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Trust me I'm an influencer

by Betsan Jones


My generation has a general mistrust of mainstream media.

You don’t need me to tell you, there are facts to prove it. More than eight in 10 millennials don’t trust traditional advertisers. In fact, one study found that we’re the least trusting of any generation. A comforting thought.

Because on the whole, we’re a probing lot. We don’t like to take things at face value, and we’ll do our own research into the benefits of that new vitamin water / mobile contract / health insurance offering, thanksverymuch. (Review sites, you’ve changed my world.)

But we’re also fatigued by choice.

Hell, we’re all fatigued by choice. But there’s a certain kind of melancholia that sets in when you realise you’ve failed your generation’s hunter-gatherer approach to information because there are just too many options; too much info; too much choice when it comes to buying a tube of f****** toothpaste.

So what do we do? On the one hand, we want to make good, informed, intelligent decisions. On the other: we’re weighed down by the possibilities.

So we search for something we recognise. We look for our voices in that noise. After all, people are pretty narcissistic (and if you believe the hype, then millennials are more narcissistic than the rest).

We look for our values. Our likes and dislikes. We read blogs, research the author. We look at their videos. Sign up to their podcasts. We form a relationship with the person, the persona, the brand. If we knew them in real life, we think, we’d definitely/probably be friends.

And then, one of our top five internet personalities starts doing something with a product.

‘Oh – right?’ We think. ‘Right. That’s happening, is it? Well, she must have a good reason for doing that. I mean, I can see how they share the same aesthetics. And yeah, attitude. Definitely attitude. And I totally like the way he’s brought his own flair to that shoot. Where can I get that holographic bag…?’

And there you have it. Product x favourite online personality = instant trust. Even for the savvy millennial.

A brand partnership. No different, really, to Nike partnering with Nivea. Except that this time, it’s personal.

This time, a brand has sought out a person who through their own, personal content falls in line with the brand’s core values. A person whose circle of influence matches the brand’s core audience. Someone with the knack for communicating an idea that resonates with a large group of people – the type of people a brand wants to speak to.

But it doesn’t always happen as effectively as that. If you’ve ever weeded through Kylie Jenner’s instagram page(zero judgement here) and come across a boomerang snap of her throwing some branded hair pills at her pout, then I’m sure your first reaction was: ‘Boomerang makes my eyes hurt’ then, ‘Couldn't she have done that in a cleverer way?’ And you’re right. She could have.

A brand partnership. No different, really, to Nike partnering with Nivea. Except that this time, it’s personal.

The Man Repeller x Topshop collaboration is a masterclass in how it can work. One infamous fashion and lifestyle blogger (Leandra Medine, a.k.a. Man Repeller) partnering with one of the world’s largest high-street clothing brands.

A natural collaboration, right? Both have that savvy, intelligent, fashionable appeal. And Topshop took the back seat, commissioning a special Man Repeller video: a choreographed shoot with its own storyline, and lots and lots of personality. Leandra’s personality. In fact, apart from dressing the protagonists, Topshop was nowhere to be found in that video. It was all Man Repeller.

Leandra’s personality, her voice, her values, her likes and dislikes; they drove the content.

Topshop knew that these were the things that would make that invaluable connection between brand and audience. They had the creative sense to step back and give platform to the traits that would have the biggest influence on their sales.

The traits that would create an automatic shortcut to trust.

Brands spending money on personality-driven content (exactly what Leandra delivered for Topshop) is expected to hit $240 million in 2019, and it’s no wonder.

The next generation won’t be influenced by contrived messages. Pop culture, through shows like Gruen, has removed the smoke and mirrors which means they know the set up. In order to trust, we now demand honesty.

Perhaps not a new message, after all.

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