards, and collaborating with influencers to launch new products, they cover everything.
There is clearly a lot going on in the marketing world. What does the future of influencer marketing look like to you?
Influencer marketing is here to stay. It's not going anywhere. It's going to keep rising. There's gonna be more and more people doing this because people want authentic personalities. They want new content constantly.
Like how e-commerce has now become a requirement for all businesses. With social media becoming something that all businesses must do, the next thing that all brands must do is engage in influencer marketing. It has already been added as a new line item in their marketing plans and budgeting. I'm going to spend 5% of my marketing budget this year on influencer campaigns.
Given your mention of e-commerce, do you see influencer marketing combining with social and e-commerce? Do you think that's going to happen?
That's exactly what we've been doing. My most recent active campaign is a massive plan, a 360-degree campaign that connects the point of sale to YouTube advertising, influencer marketing, television commercials, and other modes of communication. To maximize effectiveness, we are utilizing the same influencer across multiple channels. An integrative approach is probably the best approach.
The same customer who is watching your product on YouTube while also watching something on TV or on their cell phone. In the distance, they could have an iPad or a laptop. So you must now appear on all two or three screens with the same messaging.