When it comes to influencers, brands need to let go

Brands need to stop stripping influencers of creative control if they want to create natural, authentic ads that don't feel like ads at all, argues Vamp's Aaron Brooks. And, after all, isn't that the point?

Almost half of marketers want total control over sponsored influencer posts, according to a recent study. Old habits die hard. For marketers used to masterminding a brand message and ensuring it’s implemented consistently, allowing influencers freedom to represent your brand, without strict guidelines, can feel like a new and daunting experience.

In the early days of influencer marketing, brands had little choice but to leave social ambassadors to interpret messages in their own voice. The ‘freebie in exchange for a post’ model was commonplace and marketers were left watching and waiting for a mention. But, as the industry has evolved into more formal paid partnerships, brands have felt entitled to more creative control over the work. In a sense, it’s understandable. After all, who knows the brand better than the brand itself?

But this control has an impact, both on the quality of the work and the performance of the campaign. The beauty of social creators is they know how to convert, without the hard sell. At their best, collaborations feel like a recommendation from an expert you admire, or a style suggestion from the person you wished you dressed like. At their worst, shoehorned marketing jargon and unnatural references make them instantly recognisable as an ad and you lose the magic of authentic influencer marketing.

To succeed in effective influencer marketing campaigns, that feel genuine and authentic, the industry needs to move away from creative direction and back to creator direction. Influencer marketing does not work in the same way as traditional advertising, and that is its power. Marketers need to acknowledge that, while it may be your brand, it is their audience, and no-one knows how to connect with them better than the influencer themselves.

Loosening the creative reigns can be liberating. Influencers can do unexpected things and take risks of behalf of your brand. You could end up with more innovative content ideas than you could have imagined in-house.

Of course, trust is essential, and as the industry matures, we are seeing our clients forming longer-term partnerships with ambassadors, giving relationships an opportunity to build. Choosing the right influencers is also crucial. Creators that understand your brand and your target market are in a position to provide that insight. It’s chemistry that goes deeper than reach metrics. Selecting an influencer with a wide reach but little understanding of your brand values is a recipe for crippling creative control.

Issuing open briefs will also make creators a lot more excited and willing to go above and beyond for your brand.

My biggest piece of advice would be to do your due diligence up front, so you feel confident enough to empower an influencer with creative control. Working with collaborators whose content output and authenticity you can trust will minimise the need for clunky pre-approvals and restrictive briefs. You won’t need to monitor so closely and the campaign content will thrive as a result.

Of course, setting clear boundaries and campaign essentials, like hashtags, is necessary, but when that’s done, sit back, be brave and be blown away by the creative story telling that comes back to you.

Aaron Brooks is the co-founder of Vamp


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