We have seen the future of influencer marketing in a bowl of Kraft macaroni and cheese. It was easy, once we knew where to look.
When I was a kid we were served food that was simple, convenient and affordable. Why waste time and money on something “free range” when your kid prefers chicken nuggets anyway? But then, something happened and Whole Foods evolved from a crunchy curiosity to a multibillion-dollar grocery juggernaut. Today, my mom doesn’t blink before tossing a $6 pint of local, handpicked blueberries into the cart.
So what does organic have to do with influencer? Everything.
Influencer Marketing is in it’s ‘Fast Food Era’:
Brands today are following the same formula parents did in the 90s – they serve up what’s easiest to make and most likely to be eaten. They care less about what’s in the content or how it’s made and, instead, optimize for if people across the country will consume it. Impressions turn to likes. Likes turn to clicks. Clicks turn to revenue. It’s math and nothing more.
The result is factory farming in all it’s digital glory. And now, our feeds are chalk full of hundreds of thousands of tasteless, nutrition-less, posts. In fact, according to Linquia, the number of “branded posts” has increased 300% since last year while the total amount of likes on “branded posts” has not increased at all. In other words, as content has become increasingly mass-produced, consumers have stopped swallowing.
If the ‘Whole Foods renaissance’ taught us anything, it’s that sustainability is more than a buzzword – it’s the future.
A steady diet of mass-produced content produces a nagging dissatisfaction. Your body lets you know it’s time to course correct by craving something leafy and green, or content that’s more nourishing, more organic, more “real.” When that happens, artificial qualities — perfection, seamlessness, consistency — shift from attractive to repulsive. You stop mindlessly double tapping photos of your favorite influencer pushing the hair-product-de-jour and start seeking something a bit more fulfilling.
Slow is Better:
At H, we’re proudly pioneering a slow content movement. Our platform, The Hub (www.thehhub.com) is a highly curated community of creators who make work with integrity. We partner with only those creators whose content, relationships, and identities can’t be churned out on demand. Only those creators whose work ultimately offers those coveted intangibles that only organic, free-range creativity can truly deliver. Mass produced is traded in for handmade in all it’s authentic and imperfect authenticity.
For brands and advertisers, working with our creators comes with tradeoffs that nonetheless ultimately benefit them. Immediacy is sacrificed for quality; clear and instant return on investment for deeper and more durable consumer investment. Like trading in vibrantly colored, steroid-filled supermarket produce for its real and blemished organic cousin, artificial perfection has to take a backseat to organic imperfection, a frankly refreshing change for audiences for whom flaws don’t represent failure, but humanity.
We insist that our “influencers” (read: creators) are viewed as creative and collaborative forces in and of themselves, not just particularly creative vessels for branded sludge. In other words, they are more artists than billboards. That’s why we host dozens of events a month and actively foster collaborative networks in every major city across the country. That’s why our 33,000 members have shot together 186,000+ times. Our creators are free-range, highly collaborative and as a result, nutritiously authentic.
The result is work that goes down smoother and thus “performs” significantly better. We put form over function, but if our qualitative metrics are any indication, it seems content can be both authentic and appetizing. Want proof? Our creators have an average of 12.2% engagement (12.2% of their followers “like” any given photo posted to Instagram), while our less wholesome competitors promote influencers ranging from just 5.5% to 7.7% engagement. In other words, those who “follow” our creators are more engaged over time because the content they are consuming isn’t mass produced junk.
As Influencer Marketing transitions from it’s “fast food era” to something a bit more sustainable, brands will have to choose between maintaining creative control and putting more trust in the hands of creators, letting them speak to their followers in a voice that is authentic, meaningful, and thus more “effective.” It might take some adjustment, but hey, so did kale, and look where that got us.