Let go. Don’t try to control the process. Certainly don’t ask for changes. YouTube influencers know your audience better than you ever will.
That was the message of “How to Leverage Online Video’s New Influencers for Winning Brand Extensions,” a panel held today during the NAB conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. While it might be a scary lesson to hear, brand marketers were repeatedly told that the brands that succeed the most with YouTube influencers are the most hands-off.
“Influencers have an authentic relationship with this audience,” observed Zack Smith, senior vice president for branded content at Defy Media. “Brands are already staring to take advantage of it.” And for good reason: According to a recent Defy study, 63 percent of millennials are more likely to make a purchase if the product is recommended by a YouTube influencer.
Giving an example of YouTube influencer success, Smith cited the recent Nissan Super Bowl spot and its related online content. Nissan hired influencers to create messages about fathers and children, the ad’s theme. The spots didn’t show the product, but only reinforced and amplified its theme. The campaign worked, Smith said, because Nissan understood that influencers needed to create their own messaging in their own way.
Finding a successful brand-influencer relationship starts with finding shared values. As Bryan Thoensen, senior vice president of the strategic content group at Fullscreen, explained, brands need to first look at what they stand for and who their brands speak to. Then, they should look for influencers that match those values and speak to the same audience. When values are shared, the results are powerful, he said.
Brands approaching this space need to understand the difference between product placement and brand integration. As Smith explained, product placement is when a product is placed within an already developed scene. It’s decided early in the development process, and pricing models are clearly defined. Brand integration, on the other hand, can take many forms. It could be an end card announcing sponsorship or it could be a callout. Most of the time it’s a custom integration agreed upon by brands and creators. In a brand integration, brands expect to have a seat at the table and work with the creator.
When brand messaging is woven into the fabric of the video, the results are more noticeable and more effective, Thoensen said.
Measurement in the brand influencer space can be challenging, Thoensen said. There’s no one Nielsen-type measurement to offer brands, and it’s hard to compare the value of a Facebook like and a Twitter tweet. Agencies need to provide brands with a “reach story” to show how their message is succeeding on various platforms.
Most brands look at YouTube views as the central measurement, Smith added, but other social metrics are equally as important. Look at the metrics across multiple platforms, he advised.
At the end of the session, the panelists looked ahead to the future of branded videos and predicted what the next big thing will be. They were interested to see what kind of experiences YouTube influencers would create with new technologies, such as drones and virtual reality cameras. Videos and brand integrations could become richer and more immersive to viewers. VR could be a “game-changer,” Thoensen said. But they saw little future for the traditional 30-second ad spot. While it won’t disappear, it’s not the most effective way to reach young viewers.