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Influencing the Influencers Now Essential Part of the Marketing Mix

Such is the clout of social media influencers that brands should woo the key players in their sector and partner with them as a way of curating their online reputations, according to many exhibitors at this year's Marketing Technology Expo.

Photo: From nerdy to nearly essential: Social media influencers can now make or break a brand. (Shutterstock.com)
From nerdy to nearly essential: Social media influencers can now make or break a brand.
Photo: From nerdy to nearly essential: Social media influencers can now make or break a brand. (Shutterstock.com)
From nerdy to nearly essential: Social media influencers can now make or break a brand.

Online reviews and social media influencers are increasingly important to brand performance, according to many of the industry professionals attending this year's Marketing Technology Expo (MTEX), the London-hosted event that bills itself as "the leading exhibition for the latest developments in digital marketing". Among the other topics getting an airing on the busy showfloor were artificial intelligence and augmented / virtual reality (AR/VR), with the technologies seen as finally nearing the end of their long journey from being amusing novelties to becoming established as practical sales tools.

While there was no shortage of marketers willing to evangelise over the potency of such technologies, by and large they found themselves playing second fiddle to the brand influencers. Admittedly while the power of these social media brand ambassadors dominated proceedings, there was still room for one old favourite to surface from time to time – return on investment from any form of marketing, regardless of channel, whether via new or old media or by high- or low-tech means.

At the core of all these discussions was the diverse range of seminars taking place throughout the two-day event. While many speakers sought to introduce wholly new marcoms technologies, others were more focused on reinventing traditional resources for the digital age. Falling very much into the latter category was Mindy Loverin, Vice-President of Strategic Partnerships for Shutterstock, the New York-headquartered image library.

Taking as her theme Recreating the Creative Brief for Content Marketing, she maintained there was now a growing need to generate photographic imagery that was uniquely 'on-brand', with too much content on digital channels inherently visually generic. Fortunately, a solution to this very problem was to hand, courtesy, unsurprisingly enough, of a new service from her company – Shutterstock Custom.

Outlining the concept behind it, she said: "Thanks to our streamlined approach, our creative teams can produce content in an unprecedented volume and at a uniformly high level of quality, allowing marketers to hit micro-segments all around the globe."

More in the new tech category came from Chelsea Gurr, Sales and Campaign Manager for Dacadoo, a Zurich-based business looking to fuse big data, game play and healthcare. To this end, using an engaging blend of 'gamification' and augmented reality, she ably demonstrated how immersive brand content could be seamlessly integrated into her company's fitness app.

Looking deceptively conventional, meanwhile, was the stand belonging to Akeneo, a French software company, with its exhibition space emblazoned with the logos of the great and good from across the international marketing solutions scene. Explaining the company's choice of livery, UK Manager James Barlow, said: "We work with a large number of solution partners across the world in order to help customers implement Akeneo PIM."

Photo: Animmersion UK: Hologrammatic highlighting.
Animmersion UK: Hologrammatic highlighting.
Photo: Animmersion UK: Hologrammatic highlighting.
Animmersion UK: Hologrammatic highlighting.
Photo: G-Smatt: Smart glass masters.
G-Smatt: Smart glass masters.
Photo: G-Smatt: Smart glass masters.
G-Smatt: Smart glass masters.

Akeneo Product Information Management, to give its full title, is a system designed to gather a wide variety of product information – including images, pricing and descriptions – for retail, wholesale and marketplace prices in one accurate and organised database. It then functions as an organised open-source platform, ideal for use by e-commerce sites that have high volumes of product content.

Adding a sprinkle of magical 3D reality to the event, meanwhile, was Middlesbrough-based Animmersion UK, with its eye-catching array of oversized hologrammatic displays. These proved to be a real magnet for delegates, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to the company's stand.

Introducing its range of services, Studio Manager Andrew Liddell said: "We provide a total package, including design consultancy, hologram production and a range of Dreamoc display systems sourced from Realfiction in Denmark. We also offer animation and AR/VR services."

Visual content of a different kind was on offer from Derby-based Bloc Digital, a specialist in 3D digital modelling and animation. Explaining how his business fits into the marketing mix, Director Chris Hotham said: "Our 3D modelling services are often called upon when photography cannot be practically used. This has seen us do things like rendering an engine in glass, so all its parts can be seen. Creating visual content that engages an audience is a challenge for marketers and we use a variety of digital tools to create impactful images to help them do just that."

Glass also came into the equation for G-Smatt Europe, an Oxford-based company specialising in display systems that use a smart incarnation of the material. Keen to promote the benefits of its Versatile glass media structures, Key Client Manager Sarina Desai said: "The moving images generated within our glass walls present numerous opportunities for marketers to create an impact with our Versatile modules at point of sale and events. In fact, this is something of a world-first in terms of event technologies."

In addition to digital displays and 3D-rendering, online reputation management (ORM) has emerged as a core marcoms discipline in recent years, at least according to Phil Capper, a Sales Manager with Reputation.com Inc, a California-headquartered business with a focus on that very discipline. Justifying his assertion, he said: "Managing your brand's reputation online across the full spectrum of touch-points is vital when it comes to maintaining competitiveness. Our new clients see, on average, an increase of 650% in review quality within the first three months of working with us. This, without doubt, drives financial results."

According to Capper, clients, including many large international brands, are now well aware of the importance of online reviews. As a result, soliciting positive comments from customers and brand influencers has now become a marketing priority.

One company that has looked to establish a far more direct relationship with influencers is Onalytica, a New York-headquartered business established in 2009 with a view to managing the interaction between such individuals and the brands that are ever-more keen to solicit their approval. As a sign of the growing clout of this particular aspect of the marketing mix, over the past 10 years, the company claims to have manged more than 1,000 B2B and B2C influencer programmes on behalf of some of the world's biggest brands.

Maintaining that the sector is yet to peak, Business Development Director Taz Bhachoo said: "Today, many marketers see identifying the key influencers as one of their biggest challenges. It's a challenge we can help meet. Our Influencer Discovery platform mines more than 200 billion posts, allowing us to create a comprehensive database of social-media influencers.

"Essentially, we gather data from Twitter, Blogger, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn, which allow us to identify influencers and then implement a variety of engagement strategies. The software for single use starts in the region of US$500 per month, but is usually customised for clients' specific needs."

Photo: The 2019 Marketing Technology Expo: Devoted to promoting promising promotional technology.
The 2019 Marketing Technology Expo: Devoted to promoting promising promotional technology.
Photo: The 2019 Marketing Technology Expo: Devoted to promoting promising promotional technology.
The 2019 Marketing Technology Expo: Devoted to promoting promising promotional technology.

The 2019 Marketing Technology Expo (MTEX) took place from 27-28 March at London Excel.

David Wilkinson, Special Correspondent, London

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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