Influencer Marketing needs to grow up

Influencer Marketing needs to grow up

In our 2020 Media Trends & Predictions, one of the 12 trends we have identified is that influencer marketing needs to grow up. It’s currently going through its challenging teen phase. Fake followers, unconvincing endorsements, lack of transparency about whether it’s an #ad or a #gifted product, are all cause for concern. But rather than slamming the door shut on the mess, we need to gently coax it into understanding the opportunities.

In 2020 marketers will want to work with talented content creators who know how to bring brands into their community in a genuine and authentic manner. Brands need to get it right, because people don’t hold back in the comments: Listerine ran an influencer campaign where followers delighted in mocking the obviously fake set-up that one influencer adopted.

The creative opportunities in influencer marketing explain the popularity of platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Amazon’s Twitch, and TikTok. Because of its inherent shareability, TikTok can drive great reach for the right content.


There are now TikTok stars: Noen Eubanks has risen to fame for his dancing, lip-syncing, hair and makeup. At the age of 18, he already has 7.5 m followers, and has just been announced as the new face of luxury fashion house Celine. So just as companies are actively collaborating with influencers on YouTube or Instagram, we can expect to see more and more brands partnering with influencers on TikTok, like Lancôme in China, or Uniqlo and Flipkart in the USA.

Our latest BrandZ report says that what matters is depth of engagement with an online influencer, not just the size of the followers base. One way to clearly measure impact is for brands to collaborate with influencers to sell. UK retailer Boots created personalised influencer ‘Bootiques’ as part of their Christmas campaign. Various fashion influencers were invited to curate their own selection of makeup, which should appeal to their followers. And the influencers used their own Instagram stories to bring their selection to life, experimenting with different makeup styles.

Another example is Chinese influencer Mr. Bags, who collaborated with Italian brand Tod’s to create a bag that sold out in minutes, netting hundreds of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile, TikTok and Instagram’s eCommerce functionalities are now also available for influencers, so they can sell their own ranges and partner with brands directly from their social profiles.

So how do brands know if influencer marketing is effective? We believe we are likely to see influencer investment decisions move from the PR domain towards marketing and insights, as the need to compare with other media channels and touchpoints, for brand and sales metrics, gains traction. They will move on from simply looking at ‘likes’, to more strategic metrics such as brand and sales impact. We will also see new ways to calculate the reach and frequency of influencer campaigns, with the advent of a ‘social GRP’, which we are already seeing in China.

We predict (well, hope really) that influencer marketing will reach maturity in 2020, as brands start to take measurement, and the risks and opportunities of aligning themselves to influencers, more seriously.

What are your views? Do you think influencer marketing will grow up this year?

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By Jane Ostler, Global Head of Media and Insights of Kantar.

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