In 2020, Influencer Marketing Showed Up
Finding affinity and authenticity in a maturing market
Influencer marketing made some predictable shifts in 2020 — TikTok, for instance, turned out to be as essential as many predicted. (Including our own talent manager Jerry Barajas, as quoted in Forbes last year). There have, of course, been some surprising turns as well. Despite early cries for the end of the era back at the start of the pandemic, influencer marketing has in fact proven itself to be a valuable asset to followers, brands and even to non-profits and government organizations. In a year like no other, the role of influencer marketing has matured, reaching new levels of relevance, recognition and standardization.
Back in June, a group of influencers formed the American Influencer Council, the first trade organization of its kind, citing the growing role of influencers in our economy. In December, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) announced a new Influencer Marketing Advisory Board, with the goal of standardizing metrics for the booming marketplace for content created by influencers for brands. According to MediaPost, the ANA’s goals for the board include increasing “trust and transparency in influencer marketing by reducing fraud, improving measurement and spearheading industry commitments to advancing and improving the discipline.”
These moves add to the growing sense of trust and recognition for all the work influencers do. In a year when many people’s only sense of connection came through a screen, people with large social media followings became an important source of information and comfort. Influencers often adjust what they offer according to what their community craves, and in a period where issues like public health and civic engagement were top of mind, many pivoted to content focusing on these areas. And it’s not just brands who are putting more stock in the sway influencers have — health organizations in the U.S. and abroad have been tapping influencers to share information about vaccine awareness and appear in public service announcements.
Influencers proved useful in other areas, too. As recently reported in The New York Times, 2020 was particularly strong for fashion influencers, an unexpected shift at a time without runway shows or occasions to dress up for beyond a walk outside. The low production needs (iPhone, ring light) and scrappy attitude of influencers has made them well-suited to the limited resources of the pandemic economy. Instead of shooting elaborate campaigns for billboards and print, “many companies are focusing their spending on partnerships with influencers, who offer faster turnaround times, versatile messaging options and real-time product demonstrations.” Rather than playing to a jet-setter fantasy, at-home influencers allow fashion brands, especially high-end ones, to remain relevant and connected to the reality many are living.
But for some, even though travel is grounded and shopping malls are empty, the lure of projecting bona fide luxury remains. Recent reports in Vice and Input cite the growing market among influencers for signifiers of wealth (empty packaging from designer brands, photoshopped images in private jets) as a way to amass followers and brand deals. This kind of falseness is what groups like AIC and the ANA’s Influencer Advisory Board seek to correct, and what Studio71 has always positioned itself against. Realness is our guiding star. When we seek brand partnerships for our talent, affinity and authenticity come first. We’re excited to see more players in the space who value these things, too. And we can’t wait to see what 2021 has in store for all of us across this evolving industry.