December 30, 2020
That’s how 2020 went for most of us. We didn’t know when Monday turned into Friday or April to August.
What we do know is the year that ‘doesn’t count’ is ending. (Thank you, dear sweet baby Jesus!)
So, all of us at DYT say down together (virtually, of course) to reminisce how influencer marketing changed in 2020.
The few brands who didn’t see the value of digital content creators finally did. While the number of influencer marketing campaigns may have dropped like a stone in free fall, their impact and reach increased by 57%!
The reactive phase of the pandemic
From the Ides of March, brands began to scramble and panic. We were this close to the lockdown and marketers saw the writing on the wall. They ruthlessly cut down their ad spend and budgets. Campaigns were put on pause or altogether scrapped.
Then they saw the sudden uptick in content consumption. Screen-time was at an all-time high, which meant the only way to be on top of the consumer’s mind was digital content.
So, a transformational move to digital content instead of billboards, TV ads, radio and print occurred.
The shift to digital media by creators
Since production houses were shut down, and photo shoots were cancelled, brands were at a loss. How do you post content when you can’t make it?
Creators and brand advocates stepped in to solve the problem. With influencer marketing campaigns, brands could source digital content at scale and keep in touch with their audience at a time when nothing else worked.
With brand advocates, they could tap into the creativity of content creators who already used the brand or were fans of it. Such UGC gave them access to branded contently quickly and at a fraction of the cost.
The shift away from mega influencers towards smaller creators. Micro-influencers were adept at home-created low-production content. They could do from home what bigger influencers and celebrities could not – be director, producer, creator, editor simultaneously.
It cemented the value of everyday content creators in helping brands gain more visibility and reach with audiences.
The move to virtual events
In-store events, brand activations, pop-ups and more have always been part of marketing and advertising. But the need to remain physically distant put paid to all such activities.
With businesses desperate to find an alternative, Instagram Live became everyone’s bread and butter. From product launches to conferences, every event was virtual.
Brands recognised when online was the biggest sales channel they needn’t rely on offline activities as much. You could bring your community together through social media. And you could push sales further through Facebook Shops, and Instagram’s shopping feature.
The switch to short-form content
Limits to social interaction stretched the creativity of creators. It meant long YouTube videos or IGTVs dried up. Add to it that attention spans shortened, quick videos and creative stories became extremely popular.
There was a sharp incline in the consumption of Reels, TikToks and Shorts. Brands noticed the acceptance of shorter content and included Stories in influencer marketing campaigns. As a result, the number of sponsored Stories increased in 2020.
The men’s innerwear brand specifically asked creators for an Instagram Story or a brief YouTube video. The app for doctor consultations wanted either 3 Instagram Stories or a short video testimonial.
The pivot of messaging
2020 also made it clear that marketing messaging had to change. During the pandemic’s peak, 78% of people said they didn’t want a brand to advertise, but help them in their daily lives.
That meant brands couldn’t afford to be tone-deaf. They needed to think messaging through, even when promoting a product or brand. Again, creators came to the rescue.
They were masters at creating content that added value to followers. So, instead of a product shot on a white background with a caption listing the benefits, they displayed how a product made it easier to stay home.
Authenticity became the calling card. Curated feeds with highly edited and filtered content went out of the window. Transparent, natural and unfiltered content became more welcomed.
Creators and brands alike spoke on topics like anxiety and loneliness. They generated more educational content and heavily participated in social activism.
It bears repeating that 2020 was not a good year for anyone. For the marketing industry at large, it was particularly challenging. At the same time, technology made it easier while revealing a few glaring gaps.
A marketer cannot solely rely on polished, creative content to convince people to buy their product. It has to be helpful, personal, thought-provoking and engaging.
That means you need customised, compelling content to target customers. 2020 was testament that with the right creator partner and influencer marketing campaign, a brand can achieve all of this.