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If the three founding partners at Beehive were likened to a band, it would have to be a supergroup.

Like most of these epic collaborations have done to the music industry, Martin Galton, Greg Jordan and Tim Hollins’ roots in the creative industry have had seismic effects on where it is now.

Galton is a magnet for creative awards, having picked up over 120 global gongs for his creative direction. He’s also a poet and when he’s not coming up with alliterative couplets, he’s running his creative oasis – Beehive.

Jordan is a celluloid sensei. His knowledge of working in film and TV is unparalleled. From Hollywood to Hoxton, Jordan’s canny production skills have earned him cult status in the ad world.

Hollins’ brand planning expertise and his ability to simplify, means he’s in demand for brand consulting coaching all around the world.

Together, they represent an awesomely knowledgeable and seasoned triumvirate that has the power to make the jargon and complication go away and say something original.

So it behooves every CMO reading this, to take responsibility for owning their own copy of The Beehive team’s creative compendium – How to Avoid Brand Bullshit, a no-nonsense guide to branding. Like modern day Lightermen, Galton, Jordan and Hollins will help you steer your brand ship, through today’s acronym-riddled, jargon-infested marketing waters.

And I’ve got copies of this book to give away, free (well for the price of a few keystrokes anyway). But more of that later, allow me to whet your appetite further.

This book is a must-read for brand managers, offering quick reference bon mots that will help any modern brand-savvy manager filter out the white noise and hone in on the perfect pitch. But it’s more than that; it’s a general guide to running a business too. In today’s marketing-driven business world, there’s something for everyone. There are innovative ideas you may not have thought about and there are neat aphorisms that you need to be reminded about.

How to Avoid Brand Bullshit is a stripped-down, full of wisdom, no-nonsense book to help businesses and brands. It’s a pocket-sized tool box, designed to be practical. It’s also been art directed by the legendary Paul Belford, who has commanded the creative wellspring of agencies such as TBWA, Ogilvy and AMV BBDO, to name but a few.

The book simply breaks down the subject of ‘Brand’ into its four main components: The Brand thing, the Communication thing, the Creative thing and the Production thing. Each section is seasoned with the essence of each “thing”, allowing the reader to shoot their particular brand issue through the prism of our elders, betters and wisers.

Simply put, Galton, Jordan and Hollins run a factory that makes creative things whose buyers are agencies and in-house brand teams seeking the exceptional. When their advice is given, it’s worth lending your ear.

You can buy their witty tome at Amazon or direct from their website: www.workingbeehive.co.uk

It appears that the PR industry has now successfully managed to become a measurable part of the sales process.

After all, what sales person wouldn’t want to prove to a buyer that the market for their product already exists? No more of those annoying “We’ll take a few – just to see how it sells..” conversations.

This article started out life as a way of proving that ‘Influencers’ in ‘Influencer marketing’ are nothing more than modern day pitchmen.

But I stand corrected. They are way more than pitchmen and women. In fact they are as close as you can possibly get to the PR industry being able to have considerable ownership of a company’s sales process.

Game on for the PR industry, eh?

Influencer marketing is peer-to-peer selling in the digital age and it all hinges on the term ‘authenticity’. If it’s not authentic, then it’s not going to influence anyone.

These influencers have spent a lot of time building their audience, like any publisher or broadcaster would. They speak in terms their audience understands, they do things that their audience likes to do, or wants to do and their audience is the measure of their value to brands.

But like any nascent industry, it is still figuring out what it wants to be. And on the other side of the coin, there are plenty of marketing and communications professionals and trade bodies that are trying to work out what role they can play as influencer marketing steps into the big league.

So let’s break the concept of influencer marketing down to its basic function. A person – let’s call him Chad – develops a fascination for playing computer games. Chad is really rather good at it and occasionally, he posts his skills online on, say YouTube and Instagram. Over time, Chad develops a small following. They converse with Chad, who shares tips, tricks and hints and perhaps even gets small favours given to him by the games publisher, like a free studio tour, or pressing some flesh with the stars, which makes Chad aspirational to his followers. Chad is now what you might call a micro influencer.

Let’s follow this rabbit down the hole…

Chad’s reviews and posts begin to get a lot of engagement because he is authentic and relatable. His followers like the cut of his jib and they tell their friends etcetera and before Chad knows it, his audience has grown from 5,000 followers to 50,000. Now Chad is heading into the big league. Other brands associated with Chad’s lifestyle want to get on board. Here comes Pizza Hut which wants to send their products for his games nights, they even want Chad to host a show at one of their outlets and they’re prepared to pay for this. Now Chad is a macro influencer. He’s a bit too busy to engage with all of his followers but he’s still authentic, just not quite as relateable.

According to the highly knowledgeable Isobel Arrowsmith at the Public Relations and Communications Association (or PRCA), what has happened is inevitable for any hard-working influencer. Chad’s engagement rate has dropped from an industry average of 5.8% as a micro influencer, to 0.5% as a macro influencer but that’s not a problem because Chad’s 0.5% is still a huge number of potential customers for any brand.

In fact, when you consider some macro influencers have around 200,000 followers, it’s a massive number of potential purchases of whatever product they are promoting – just off one tweet, or video. In summary, micro influencers are ‘in reach’, more kind of boy or girl next door, while macro influencers are celebrities.

And it’s important that – to maintain credibility and authenticity, a micro influencer like Chad lets his audience know that he’s promoting products: “The public needs to be more informed about the transactional nature of influencer marketing,” says Isobel “Because in recent research, 80% of business leaders said they would like to get to know about products through articles or someone they know.” It’s like, we don’t mind if someone we admire is selling something we might like but just be open and honest about it.

According to a recent survey by social influencer platform Takumi, who polled over 4,000 consumers, marketers and influencers in the UK, US and Germany, 86% said they trust influencers to do the job.

62% of influencers say they have been pressured by brands to breach regulatory ad guidelines at least once.

1/5 of consumers trust influencer recommendations, more than their friends, however, they still lose trust easily. The top reasons for unfollowing influencers are: disingenuous endorsements (72%); promotion of unrealistic/unsuitable lifestyle or body images (69%); misrepresentation of lifestyle or character (69%), and discovering the purchase of fake followers (68%).

As we can see, there are many pitfalls and potential problems associated with developing an influencer marketing campaign but fear not, there are also highly skilled agencies out there to manage the process.

Dan Lambden heads up the campaign planning department of Red Consultancy, a highly accomplished PR agency that happens to be one of the leaders in the field of influencer marketing. Dan says that because the industry is still in its infancy, there are a lot of grey areas in the rules, but an experienced agency like Red can call on its broadcast experience to help keep things under control.

“We are incredibly strict with ensuring our influencer partners follow the ASA guidelines and ensure they are appropriate. More importantly, that their follower data reflects the audience we wish to communicate with,” says Dan. Most established influencers actually have agents that manage contracts and keep user and audience statistics on hand, to help brands identify the appropriate ambassador.

But the function, management and creation of successful influencer campaigns goes right to the heart of the PR function. Essentially, influencers aren’t paid-for billboards, nor are they there to follow a creative ad-agency brief. They have needs and nuances, which Dan says puts them in the PR wheelhouse: “ PR agencies have the traditional comms and media liaison skills needed for working with multiple influencer stakeholders at one time. Influencer outreach is a natural evolution and extension of media relations. Plus, we always have an earned media approach first, helping drive costs down!”

So why should you consider launching an influencer campaign?

  • Awareness building?
  • Shifting boxes?
  • Loyalty?
  • Driving traffic?

In fact influencers can be used to help with all of the above but we do need to remind ourselves what all of the above are trying to do, which is sell.

Influencers can be especially useful when it comes to creating hype for products, pre-launch. They can create FOMO with audiences with a first look or a test drive and they can also be used to point out the benefits to their particular community, meaning you can achieve highly relevant promotions to vertical markets.

If you’re still thinking of embarking upon an influencer campaign, then Dan at Red Consultancy has his top 6 tips for you:

1. Create a strategy based on a set objective. Never put the cart before the horse. Never draw up an influencer marketing strategy without previously determining the objectives and how you plan to measure them.

2.  Have an audience-first approach. It doesn’t matter what you say if you’re speaking to the wrong audience. Define your audience, then use this clear definition as a filter and criteria for who should and shouldn’t, be considered for a collaboration.

3. Use tools or agency partners to help. At Red Consultancy we use tools like audiense and Pulsar to find online audiences for our clients and then identify the key influencers within those networks. Alternatively, if you’re looking for help on scale, a social influencer platform like Takumi or Relatable can help find exactly the right people for your marketing campaign from their network of vetted creators.

If you’re unable to use tools or an agency partner, before agreeing to work with an influencer request their audience breakdown data. Ensure you have info on the engagement rate (more followers does not mean better results!), gender split, age breakdown and nationality/geography of their followers. We often find influencers have huge follower numbers, but from other countries, which if you’re working on a UK launch will be wastage.

4.  Make sure you’re not just looking at the numbers. It’s crucial to look at the type of content influencers create, plus the types of comments they receive on their content. Always align your selection with your set objective. You may choose a different creator depending on if you’re looking for mass awareness or if you’re looking for the audience opinion and therefore content of comments would be key.

5. Respect the rules. When a brand rewards an influencer with a payment, free gift, or other perk, any resulting posts become subject to consumer protection law. When a brand also has control over the content, they become subject to the UK Advertising Code as well. Make sure you’re fully up to date on the correct guidelines. You can read more here: https://www.asa.org.uk/news/new-guidance-launched-for-social-influencers.html

6. Be creative. Influencers are creators. Putting content out into the world is at the heart of what they do and they know their audience and what works for them better than anyone else. So brief them and work WITH them to create incredible outputs. And don’t forget, creators come in all shapes and sizes with a huge variety of passion points and interests. They are photographers, directors, writers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, stylists, chefs, athletes and crafters. If not a combination of all the above.

Also don’t forget they are probably your consumers too. So use their skills, enthusiasm and passion to authentically celebrate your brand.

In this era of influencer commerce, it’s crucial that like any channel to market, you have all the bases covered. Don’t engage in it lightly; have a plan, talk to some experts and do your due diligence. Moreover, after counselling some of my industry sources, it appears that today’s CMO needs to treat an influencer campaign with an approach that’s rooted more in public relations than advertising, which requires a different mind-set.

Influencers can be a wonderful addition to your sales and marketing plan but they won’t achieve the results you need on their own – unless you are exceptionally lucky.

What a complex animal we are. We’re full of contradictions and ironies; it’s what makes us human, after all.

One week, we’re heading helter-skelter towards new technological frontiers and the very next day, we’re moaning because our online bank has changed the login process and we’re suddenly greeted with the unfamiliar when it should be the familiar.

“Why do they keep changing things?” we say. Only yesterday, we were pushing the envelope but today, we literally wish we still used envelopes.

We wake up every day to an increasingly unfamiliar world.

So why do we feel so torn between what we know and what we want? When we get what we want it’s often like trying to take a drink from a fire hose and we’re presented with multiple changes to multiple areas of our lives.

So many changes, sometimes that we begin to feel overwhelmed.

If you’ve ever read 1970’s book Future Shock by futurist Alvin Toffler, you’ll see a pattern so familiar that it’s as relevant today as it was when your mother was hot stuff.

Change is accelerating. Changes bombard our nervous systems, requiring quick decisions. New values and new technologies flood into our lives. The pressure of fast change forces us to question all we’ve been taught.

And if products and services, people and their lifestyles, employers and work life change so rapidly, how do the experts slow that roll to a manageable rate that doesn’t shock our system?

There is a maxim in the world of Futurism:

To sell something familiar, you have to make it surprising; to sell something surprising, you have to make it familiar.

It speaks for itself but it implies that too much change, too quickly can lose consumers. Change needs to mature like wine and it needs references that consumers can identify with.

I was chatting recently with leading UK brand expert Rob Bloxham, who runs the recently enlarged Orb brand design agency and he offered some insight into this increasingly rapid rate of evolution in our lives – specifically, the question of how to future-proof a brand and whether the experts build redundancy into a brand’s lifespan:

“I think we need to look at disposability from two lenses,” he said. “There is one lens where we are looking at an actual product or service that customers use and there is another that goes beyond the tangible and into the emotional connection that brands have with users.

Rob continued: “When we are building a brand for an organisation, we’re looking to create something that doesn’t have a shelf life; One that’s built on a clear set of values and a purpose that serves as the basis for inspiration for all the products and services to come. You future-proof this through thorough research—if you can build a brand after one session then it’s probably not going to be something that sticks around for long.

“You have to do immersive internal and external research to match what inspires the team with what inspires customers. When it comes to products or services, that’s a conversation we need to have with the client up front, e.g. how long do you think this will last in the current market? You want and need to be savvy with your investment. If it’s a trendy product then we can build a brand that fades along with the trend. If it’s a company with ambition to last 100 years then we need to think as forward as we can.”

And there is a unique difference between B2C brands and B2B brands. B2C brands usually require a lot more research and evaluation before launching onto the market.

Rob explains: “The process is the same it’s just the methodology that slightly changes. We start with internal research and then challenge those insights with external research. Therefore, with B2B we might facilitate 1:1 client interviews to gauge the audience needs, whereas with B2C we might need to look at focus groups, surveys or a new innovative way of capturing insight. “

With B2B brands, there tends to be a greater degree of permanence, not affected by quickly evolving generations of users, whereas consumer brands need agility. Rob cites the case of British Home Stores, which was a great brand that ultimately failed to adapt to the modern British shopper.

And it’s not just products, but entire organisations that evolve, morph and rebuild more rapidly than ever. At the time of writing Future Shock in 1970’s, Toffler reported that McKinsey & Company proposed internal restructuring for the Top 100 companies every two years. These days, says Bloxham it needs to be prioritised a lot more regularly: “Strong brands will make brand an item on every management meeting agenda–monthly, half-yearly, annually, whatever your organisation’s timings look like. If you wait two years to figure out whether or not you’ve upheld your brand promises you’ll turn off both staff and customers.

“You’ve got to create proof every day that your brand is more than words and pretty pictures. Your brand spells out your purpose as an organisation outside of the nuts and bolts. If you’re not using that purpose to motivate your staff and inspire better customer experiences then you’re wasting your investment.”

Future Shock also highlights the speed of decision making as a contributor to this illness of progress. In days of old, hierarchical structures meant that decisions made on the front line, needed approving and referring up the food chain to the Directors and then actions to be taken were bounced back down the chain, causing a natural lag between cause and effect. These days, with more flat, open company structures and delegation skills in play, decisions can be made and acted upon in real time. This means that brands and products can evolve at a quicker pace for some and not so for others. So how does this impact on the branding process?

“Flat structures tend to be much quicker,” says Bloxham “[but] even hierarchical structures can make quick decisions if they prioritise the project and put the right people in the room when new information is presented and recommendations are suggested.”

Bloxham is adamant that focus is the key to executing a quick, relatively painless brand evolution; “Projects slow down when businesses get their heads stuck back into the day-to-day and stop paying attention. Every phone call, meeting, report, and presentation could change the future of your business. Make those touch points matter and you’ll be in for a smooth ride.”

This brings us back to the fear of change: the scary view of all the things to be considered during a rebrand. What started out as a neat idea in the boardroom suddenly seems too big of a project to complete. Professionals like Bloxham usually undertake research insights, which gives the branding group an accurate portrayal of where the business is, “warts and all,” says Bloxham.

Some changes impact a company right across its business. Clients can sometimes find this too daunting to undertake but, like all of us wishing we still operated with hand-written letters, we need to realise that growth means change and companies like Orb are geared up to help guide a company through those changes.

As Bloxham says, his clients often don’t realise how connected they are to the old brand and they forget to think about all of the things they liked – probably like Jerry Hall felt about leaving Bryan Ferry – especially when we compare him against old Ebenezer Murdoch.

It’s a big decision, not to be taken lightly but necessary all the same. Fear of change can be alleviated by preparing yourself for change: “If you wanted the same design just slightly tweaked you wouldn’t have come to a brand agency,” says Bloxham.

Assemble your team, choose only the key people that need to be involved and make it clear who has the final decision.

Your brand’s Avalon can be reached if you apply more haste and less speed, which is, I think, the key to avoiding Future Shock.

Always be prepared to accept change in all areas of your life – especially in business but embrace it with due diligence, focus, and attention to detail.

Rushing into Mick Jagger’s arms from the Ferry man’s warm caress could well end in Sticky Fingers and leave you Stranded.