Image Credit: USA Today

Kerry Washington has an impressive resume. She is an award-winning actress; the star of ABC’s hit show, Scandal; an executive producer; and… a trusted influencer.

While Kerry is the face of numerous brands including Neutrogena, Movado, Apple Music, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and OPI, she was still praised as an authentic influencer by a recent article in AdWeek. However, unlike many celebrities and high-profile individuals that jump at the opportunity to promote a product for a paycheck, Kerry is able to remain authentic in the eyes of her fans. As put by Kerry, when choosing a brand to partner with, she must have “an authentic, organic excitement and connection to it” and ask herself, “is this work that I would be proud of?”

But do these matches make sense for the audience?

While these brand partnerships made sense for Kerry based on her personal preferences and passions, we wanted to understand whether these expensive, high-profile partnerships make sense for the brands. After all, choosing to partner with an in-demand actress is no small deal (cha-ching, cha-ching.)

When it comes to identifying the right celebrity or influencer that will resonate with a brand’s desired audience, technologies like Affinio, the audience intelligence platform, are able to remove the guesswork and provide data-driven, actionable recommendations. By using cultural data to inform strategic partnership decisions, brands can ensure they are creating an authentic pairing that will make sense to their customers.

To demonstrate whether these brands are resonating and fit with Kerry’s audience, I’ve used Affinio to segment Kerry’s audience into 12 naturally-forming communities of people based on their interests. Distinct and diverse communities such as a High Fashion community, Hip Hop community, and Pop Culture Mommies emerged. For brands, understanding the communities a potential partner is attracting is crucial. While a celebrity or influencer may appear to be a perfect fit, the pairing will fall flat if they aren’t attracting a brand’s ideal audience.

Once segmented, we were then able to use the Affinio Targeted Accounts reporting tool to see how relevant each brand partner is to each of her 12 distinct communities.

Using the Affinio Targeted Accounts option is a great way to quickly visualize the affinity that different communities have with certain brands. From a brand’s perspective, brands can quickly identify which communities they should focus on and tailor their content to, or, see what communities they would like to connect with.

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The Results

Already, we can see that there are distinct communities that Kerry’s partnerships are resonating with.

Take, for example, the Kerry and Hillary Clinton pairing. Kerry, who appeared in an “I’m with Hillary” presidential ad in early March, has four communities that have a strong affinity, or relevance score, to Hillary Clinton – a News & Politics community, Pop Culture Mommies, Comedy Fans, and a High Fashion community. (Based on the amount of data Affinio runs, we have developed a rule of thumb that any score above 17/100 is a strong relevance score. The higher the score, the more relevant a selected account is to the community.) These scores demonstrate that the Hillary camp made a favourable choice in selecting Kerry as a spokesperson.

Similarly, Kerry’s recent promotion of Apple Music is strongly resonating with her music (Hip Hop) following, as well as Pop Culture Mommies.

While these brand partnerships are clearly resonating with key communities, the brands OPI, Neutrogena, and Movado, aren’t making a clear impact. Kerry, who has worked with Movado for over ten years and Neutrogena since 2013, hasn’t been able to translate her brand support and connection to her followers.

How can brands build support?

While Kerry’s partners may not be resonating with her audience currently, there is still opportunity for brands to capitalize on Kerry’s star power.

Take, for example, Neutrogena. While they are not strongly resonating with Kerry’s audience, they may not be too quick to break ties with the actress based on their working relationship, trust, low-risk, and her creative input (Kerry is a Creative Consultant at Neutrogena). For the brand, if they were to choose to target Kerry’s ‘Pop Culture Mommies’ audience they could use Affinio to hone in on this community’s interests, passions, influences, and content consumption. By understanding the culture of a target community, brands are able to develop data-backed content and strategies to reach them, that are contextually relevant. By ensuring cultural relevance and speaking to an audience in an authentic, interest-based manner, brands will be able to successfully grow their fan base over time.

So while Kerry might not be driving fans to go buy Neutrogena face wash, Movado watches, or OPI nail polish today, she may still remain a favourable choice for these brands over time if they adjust their marketing strategies to reflect community culture.

As for influencers that are being approached by brands, take a note from Kerry. Authenticity never gets old.

To learn about how to identify the right brand or influencer for your next campaign, request a demo.

Originally posted on the Affinio blog, “Authenticity Never Gets Old: Kerry Washington’s Brand Partnerships