We are fascinated by the cryptocurrency space — not just because it is so closely intertwined with our daily lives, but also because finance, tech and marketing is at the epicentre of one of the most exciting developments running through our economy today: digital disruption, globalisation and the drive for greater transparency. Indeed, there is much marketing can learn from how the finance industry is embracing the forces shaping a transparent future.
As our second edition reveals, transparency is now coming faster than ever, to all industries, including the industry of influencer marketing. Tapping into the finance world and social media, we strive to deliver transparency to a market that has traditionally been dominated by opaque behemoths. So we took a moment to sit down with one of our closest partners in the midst of the hustle and bustle that is New York City to talk through some of the latest developments blockchain may bring to the influencer industry.
What follows is a unique interview with experienced digital strategist and Vice-President Influencer Marketing at MMC Alayna Palgon to hear her take on this evolving frontier.
How has influencer marketing changed over the years and what role do you feel Blockchain will play in the future of the industry?
Influencer marketing was born out of traditional PR - editor pitching, celebrity endorsements, etc. With the dawn of social media, you didn’t have to be an editor, newscaster or celebrity to share your opinions widely. Rather, social media gave rise to the democratization of influencer marketing meaning that anyone who was a compelling storyteller had the potential to be worthy of brand partnerships. And that’s where we are today. While the democratization has been amazing to watch, it has also produced some real business challenges for brands and marketers. It’s difficult to measure success without complete data transparency. Up until now, marketers have made do with what data is available; but too often this has meant the use of proprietary algorithms that have made it difficult to establish standards for successful influencer marketing programs. It’s one of the biggest reasons why the influencer marketing industry has been likened to the wild west. That’s why Blockchain really excites us at Marina Maher Communications (MMC). It has the potential to provide the kind of accountability that is crucial to the level of standardization the industry is craving. And not just that, it will provide a scalable solution. Mass programming will be easier to execute than ever before, making influencer marketing a viable alternative to TV, which still monopolizes marketing budgets today.
How do you think influencers will take the development of this Blockchain?
It’s an interesting question - I’ve spoken to a few of my influencer friends about it to gauge their reaction. What’s great to see is that they are craving accountability and data standardization just as much as marketers are. They know their work is valuable, but for too long they haven’t had the workflow that allows for accountability or the standardized metrics to champion their value. The accountability that Blockchain offers has the potential to allow those who’ve earned their way in the world honorably to continue to flourish while beginning to weed out those who have been engaging in less respectable practices, like buying followers. It will inherently drive deeper value for influencer marketing as an industry, both for marketers and influencers.
Do you see any possible kind of resistance from brands on adopting Blockchain?
I think that brands are going to love it. Blockchain has the potential to create an enhanced level of transparency that will give brands more of a sense of control over the partnerships they’re paying for. As a result, brands will have direct access and knowledge of what influencers are doing or not doing each step of the way within the programs they are investing in. This should create a greater sense of confidence in this marketing tool as a whole. There will always be brands who are concerned about trying something new. It’s our job as marketers to usher them into the new era and provide valuable education that can take their business to the next level. We, as an industry, have a unique opportunity to define how Blockchain can be molded to benefit us all - marketers, influencers, brands, etc.
At MMC, our integrated model buckets influencer marketing within what’s called our “Digital Innovation” team. And we’ve very purposefully named it that. Innovation is at the core of what we do day-in and day-out. We push our brands and influencer partners to the next level as we embrace new technologies and approaches that drive deeper, more tangible ROI.
Do you think Blockchain will act as a force of “natural selection”, lessening the influencers who work in a “less honest way”?
It’s an interesting time to be a marketer, between the rise of GDPR in Europe, testimony from the leaders of Facebook and the rise of conversations around online bot follower detection, we are entering an era where a lack of data transparency is no longer acceptable to marketers. At MMC we take these updates seriously and are constantly evaluating how to keep our brands ahead of the curve. That’s why we’ve been analyzing potential influencers for both partners for a while now. It’s also why we host a weekly “Hive Five” meeting where we discuss the latest updates in the news that impact our brands and our business as a whole. As the industry shifts, we adapt while ensuring we establish relationships with influencers who have earned the right to be associated with some of our amazing brands and pass on those who haven’t.
What new forms of influencer marketing are you witnessing compared to a few years ago?
Just a few years ago, influencers were simply seen as low-tier spokespeople with highly engaged social audiences. Today, we recognize that influencers harness so much more potential. We’ve seen measurable success with highly geo-targeted mass micro-influencer programs in partnership with specific retailers. We’ve also seen success with influencer programs informed by niche moments where brands have a right to play that are not currently occupied by their competition. Yet still, we’re seeing the value of leveraging influencers as tastemakers within our brand planning for launches in niche markets. There are a myriad of ways to leverage influencers. We also ensure those methods are bespoke to the client’s unique business challenge first and foremost.
Lastly, is there anything else we should know about what’s happening at M.M.C.?
We just won The Holmes Report’s North American Agency of the Year due in large part to our integrated working model. We recently shifted to an integrated working model. Within the model, each brand’s team is developed out of talent that specializes in the exact PR practices the brand is looking to leverage be that influencer, media, celebrity, creative, etc. This creates a custom team of industry specialists, carefully tailored to develop and execute programs that will push the needle for our clients.
For a mid-size agency, our roster of brands is really incredible - Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Coty, Merck, Bayer, and many more. Our work with these brands is truly paving the way for the future of the industry and we’re honored to work with them toward this common goal.
Interview by Ilaria Severi with special thanks to Alayna Palgon, Vice-President Influencer Marketing at Marina Maher Communications