In an age when traditional media channels have lost their power to capture our attention, marketing professionals are forced to adapt. Prime TV airtime is no longer the most desired advertising real estate — now brands are willing to pay millions of dollars for an influencer ad campaign on Instagram. How did we get here and what’s the future of the influencer marketing industry? I caught up with Pamela Kaupinen from HelloSociety to find out.
As the former Executive Director of Marketing at GQ Magazine and the driving force behind the hugely successful sub-brand GQ Insider, Kaupinen has an impressive track record as a marketer. Today, she’s the Senior Vice President of Strategy at HelloSociety, an influencer marketing agency acquired by The New York Times. At our upcoming TNW Conference, Kaupinen will share her expertise on leveraging influencer marketing for brand success at the Checkout track.
As the former Executive Director of Marketing at GQ, what did a day in the life look like?
In a nutshell: strategize, ideate, innovate, execute. Repeat!
As Executive Director of Marketing at GQ, I was afforded the opportunity to have a voice at every stage of the business. In the ideation phase, Marketing and Sales would collaborate to root our best ideas in insights. Teams would brainstorm in the high-above-the-clouds conference rooms of the iconic One World Trade Center, Condé Nast’s HQ. Once we landed on our best idea, we would align with our advertising partners to innovate and ensure the program was built for success. After securing the deal, we would bring truly extraordinary campaigns to life for some of the world’s most renowned brands.
Influencer marketing is a relatively new industry. How did you first get involved, and what drew you to work in it?
In 2012, GQ’s advertising partners were eager to add something new to their print and digital campaigns. That’s how GQ Insider was born. As the brand’s first-to-market global influencer agency, GQ Insider offered our partners credible and influential voices to tell their stories with social amplification to new audiences.
It was wildly successful. It attracted attention from brands like Netflix, Jaguar, Tiffany & Co., Ralph Lauren, Destination Canada, Prada, and The Glenlivet, while also creating a new revenue stream for GQ.
Since then, we have seen the influencer marketing industry go from “having a moment” to a “must-have” marketing strategy.
HelloSociety was acquired by the New York Times in 2016, further solidifying the fact that the industry is here to stay. What does the future hold for influencer marketing?
Influencer marketing has an incredibly well-established position right now. It will not only continue to grow in popularity, but it will also become a deeper, more purposeful, and more effective way for brands to engage audiences on social media channels. In a world where the role of brands is precarious, human connection has become the key consumer currency.
This all-important human connection emanates from authentic stories told through influential voices. In the future, expect to see brands leveraging influencers for more than sound-bites. Real, relatable, and reaction-evoking social storytelling is on the rise. The most successful partnerships with influencers will be approached through the lens of “social storytelling” and not as “sponsored content.”
Brands will also engage influencers on a more long-term basis. Long-term partnerships empower influencers to tell in-depth stories that ultimately drive consumers through the purchase journey.
Lastly, we can expect to see new faces emerge on the influencer scene with representation playing a big role. The most influential voices are not always those with the largest following. Individuals who turned to social media because they didn’t see their stories reflected in mainstream media have incredible power.
How has new technology changed the industry? How will it shape what’s in store?
The social platforms are constantly evolving, not only to meet consumer demands but also to create them. Advances in technology, most notably the ever-evolving smartphone, have changed content creation and consumption forever. The evolution of aperture, pixel, and sensor size has and will continue to empower a new generation of self-made photographers and content creators. The outcome will be an influx of influencers, particularly among the up and coming segment of nano-influencers, those with as few as 1,000 followers.
In regard to consumption, Instagram will continue to lead the platform pack with advances that cement its leadership as the channel of choice. Most recently, the new in-app shopping feature positions it as a turnkey solution for mobile purchasing. Innovations such as these will draw consumers further into what will become a one-stop-shop for content, communication, and consumption.
Your TNW2019 talk is titled “The (I)nfluence (Q)uotient” – can you tell us more about the IQ?
HelloSociety carried out research among influencers to uncover valuable insights for driving social engagement. We approached it in two ways:
- Custom study: An extensive online survey was distributed to 300-plus social influencers from around the globe.
- In-person interviews: We talked to top market influencers in New York and Los Angeles to get further insights in addition to the survey.
The result is HelloSociety’s IQ, a comprehensive social media roadmap guiding brands toward their engagement goals. The report leverages influencer perspective and showcases learnings about the role of influencer-created content in the purchase journey. We also included strategies that prove successful and the biggest mistakes brands are making.