Crossing the chasm – by Vamp’s Karl Mapstone

Vamp’s managing director, Karl Mapstone, examines creator marketing in a Marketing 4.0 world

Looking at the evolution of marketing, Philip Kotler describes Marketing 4.0 as the next stage of the digital technology boom. He talks about consumers having unprecedented access to information and growing up engaged with brands across social and the web. These consumers are demanding more authentic brand connections. Kotler says: “The brand’s core, authentic character is ever more important. Brands need to come across as true to their identity and authentic in their messages – this perceived substance is a valuable asset in an increasingly transparent world.”

Inherent to that marketing evolution, we’re seeing the ‘industrialisation’ of creator marketing unfold before us. From justifying the ROI of events to embracing digital pay-per-click as a performance channel, this is a maturation cycle we’ve seen happen with every marketing channel as it gains legitimacy and momentum. It’s apparent in the conversations we’re having with brands and agencies, which have progressed beyond a simple introduction to how creator marketing works and why it matters. As adoption increases and measurement improves, brands are starting to develop a more nuanced understanding of creator marketing as a path to driving authentic brand engagement.

Vamp customers are also approaching creator marketing very differently from when they first started. Now it’s less about command and control. Brands still want to set the tone and define the parameters of a campaign brief yet are comfortable leaving the creative direction in the hands of digital creators. We think this is largely a product of the advocacy we do when onboarding new clients around ‘The Vamp Pledge’, which is our commitment to respecting and upholding a creator’s creative interpretation of the brief. It’s grounded in our belief that digital creators have the best judgment when it comes to what connects with their audience. In the pursuit of authenticity as a value exchange, we’re seeing the dialogue between brand and creator become much more open and collaborative, which ultimately reflects in the outcomes they’re able to achieve.

The willingness to be open is something we especially see in the case of emerging and challenger brands. These brands come into existence recognising creator marketing as a critical go-to-market channel that helps them compete. They know creators know what they’re doing and are willing to offer creative freedom to get the most out of the collaboration. Their focus instead is on understanding what type of user-generated or sponsored content formats deliver the best ROI for their business. These brands want to dive deep on time spent on different content formats and why, compare engagement results against category benchmarks, and uncover what factors drive performance when evaluating branded-content posts versus other outputs like video content. The challenge for Vamp and our social media partners will be making sure we continue to evolve our analytics capabilities and offer performance insights that satisfy the needs of this informed customer base.

It would also be remiss of us not to acknowledge the macro-economic climate we’re currently witnessing. In an economic downturn, brands sometimes lose their nerve. They don’t want to appear tone-deaf to the challenges being faced by consumers, and opt for a more conservative approach to how the brand is being promoted in different markets. Sometimes it’s about curtailing spend, which inevitably involves the need to make dispassionate decisions about where to pull funding. If you’re a brand that’s having to make trade-offs around where to invest, the guidance we would offer is to start with ROI metrics and work backwards.

In the hierarchy of what’s driving good results, ask yourself how your creator marketing efforts stack up against other digital channels? Are you comparing apples to apples? Is your primary metric return on advertising spend (ROAS) or a more comprehensive ROI calculation, where you’re factoring in agency costs, time-to-market, media rates, etc.? Think about what other value-added components you get as a halo effect of investing in creator marketing, such as branded content you can repurpose. There are very few barriers to entry when considering working with a Vamp creator. Campaigns are quick to get up and running, flexible in terms of the up-front commitment (entry level campaigns start at $1,000), and inclusive from the perspective of providing access to creators with audiences of all sizes and specialisms.

Similarly, the other opportunity available to brands is around collaborating with creators in the context of new product development (NPD) initiatives. Creators are the arbiters of taste when it comes to adopted consumer behaviour. We’ve seen several examples of collabs between brands and macro-influencers to bring products to market, and we think a natural extension of that is using a bottom-up approach to NPD. For brands, working with creators and their audiences to understand what direction demand is coming from helps skip traditional NPD discovery cycles and fast-track to production as a competitive advantage.

Back in the world of Marketing 4.0, Kotler says: “A brand’s projected positioning will not have the desirable impact if it is not driven by a community-driven consensus.” Instant feedback and real-world insights from a creator’s audience help customers see themselves as active participants in NPD cycles, increasing the likelihood of a customer identifying themselves with that brand. Who better than creators to help make that a reality?