A Measure of Success

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A Measure of Success

August 19, 2020

Influencer marketing continues to change how brands can have one-on-one conversations with their audience through an authentic influencer that they trust. All too often, however, the question is asked: “How do you measure your work?”.

For most other channels, measurement is simple. You can see how many people visit a website. You can count your CRT. You can see likes and comments. Or, in the most commercial sense, you can tell by an increase in your sales.

Influencer marketing works on an entirely different level. Rather than a Call To Action, influencer marketing gives an audience validation. It is validation in their choices or habits or lifestyle or fashion or financial decisions. The audience chooses to follow an influencer because they see something in that person that they trust. It could be a celebrity. It could be an investment banker. It could be a doctor. For whatever reason, that choice comes with an inherent degree of trust in what the influencer has to say or how that influencer is acting.

So rather than having a measurable metric, influencer marketing offers something far more valuable: brand awareness, brand love and brand loyalty. It’s a lot like a marriage. Most people try to put a metric on marriage. How long have you been married for? Is this your tin wedding anniversary or your diamond wedding anniversary? How many people try to measure how much love is in the marriage rather than how much time?

Influencer marketing brings the love and trust, things that can’t be measured. For now.

While experts in influencer marketing like R-Squared use traditional metrics to monitor and give a sense of measurement during a campaign, we know that these metrics are not the right ones to capture the efficacy of influencer marketing. We know that, while there are a vast number of different ways that digital can be measured, there are also a vast number of different ways that those numbers can be ‘massaged’ or bent to reflect a desired outcome.

And that is NOT what we foresee for an industry that has so much potential to make meaningful change in the world.

As the Chair of Influencer Marketing for the IAB SA, our CEO, Stéphane Rogovsky, is working with experts from around the world to find ways of measuring the true impact of influencer marketing on brands and on consumers. It’s a new discipline and requires a new way of showing the world just how effective it is.

For now, influencer marketing works very much like the old school big brand adverts worked – the ones you used to see at the cinema, or on prime-time TV, or at the Superbowl. It creates brand awareness for a new audience. It provides validation for your active audience. And it builds love for a brand by showing your audience that they matter, that you acknowledge them, that you are as invested in their time and interests as they are in you.

Like the love that powers a marriage through the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, it’s not something that is easily measured but you can see and feel it across a room.

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The Perils of Isolation for Brands

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The Perils of Isolation for Brands

June 24, 2020

The traditional marketing model has undergone a dramatic shake-up that began before this world of isolation and quarantine. Old-school ad agencies have found themselves stretched thin through a fast-growing and technology-led hunger for new content and new ways of serving that content.

This was the birth of specialist digital agencies and media houses, of production studios set up to develop content for a new generation that lived with technology in their pockets and with instant access to the world and to the world’s views and opinions.

It also led to a growing sense of compartmentalised thinking and agencies working in silos. This sense of isolation often worked against the brand’s interests. Where you had a great idea for a campaign, the execution often seemed to lack that spark that elevated it into something extraordinary. It’s a natural progression when it comes to tech-led innovation. The innovators bring it to market. The early adopters test it out and work through issues. It becomes more accessible, recognised and accepted. And then gains traction with a wider audience.

This where you need proper syndication. As experts in influencer marketing, R-Squared are well aware of how the industry is changing to incorporate collaboration to a much greater extent.

Our dealings with the big creative agencies and the teams of smaller experts have given us a unique insight into how things have been operating and how they need to change. We are finding, more and more, that our value goes beyond the influencer marketer role and has become an integral part of expert syndication leaders. With the creative agencies creating content, the production houses producing content and the paid media agencies seeding content, we saw the social media and influencer marketers being led by that content in a top-down approach. Our model, that we and other industry experts are showing should be the industry standard, is to use the content to create unique pieces that come from unique influencers to bolster and emphasise that content.

It’s an approach that has also led to us becoming experts in the coordination and collaboration between agencies to truly amplify a brand and message.

By syndicating our thinking and output, by collaborating with best of breed from an agency creative to a PR firm to a digital studio to a paid media agency to our own specialisation of influencer marketing – and then coordinating every aspect to work seamlessly together and build on a campaign rather than plug into a campaign – we are able to create something truly remarkable, impactful and memorable.

Syndication is how the modern world will move forward. In marketing, in business, in politics and human interaction. Isolationism and silo-thinking are shown to be ineffective at best and detrimental at worst. And it will take the experts to prove to the world that this unifying of talents and specialisations will lead to a whole, and to outcomes, that are far greater than the sum of their parts.


Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Creating connections in a time of isolation

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Creating connections in a time of isolation

June 3, 2020

If the recent global lockdowns, social distancing and isolation have proven anything it’s that – even in this digital age – we are a social animal and we crave personal connections.

And that this is the time for influencer marketing – true influencer marketing – to really take the lead for the future of brands and information. It is the time for influencer marketing to become part and parcel of your marketing communications. Not just an afterthought by a marketing assistant who has a friend with an Instagram account, but a well thought out, budgeted and strategically aligned pillar of your communications.

I was struck recently by the impact many celebrities have been making on social media – through words of support, through actions, even with how they are engaging with their fans about their everyday lives and the normalcy of their times with their families.

And then we have the celebrities who have struck an incredibly tone-deaf chord with their social offerings.

Keep in mind, these celebs are not doing what they are doing to make people mock them (well not all of them anyway), they genuinely believe that their posts, instas, and tweets are making a difference, are imparting wisdom and happy feelings.

They genuinely believe that they are creating a connection.

So, where did they go wrong?

This is where a proper influencer marketing model comes in.

Your audience needs to make a connection. A billionaire telling me how delicious a packet of two-minute noodles is will make me switch off – probably snort in derision first and then switch off. But a billionaire telling me a story about how those same noodles were what got him or her through college while they were still dreaming about changing the world? That is a different story.

Why?

Because I can relate to it. I can see myself sitting in a dorm room, fork buried in a microwaved bowl of noodles as I doodle my ideas onto a pad of paper.

Why?

Because it is genuine. It is a real moment, in a real person’s life. It is an authentic connection.

And connections are what make influencer marketing one of the most powerful tools in modern marketing.

Followers are not connections.

The word ‘influencer’ has taken on a negative connotation. The hordes of entitled demanding free drinks or meals or holidays because they will give you ‘exposure’ to their hundreds of followers are NOT influencers.

Ryan Reynolds inviting you into his home to share his experiences and family situation during lockdown – HE is an influencer.

A mom showing you how to create delicious meals on a minimal budget that are healthy and nutritious for your kids – SHE is an influencer.

Each of these people, in their own way, is defining a trend or setting an aspirational goal or demonstrating expertise. One might have millions of followers while the other only has a few hundred, but they share one thing in common: authenticity. And each has a very defined role to play in the influencer market – trendsetter, innovator, expert, reliable source, trusted caregiver, the characters in this play of life are endless.

All you need to do is find the one who resonates with you, your brand, your message, your dream. The one who really believes in your vision. The one who connects with you.The one who is real.

Influencers are real.

Real people with real lives and real stories and real experiences. In a world that is absolutely jam-packed with messages, it is the real voice that stands out. Finding that voice is not always easy.

For companies like R-Squared, it is our life’s work. We make connections. Not between brands and products and consumers and ROI and target audiences. Between people.

We find the real people, with the real stories. And then we let them tell their stories to the world. We do not tailor-make, we tailor source. We take your product, and we search out the people that actually connect with it. And that connect with others like them.

When a campaign is designed, executed and managed by experts, you go from a product endorsement to a life affiliation.

Budgeting for billions.

This is why influencer marketing is growing into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Pre-COVID estimates were that the influencer market would be worth over $10 billion in 2020. With the pandemic upon us, it was expected to slow down, but the opposite seems to be happening.

This time of isolation and increasing tension is showing us the real need for human-to-human connections. The bombardment of brand messages and unbelievable endorsements is coming to an end. Real people and real experiences are rising. Whether it’s a mom with a few hundred followers or a movie star with a million fans, people want genuine in a world filled with false promises and false hopes.

A personal connection.

Personally, I find this a very exciting time. A time of change and innovation for sure, but more a time of building humanity and building human connections – real human connections.

I have been at the helm of R-Squared for six years and have watched, and involved myself in, the growth of this incredibly exciting industry. I have seen it falter (see the entitled ones comment above) and I have seen it truly put the best of human empathy and emotion on display (see the switched-on celebs comment above).

As an agency shortlisted for Best Global Boutique Influencer Marketing Agency (holding thumbs for the awards in September), R-Squared is at the forefront of making influencer marketing an essential resource for brands and an authentic experience for people around the world.

Our mission is simple: keep it real.

Stephane Rogovsky

Stephane is a 41-year-old Belgian citizen. He grew up in Brussels, lived in Switzerland, before moving to South Africa. Authentic conversations with real people inspire Stephane, an entrepreneur with more than 15 years’ leadership experience, utilising strategic foresight, analytical abilities, and trend spotting in diverse areas. He founded R-Squared Digital, a leading Influencer Marketing Agency that partners with some of the largest brands, media, and advertising agencies in South Africa and internationally.

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Influencer Marketing: Adapting to Markets and Cultures

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Influencer Marketing: Adapting to Markets and Cultures

May 11, 2020

Managing influencer campaigns within specific territories or cultures can be very challenging, particularly for brands and marketers who don’t have expertise within particular regions. There are challenges related to culture, audiences and legislative requirements and restrictions.

At R-Squared, we operate globally, running influencer campaigns for multi-national groups in a variety of vertical markets. We have expertise in managing campaigns within a range of regions and cultural realities. We believe that understanding how influencer marketing differs from region to region is fundamental to the overall success of a campaign, affecting engagement and campaign costs.

Setting individualised missions for influencers is essential, factoring in all of the market and influencer-related specifics. Questions to be considered include market maturity – is influencer marketing well established in the region, or is it still a developing market? The answers will affect how competitive the market is, whether an audience will click on a link (conversion rate), influencer fees and influencer availability.

Once a brand or agency has established the above in the specific local markets internationally, and has created a brief for the influencers, the brand or agency should work with the influencer to understand their lifestyle, and how to integrate the brand concept into authentic content.

By sending one brief to all influencers for the same campaign, all influencers will produce very similar content. Within specific verticals, there is often an audience overlap, in which case, followers following several influencers who are all part of the same campaign will see the same type of content produced, which may alienate the audience. At this point, the importance of influencer mission setting plays a role in the success of the overall campaign.

It’s paramount to match the missions to the influencers and not the influencers to the missions. With the influencer tailoring lifestyle journeys, the content the influencers’ create will reinforce the brand message in their signature style. The tasks the brand or agency set should be a framework for the influencer to work from, not a script.

Thinking out of the box is necessary when it comes to dealing with influencers. It’s all about creating the perfect framework that allows for full creativity, authenticity and engagement while remaining aligned with the brand’s objectives and protecting its brand equity. Authenticity in the content is crucial to ensuring the message resonates with the target audience, in a way that is original and organic. In our opinion, agencies discussing individual missions with the influencers, and agreeing on those missions and objectives together, ensures that the content perfectly tells the influencer’s story, while aligning with the needs of the campaign.

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle Marais

Michelle Marais is the Digital Marketing Manager at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing agency partnering with some of the largest brands in South Africa and internationally. Our team focuses on out of the box solutions for authenticity in influencer marketing.

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Influencer Marketing Agency Selection Checklist

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Influencer Marketing Agency Selection Checklist

May 7, 2020

To many brands and agencies, influencer marketing is a significantly rising need. Like any segment of marketing, influencer marketing comes with very specific processes and risks, and requires a SIGNIFICANT level of specific expertise. But as the industry is growing, so is the number of influencer marketing agencies and platforms. Which one should you choose?

We’ve compiled this checklist to assist you in selecting and vetting the right one.

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle Marais

Michelle is the Digital Marketing Manager at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing agency partnering with some of the largest brands in South Africa and internationally.

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How can a brand advertise when it can’t trade?

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How can a brand advertise when it can’t trade?

April 15, 2020

My name is Michelle Marais. I’ve been involved in all aspects of Campaign Management for several years at R-Squared, and have recently been appointed as the Digital Marketing Manager. I feel strongly about how brands have adjusted their marketing efforts during this crisis (some have kept limited communication open, and others have closed communication channels due to being unable to trade immediately during this period, disregarding their long term consumer relationships), and I’ve written this article to share my opinion on how brands can communicate efficiently with their audience, maintaining brand love, even if unable to trade as usual. 

“If companies can create true desirability for their brands, customers will not only be loyal, they will also act as brand champions.” A bold statement, from the IEDP (International Executive Development Program – part of the ESADE Business School), who believe that desire is the philosopher’s stone of brands.

We’re all affected by COVID-19, every single one of us. For some, the lucky ones, they can continue trading despite the restrictions placed by government, and so their business models are sustainable despite this life-changing global event.  

Other companies and industries can’t trade at all during the lockdown. But this doesn’t mean they should cut all communication until they can trade again. There is a risk of breaking a strong bond that was built over years with their audience. Keep the communication open, even if you can’t trade, so that you will be the first ones to be remembered by the consumers at the end of the lockdown. At R-Squared we believe that for most brands, it is no time to sell, it is time to be there for your audience, and to strengthen the brand affinity. But how? Let’s explore it in this article. 

I believe that this pandemic will change the global mindset and landscape. But it’s also essential that brands stay in business, preserving jobs until the end of the crisis. It’s important to find creative, alternative ways to maintain their relationships with their audiences through this. It took many years to build that relationship, and some clients have incredible brand loyalty, staying faithful throughout their lives. It’s valuable to acknowledge and reciprocate that investment of loyalty.

Professor Oriol Iglesias, author of Brand Desire, says, and I agree implicitly as it perfectly illustrates the current scenario, that “brand desire explains how companies can engage customers emotionally and create value for them.”

Yes, it’s a time of economic uncertainty, brands can drive the vision of their business. I’ve seen fantastic brands suddenly cut communication with audiences – no more mailers, digital marketing or other forms of touching base with us, their dedicated fans. They just disappear into thin air because they can’t sell at this moment. I realise spending is sometimes pulled back in difficult financial periods, but why would they retain my loyalty as a consumer when the market lifts? Why shouldn’t I shift my brand loyalty to a competitor that demonstrates their consistent care for me? This leads me as a consumer to believe they’re only interested in me when it’s good for them. It’s not a time to focus on hardcore sales tactics right now. I want to see the relationships and brands I’ve been loyal to demonstrating that they value my business, even when consumerism isn’t possible. Create a concept that will captivate me until the crisis is over, and you will reinforce all the reasons why I’ll go back to you as soon as it is. 

Crocs on LinkedIn, demonstrating the human touch in the Coronavirus crisis
This example of content posted by Crocs in the USA on LinkedIn demonstrates that they have stayed connected, and really care about people. It’s not about sales. It’s about showing they care, and people will remember this after the crisis.

Even though most of us are housebound and frustrated, we’re living in a digital age. I spend time communicating with friends and loved ones through social media, not because of the pandemic, but as an extension of its impact in my social life. I can’t experience the dinners, the getaways, the retail purchasing that makes me happy when everything is business as usual. I can dream though. And that dream is what sustains me, until there’s an upturn again. The fact that I can watch influencers who share their dreams, means I share a stronger emotional connection with them, and with what they’re sharing. 

I love spending time with my children. I really miss the time spent with them at the park and at other outdoor events. I’m sure other moms can relate to this – privileged moments with our children, before they grow up. Roadtrips, maybe driving the kids to their grandparents, or visiting a farm. When I see  influencers who are young parents creating content, expressing how much they miss this experience too, I can strongly relate, because we are in the same boat; and even if the content is branded for a car, I can feel that they’re authentic and really feel the loss of freedom through the lockdown, which emotionally connects with me in a stronger way. This is true word of mouth – people really connecting with each other. 

Everyone, from CEOs to secretaries, from celebrities to influencers, are all in the same boat. Nobody can travel. I can’t take a roadtrip with my kids, but neither can anyone else. This makes everyone relatable to me in a way not possible in normal circumstances.  

Another example in South Africa, the trade of alcohol is forbidden during the lockdown. My colleagues and I have a passion for wine. As a team, every Friday afternoon we talk, laugh, have a drink and look back at the week that’s passed. I can watch an influencer share a throwback picture with your alcohol brand. When a South African influencer shares his favourite wine, he knows he can’t purchase again until the lockdown is over. Every sip he takes and shares online makes us feel like we can’t wait to try this wine, and this will probably be the first bottle I want to buy afterwards. 

Taking the same example further, the travel industry, which is facing a world-wide shutdown. After a long period under lockdown, after working frantically throughout, I’m going to need a holiday, a happy getaway from the four walls surrounding me. From the time I could travel, I’ve aspired to visiting Zanzibar. It’s a country with so many facets. There is no greater dream I have than tasting the flavours, shopping the markets, imbibing the scent of the natural environment. My boss challenged us to a set of milestones, which are underway, which will ultimately lead to my staying in Zanzibar for a holiday, but the reality is even if I had achieved my milestones today, I still wouldn’t be able to travel to Zanzibar. These travel restrictions related to Covid have ensured that. I nevertheless follow travel influencers on Instagram, and I’m amazed at the lifestyle images they have previously taken in the locations I look forward to staying in. Influencers showcasing pictures of their last trip in Zanzibar sponsored by someone in the hospitality industry, by sharing their dreams of returning, even if they were sponsored by brands, by giving us their amazing experiences, enables me to share their dreams, and want to visit the same places they visited. 

Influencer in Zanzibar
This influencer projected me into her Zanzibar dream

I can’t go to Zanzibar, take my boys to the park, or even buy a bottle of wine right now. But neither can celebrities and influencers who are also under lockdown.  Everyone in South Africa is facing the same restrictions. It’s a level playing field. This is the first time in my life that there are no barriers in society. Whether you are in a relationship or not, whether you’re in a good job or not, this is a time when people can truly relate to others. We’re all in the same boat.  

Influencers are real humans facing all the same restrictions I am. Whether they are rich and famous or not, have a fantastic job or not, whether they have a beautiful family or are single, have a big house or live in the same flat, when I see their content during this period, I can feel that we are all in the same boat, and all missing the same basic goods and experiences, so when they endorse a service or product and dream about it too. Brands that haven’t cut contact or shared a corporate message with me, but who shown me that they care, are the ones I’ll turn to when the lockdown is lifted. 

This is a human crisis, and we all need the human touch right now. 

Michelle Marais, Digital Marketing Manager

Michelle Marais

Michelle is the Digital Marketing Manager at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing agency partnering with some of the largest brands in South Africa and internationally. Through this crisis, our team has seen a change of behaviour and attitude from audiences and influencers who are connecting at a much deeper level, and we wanted to share this experience with you. 

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