Influencers and Retail Marketing
A surprising number of retail marketers are driving under the influencer.
I’ll drink to that.
The importance of seamless integration of online and in-store shopper experiences continues to grow. Just look at the increased number of retail brands (including J. Crew, Lord & Taylor and Old Navy) that have revved up social influencer programs.
While not a new concept, influencer activation in the digital age has opened a new channel for retail marketers, enabling them to interact with shoppers more organically, more directly and at scale. An iteration of WOM and buzz marketing, influencer marketing connects brand to culture in real time, with true authenticity.
The web celebrity is the bridge. (Let’s not use “cewebrity,” OK?)
A product of access, audacity and expertise, the web celebrity can be not only a viable brand representative, but an incredibly powerful one as well. Possessing huge credibility (and visibility), these personalities have a significant impact on pop culture and lifestyle. Retailers can amplify their messaging by creating branded content in partnership with these social influencers.
The stars of Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube and Twitter are usually happy to share their (honest) admiration of specific products, usually demonstrating them in the context of their real lives. The endorsement is not overt, which makes it all the more meaningful to shoppers (young and older).
So, retail marketers, let’s grab some influencers, send them products, brief them on the brand and turn them loose on the interwebs to tweet, distribute samples, hype an in-store appearance, review a shopping experience and generally tell everyone how swell the brand is.
Just check with the lawyers first.
There are rules when working with spokespersons (which these influencers are), specifically, the FTC Endorsement Guides.
At its core, the Guides reflect the basic truth-in-advertising principle relevant to all advertisements, endorsements, promotions and many viral and guerilla marketing campaigns. A few important rules to keep in mind:
The FTC’s rules apply to everyone in your network: your company, public relations, marketing and advertising firms, and influencers. Any of these can potentially be liable for violations of the FTC Act. A best practice is to apply the “better safe than sorry” rules regarding disclosures.
Influencer disclosures should be simple and straightforward. A statement such as “Company X gave me this product to try…” will usually be effective. Also likely effective: “Sponsored,” “Promotion,” “Paid Ad,” #client or even #ad (at the beginning of a tweet).
If a blogger, reviewer or other influencer receives some benefit, no matter how small, the benefit must be disclosed. This includes money, but can also be a free sample, a deep discount, a free meal or another intangible such as goodwill from a family member or good friend. As in all good journalism, a conflict of interest must be disclosed.
If an ad or promotion mentions an extraordinary result, the extraordinary nature of the result should be disclosed. For example, if Bill lost 10 pounds in one week by using product X, but the expected result is 1 pound per week, whoever is talking about Bill’s weight loss must say “results not typical.”
The “whole” truth still matters. Influencers should not talk about a great experience with a product they did not use, or that they actually disliked.
“Free” and “money back” can be very expensive words to use in online advertising. If there are free products or risk-free trials, influencers must provide detailed, clear and very conspicuous disclosures of all the material terms and conditions that apply to the offer.