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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The Rise of Coronavirus, Influencer Marketing, and Business Continuity

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The Rise of Coronavirus, Influencer Marketing, and Business Continuity

March 17, 2020

While it’s not completely business as usual in light of the Coronavirus, R-Squared’s operations aren’t affected, and measures for business continuity have been taken in order to not disturb existing campaigns and projects, ensuring the highest levels of quality. Influencer Marketing, and communication through community leaders can be extremely powerful in times of crisis, so here are some critical precautions to ensure people and brand safety and the powerful dissemination of your messaging:

  • At this time of crisis influencers
    will be extremely efficient in assisting to shift your digital efforts to
    building awareness
  • This will drive online sales from
    the comfort of your audiences’ sofa, all the while your audience is staying
    self-confined.
  • Work with influencers to share
    your brand’s message that you care for your audience, and these are the ways
    your audience can now have access to your services or products while staying
    safe.

Finance, insurance, and other service industries are able to work remotely, yet hand in hand with influencers, in sharing important tips on staying safe and efficiently looking after your finances during times of economic and health uncertainty.

During this time of crisis, if managed with significant expertise, content from influencers will be increasingly impactful. They are people speaking to people; it’s not a corporate message. People are concerned and need an emotional connection with someone they trust and follow, right now. Make it you.

If you are already a client of R-Squared, your Account Manager will be in touch to evaluate the needs to review the current or future campaigns. If you are considering working with R-Squared but are not a client yet, please communicate with stephane@r2digital.co.za or via WhatsApp at +27 (0)60 698 7204 to assess your brief and timeline against current capacity before sending your brief.

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Unsolicited influencer posts: Ensure perfect brand alignment

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Unsolicited influencer posts: Ensure perfect brand alignment

November 5, 2019

Have
you ever wondered what to do when an unsolicited influencer makes an
unsolicited post about your brand and tags you? Every brand appreciates
unsolicited influencers posting positively on their behalf. But how can you
ensure that those posts are perfectly aligned with your brand positioning,
optimised for positive engagement, and designed to protect the brand equity if the
post was unsolicited?

Do
you realise that there is a strategic economic advantage in bringing your paid
and unpaid influencers together to train and form a formidable social advocacy
team for your brand?

R-Squared offers an
innovative world-class solution – the R-Squared Influencer Academy, a
white-labelled program personalised for brands, established to mitigate risks
from unsolicited posts while increasing brand alignment and positive engagement.

A
chronology of how the need arises – 


An Influencer posts an unsolicited piece of content and tags the Brand.


On seeing the post, the brand weighs the value and is either happy about it or
not.

For instance, a wrong engagement question like ‘Why do
you think that this brand’s product is awesome?’ could trigger negative
comments, including comments from the audience driving other audience members
to a competitor product.


Either way, Brands wonder what they can do to encourage or improve on these
pieces of unsolicited content.

So
what can brands do? Brands can take advantage of the R-Squared Influencer Academy,
designed to coach and give tips, hints and advice to influencers who post
unsolicited brand content, so as to mitigate risk, increase quality and brand
alignment for unsolicited posts that would have gone live anyway without the
added value of the coaching.
Brands can thus reward their most ardent advocates
with coaching from R-Squared experts.

1. Brand and R-Squared agree on the service to be
provided (e.g., which category of influencer qualifies for assistance, etc.)

2. Brand fully briefs R-Squared on brand and product
positioning

3. R-Squared sets up a white-labelled contact centre
for the brand (email and WhatsApp)

4. Influencers submit the content by email or
WhatsApp to the point of contact for the influencer’s academy setup for the
brand

5. R-Squared coaches and guides the influencers for
risk mitigation, and increased brand alignment 

6. Post goes live

7. Influencers and brands are happy

Some of the brand benefits  include:

  • Increased brand awareness
  • Increased brand loyalty
  • The facilitation of valuable customer feedback loops
  • Increased sales

But who is
R-Squared?

R-Squared is the top leading Influencer Marketing
Agency in South Africa, and also a leading Influencer Marketing Agency internationally,
responsible for innovative influencer campaigns. R-Squared is comprised of
experts with one passion only – Influencer Marketing. R-Squared is responsible
for masterful management and industry expertise in designing, executing and
managing influencer marketing projects that are engaging, authentic and
protective of brand equity. The CEO of R-Squared is also the IAB SA Council
lead for the digital and influencer space, providing guidelines and best
practices for influencer marketing. 

Contact us now to get started – partners@r2digital.co.za

*written in October
2019. *Michelle Marais and Emmanuel Okonkwo, R-Squared Digital.

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Stephane Rogovsky to lead IAB SA Digital Influencer Committee

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Stephane Rogovsky to lead IAB SA Digital Influencer Committee

October 29, 2019

Following IAB
SA’s recent announcement of new committee members for the IAB SA Digital
Influencer Committee, R-Squared Digital is excited to share that its CEO and
Founder, Stephane Rogovsky, is the newly appointed Council Lead of the IAB SA
Digital Influencer Council.

While still
in its infancy phase, the influencer marketing industry is one of the fastest
growing segments of digital marketing. There are currently multiple and
differing definitions of influencer marketing and influencers, as well as the
influencer tiers, how ROI is calculated, benchmarks used, and best practices,
and this council will lead the process of consolidating of these views in order
to develop set guidelines, best practices and benchmarks for digital influencer
marketing in South Africa, and to empower the media and marketing industry to
make better digital decisions regarding best practice and standard definitions
for influencers in the digital space.

As announced by the IAB SA, Rogovsky
will also be working closely with Zoe Soon, IAB Global VP Mobile centre of
Excellence (also over-seeing this area of expertise) to co-develop and
collaborate on projects where relevant and meaningful. Rogovsky thrilled to be
working with the IAB Global Head Office on meaningful projects relevant to the
influencer marketing industry on a global scale. “It is an honour to be part of the process; coordinating this
discussion at a global level whereby industry standards will be set, all the
while leading change in the influencer marketing industry alongside truly great
industry leaders,” Rogovsky comments.

Don’t miss the IAB Insight Series Event: Digital Influencer Marketing at Kantar in Cape Town on 28 November 2019, where IAB SA Digital Influencer Committee lead, Stephane Rogovsky will be the keynote speaker!

For more information, read the IAB SA announcement here:

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THE 2019 INFLUENCER MARKETING HOLIDAY READINESS GUIDE

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THE 2019 INFLUENCER MARKETING HOLIDAY READINESS GUIDE

October 22, 2019

It’s that time of year again. Retailers are preparing for Black Friday and the holiday season. Chain stores are playing Boney M’s Little Drummer Boy. Tinsel is appearing as if by magic. Your online shopping cart is full, and you’re ready to purchase as soon as the prices drop. Now is the opportune time to plan ahead and book your influencer marketing campaigns for Black Friday.

It’s October, and preparation for the biggest global shopping experience has begun.

BankservAfrica (an automated clearing house operating in Africa and based in Johannesburg) researched Black Friday sales statistics revealing that South Africans spent a total of R2 897 897 379 for 2018, a 15.92% growth when compared with 2017’s R2 499 876 432. 2019 is looking like a marketing team’s dream.

So how can your brand or agency capitalise on that?

Standing Out
With statistics showing the growth rate of influencer marketing coupled with the psychological findings showing consumer attachment to influencers, there is no doubt that influencer marketing will offer an outstanding opportunity for your agency/brand. It will drive consumer interest to your brand and get real recommendations from influencers.
The fact is, people respond to endorsements from people they trust.

While macro influencers and celebrities are fantastic for brand awareness campaigns, micro influencers are everyday people, facing the same financial challenges as their audiences. This makes them far more relatable in this seasonal context, and marketing teams heading into peak buying season would be well served by using them at this time of year. Have your micro influencers drive sales by inviting their audience to plan ahead of the festive season, and to buy now at the highly discounted prices rather than wait for the overpriced Christmas Gift season.

We got you
We at R-Squared understand that it’s almost year-end, and brands may not have large budgets to drive influencer marketing campaigns. Now is your opportunity to leverage a perfect framework that will not only promote engagement but also promote your brand’s equity against any advertising risk. You want a return on investment? R-Squared is the expert influencer marketing agency that will create the perfect framework for you.

Send us an email on info@r2digital.co.za now and let’s create something magical.

*written in October 2019. *Michelle Marais and Emmanuel Okonkwo at R-Squared, a leading influencer marketing creative agency in South Africa that works with most of the best brands and agencies in the country and internationally. R-Squared Digital is known for its masterful management and its specific industry expertise in designing, executing and managing influencer marketing projects that are extremely engaging, authentic, and protecting the brand equity.

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