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Influencer Marketing Show London: industry booms despite specter of recession

Attended by more than 1,500 visitors, the latest edition of Influencer Marketing Show (IMS) held in London on October 20 confirmed the growing strength of the KOL marketing industry and the importance of the channel to the overall marketing mix. But with worsening economic conditions in both Europe and around the world, much discussion at the show centered on driving and quantifying performance and ROI of influencer marketing within the context of reduced marketing budgets and consumer spending.

IMS London image
IMS London image

Key Takeaways

  • Influencer marketing is booming in both the UK and Europe, as the industry matures and brands increasingly turn to technology to drive and measure performance.
  • Building long-term relationships with KOLs — both large and small — will be crucial to success in a tightening competitive environment.
  • The convergence of affiliation and influence is more pronounced, resulting in more brands seeking to incorporate performance metrics into KOL contracts and fee structures.  
  • TikTok — and TikTok Live Shop — continue to excite, but long-form content on YouTube is having a resurgence.

Held for the first time in three years due to the outbreak of the pandemic, IMS London was notable for the strong presence of major international brands, content creators, management agencies, and tech solutions.

Present as a major sponsor and exhibitor, Europe’s leading influence marketing SaaS solution, Kolsquare CEO Quentin Bordage said the spectacular turnout confirmed the industry is in a phase of booming growth.  

In 2022, the European Influencer Marketing market entered a new phase of maturity, and the UK market is paving the way. Most of our contacts at IMS this year were now organized with dedicated teams for Influence, as well as using automated tools and specific KPIs. Everyone is now thinking about how to scale,” Bordage commented. “IMS London 2022 was a much bigger event than three years ago, and should be even bigger next year. It is really exciting to be part of it.”

Data + human relationships

As the economic storm clouds gather, understanding ROI and running cost-effective influencer campaigns will be crucial. The creator economy will continue to grow and brands can be expected to invest more in the influence industry. But the focus on using data to choose the right KOLs and to analyze the impact of campaigns and ROI will crystalize.

Several speakers and brands emphasized the need to develop strong relationships with the right creators in a particular niche, before turning to look-alike audiences to scale activities.

Building long-term relationships with influencers is seen as a win-win proposition for brands, agencies and creators, and will be a major focus for industry players in the year ahead.

As creators continue to evolve — in terms of content, social media trends, and overall level of professionalization — there is resurgence in long-term partnerships and brand ambassadorships. Many emphasized the need to couple the increasing focus on tech to drive results with the need to work more closely on a human level with KOLs to deliver the best outcomes.

Talking sustainability and diversity

Several well-attended conferences at IMS London focused on issues of sustainability, responsibility and diversity within influence. Marketers heard that affecting real change in consumers through influence on environmental issues is a step-by-step process, with changes to habits built over time.

Presenting to ‘Influencing Green Choices: Turning engagements into real world behavior change’, BCW head of Influencer marketing Europe and Africa, Sama Al-Naib said brands should communicate about climate change issues without scaremongering.

And as consumers tighten their belts over the coming months, brands can be expected to lean into messaging around product and brand sustainability offerings. Al-Naib said brands should use influence marketing to generate trust and transparency around sustainable offerings, while being sensitive to the changing nature of the economy, and the difficulties and price sensitivities of the year to come.

Creators are a reflection of society as a whole, and brands are waking up to the fact that influencer marketing can and should reflect that. Partnering with creators of diverse ethnic backgrounds and body shapes (in fashion, for example) is key to creating cut-through with sponsored content, and helping audiences to develop brand loyalty.

Costs and pricing

As the costs of influencer marketing skyrockets and budgets tighten, much discussion centered on how to make influencer marketing budgets do more for less. Offering long-term contracts and retainer fees are seen as a means of both shoring up KOL relationships by offering them salary security, while managing costs more effectively.

As content creation becomes increasingly professionalized, brands and agencies must be conscious of KOLs’ operating costs when negotiating fees. Meanwhile, as changes to Instagram’s algorithm impacts KOLs’ reach, fee structures are evolving to include performance-based bonuses and incentives. KOLs too, as they continue to develop market expertise, may also begin to use performance metrics to set fees.

The convergence of affiliation and influence was evidenced by the strong presence at IMS London of affiliate marketing service providers Rakuten Advertising and Awin. Affiliate marketers were out in force, perhaps thanks to the PI Live affiliate marketing event held at the same venue the previous two days. As brands scaling influence marketing integrate influence with acquisition and e-commerce activities, adopting performance metrics such as PPM or PPC is increasingly being seen as a means of bringing objectivity into pricing of KOL content.

What they said

“Micro-influencers build the foundation for our strategy. Smaller audiences and communities deliver engagement and trust in the content. It’s vital to have as many people talking about us as possible, whether big or small. Everybody grows, so the more eggs you put in [the micro-influence] basket, the more brand loyalty you’re going to get. And we can grow with them when they grow, that’s the position we want to be in.” Superdry Senior PR and Influencer Manager Mercedes Curtis.

“I think Shorts are going to blow up in 2023. With the monetization [of YouTube Shorts], that’s what creators were waiting for. It still isn’t monetizable like that on Tik Tok. It is going to have a big impact. The short-form content works really well for music. With YouTube in particular, it’s going to be more effective for promoting the music directly because when you click on the music on the bottom [of the short] that goes directly to the music video from the artist on YouTube music. Everything is on YouTube, so from there, users can connect to everything in a way that TikTok can’t.” Syncvault Digital Marketing Executive Katy Richards.

“We see long form video content performing extremely well […] now we’re seeing YouTube videos being over an hour long — basically movie blogs — and still getting as much engagement. In terms of platforms, obviously Twitch. It’s live content, it’s engaging. I definitely think it’s one to watch.” PhD Influencer Marketing Director Thibault La Droitte.  

“Brands are more open to hearing our rationale about partnering with diverse influencers. We’re educating brands to say that to be truly inclusive, that you need to recognize that BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) influencers didn’t have the same opportunities as white influencers. Beyond making sure our lineup is inclusive, it’s about education. We don’t preach, we educate and uplift. Brands are far more receptive now to listening to alternative ideas.” Influencer marketing agency What They Said Senior Campaign Director Sammy Albon.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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