Head to Head: Are influencers a long term marketing solution?

In this new series, Mumbrella invites the industry's most senior PR professionals to share their opposing views on the industry's biggest issues. This week, Ogilvy PR's Daniel Young goes head to head with Haystac's Jason Carnew in the battle of the influencers.

This week, debating whether or not influencers are a long term marketing solution, Jason Carnew says influencers will deliver long term marketing solutions if they are treated as partners and not channels, while Daniel Young believes no single discipline can deliver a marketing solution.

Yes, argues Jason Carnew, national general manager, Haystac:

Over the past five years, influencer marketing has moved from the fringes to the mainstream. And how can you blame marketers when you read headlines like “60% of YouTube subscribers say they would follow advice on what to buy from their favourite YouTube creator over a traditional celebrity.”

Influencers really are Seth Godin’s ‘tribe’ concept in action. When influencers are leveraged in the right way, they build long-term brand loyalty and value. Yet many agencies’ influencer strategies are little more than one-second billboards.

Influencers spruik a brand for a brief second, and then move on to the next pay cheque. A random sample of a top tier influencer’s content showed they featured three competing brands in one category in two months. How is this driving value for a brand? (hint: it’s not). The result is a growing suspicion about the merits of influencers.

Carnew: “Brands should repurpose influencers’ engagement data to retarget and re-engage”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s clearly an important role for tactical activity driving conversion. However, this won’t deliver long-term growth. For this, agencies need to:

1. Foster long-term relationships between influencers and brands

Building relationships is one of PR’s biggest strengths, and it is no less relevant today. At Haystac, we invite influencers to brand inductions, introduce them to brand campaigns early on and have them trial new products before they launch. We even co-create content with them. The result has been campaigns that have outperformed traditional digital ATL strategies and have proven to drive ongoing value for brands in complex categories, from home loans to tech.

2. Integrate the influencer strategy

PR for too long has left value at the door by not turning earned value into paid value. Brands should repurpose influencers’ engagement data to retarget and re-engage.

Changing opinions is a slow drip – and influencer strategies must connect with all the other components of a marketing strategy to ensure that consumers are moved along the funnel to conversion.

Influencer marketing should not be like Paywave. Influencers should be treated as partners, not channels. They are worth the investment of not only money, but time and understanding, and that is when they’re most valuable: to help build brands and business in the long-term.

No, argues Daniel Young, digital and social strategy director, Ogilvy PR:

Young says “influencers are optimised for awareness but that’s only a part of the ‘solution’”

There is a clear and compelling influencer use case for brands but no single channel or discipline can deliver a ‘marketing solution’. Influencers are optimised for awareness but that’s only a part of the ‘solution’ that marketers need to deliver.

It’s an exciting space but the long-term outlook is uncertain. Influencers are a finite resource. Followers are sensitive to over-promotion of branded content. Over the long-term, these frequency limits will hold brands back, increase cost and reduce returns. A fact not helped by platforms that throttle branded content to prompt ad buys.

Influencers can be a fantastic source of branded content but marketers should continue to develop their own creative muscle over the long-term with a focus on earned media and authentic brand advocacy rather than paid.

We’re advocates for influencer marketing at Ogilvy PR as part of an integrated approach but marketers should avoid an over reliance on individuals who may decide that they don’t want to be an influencer anymore, find a better way to monetize their content or get a better offer from a competitor brand.


  • As told to Abigail Dawson. If you’re a senior PR professional who would like to take part in a future Head to Head, please email abigail@mumbrella.com.au


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