Why Influencer Marketing Works

In the simplest terms, influencer marketing is a scalable hybrid between word of mouth marketing and product placement.

Allow us to elaborate…

Word of mouth marketing

All successful marketing depends on trust. In order for a message to resonate properly, the audience must trust both the messenger and the content. Today, audiences are more skeptical than ever, which is making it difficult for marketers to get their message out effectively. In fact, only 22% of brands are trusted. And furthermore, consumers are actively avoiding brand messaging through ad blockers. The media climate, with all the talk of fake news and alternative facts, isn’t helping to promote an atmosphere of trust.

But, where traditional advertising is falling short, word of mouth marketing is still proving effective at building awareness. While brands lack in the trust department, 83% of consumers trust peer recommendations.

Word-of-mouth marketing works because it’s both personalized and authentic and it comes from a trusted source.

When you hear your buddy Jack going on about his new grill, you know his recommendation is credible. He’s telling you because he knows you love grilling and he thinks that the information will be interesting and helpful for you. And you’re going to take it to heart because Jack grills up the best meats on the block.

When these conversations occur in our daily lives, we’re not thinking about how the message is both personalized and authentic, but that’s exactly why it’s effective and resonates with its audience.

What makes influencer marketing so effective, is its ability to pull from these same principles to share the brand’s message in personalized and authentic ways.

The message is personalized because the influencer’s audience is “opting in” to these messages by following the influencer. They follow because they’re interested in the topics and style of the influencer. The message is authentic because the influencer has established themselves as a trusted voice within that interest area. The influencer has proven to their audience that they are an authority in a certain space and that they post from a place of passion.

From the consumer stance, the psychological effect of influencer marketing is the same as word of mouth… meanwhile, from the marketer’s stance, the practice of influencer marketing is similar to product placement.

Product placement advertising

Product placement advertising has been a popular tactic by brands in TV and movies for years. Brands feature their products not only for simple exposure to their target audience but also to build positive associations with the brand and its products.

One of the most famous examples is E.T. eating Reese’s Pieces. When children saw their alien buddy snacking on the trichromatic treat, they wanted it too. In fact, when the candy was featured in Spielberg’s film profits for The Hershey Company increased 65%.

Influencers build on these principles by highlighting products in their aspirational feeds. When you have an influencer sharing about their amazing and glorious life, any product that’s included in that, enabling it, builds positive associations. When you see that @ruffledsnob’s house is white and pristine, even down to the super stylish Danby fridge, you want one too. Or when you wonder how @Fitandwellmedgal gets through those long double shifts at the hospital and then see that V8 veggie blends is keeping her fueled… you might have found yourself a new drink.

But the authenticity piece is still the most important. Any old product placement won’t do. In fact, insincere or unbelievable product placements earn lower engagement and negative feedback from followers because they are perceived as a violation of trust. Influencers often play with the style of product placements in order to ensure their authenticity. Whether the products are portrayed aspirationally or even sarcastically, the important part is that it fits the tone and style of the content creator truly and seamlessly.

As a marketer, you’ve seen the success of both word of mouth marketing and product placement ads. You may have even dabbled in both tactics. Influencer marketing builds on the best aspects of each so maybe it’s time you establish trust with your audience through an influencer campaign.

Learn how to effectively run and influencer campaign with our new ebook on building trust!