Over the past year, countless brands have hopped on the influencer marketing bandwagon, leveraging the loyal followings of influencers and their content creation skills to tactfully promote a brand’s products or services. As their value to marketing teams increases, many influencers are becoming self-aware of just how much their dedicated follower bases and keen understanding of their followers’ interests is worth to brands. This in-depth knowledge of follower interests and ability to design content that resonates with the audience creates a unique opportunity for brands: rather than simply using influencers to market products and services to target audiences, some are now choosing to involve influencers in the development of new products and campaigns.
For brands already partnering with influencers who have engaged followings, this makes a lot of sense. These celebrities, bloggers and social media personalities are keyed into the interests of their audience, creating a valuable connection that the brand should take advantage of. Through collaboration during product development, brands can hear feedback from their influencers on trends and ideas that consumers are looking for, feedback they’ve had on similar products from other brands, and, most importantly, what they feel they’re missing in the market.
So far, we’ve seen this strategy deployed most often with brands in the beauty and fashion space where products, collections and lines are constantly tied to seasons, trends and now people. This constant demand for the next version or limited-edition product line creates a variety of new opportunities to bring in these influencer experts. Leveraging an influencer’s knowledge to not only market the products on their social media pages but to also collaborate during the development process gives influencers access to the resources needed to create products for their followers, and gives brands the influencer’s endorsement and instills follower trust.
For instance, last summer celebrity beauty vlogger Jenn Im teamed up with the makeup brand ColourPop to provide feedback on a custom-designed palette of lipsticks and eyeshadows named Jenn Ne Sais Quoi: Jenn Im x Colourpop. After helping to create the custom line, Im then shared multiple videos to her 81,000 followers providing background on the collaboration and makeup tutorials for how to use the product. This was a win-win for Colourpop and Im, as they were able to jointly develop and design a product created specifically for the influencer’s loyal audience.
Another brand that has taken this approach in a slightly different way with success is Target. At the beginning of 2017, Target launched its new line of children’s apparel, Art Class, and began a partnership it called The Class of 2017. Target joined forces with 10 young influencers, between the ages of seven and 14, who have already made waves in the fashion, music and tech industries. Each of the 10 influencers was tasked with designing two custom items that were eventually available for sale in Target stores and online. By selecting children with unique interests and styles for this campaign, Target was able to create a line of clothes that best suited its desired audience, which is made up of many types of children with varied interests. This line appears to have performed so well that recently six new influencers were introduced to the Art Class Fall 2017 clothing line.
Going forward, we expect to see more brands exploring collaborative partnerships with influencers. As they become more valuable, some influencers are already taking on a larger role in content creation for sponsored posts. It would be a natural next step for brands that trust the expertise of their influencers to want to bring them into product development conversations in order to maximize the brand’s engagement with its target customers and, ultimately, drive web traffic and sales.
Justin Kline is the CEO of Markerly, an end-to-end influencer marketing solution.
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