By Jeff Chown, President, Culture Marketing
Influencers populate a continuum that spans from niche content creators to A-list celebrities. A brand’s immediate needs and budget have often determined where on the continuum they played, leading them to engage agencies for ad hoc services instead of a holistic approach to influence.
Influence is a long-term investment in your brand resonance. Any sound investment strategy calls for diversification and time. Brands need to incorporate multiple kinds of talent, using multiple tactics, to maximize ROI. Too often, brands wait to engage influencers until they have an urgent need, and end up paying a premium for content that feels inauthentic — because it is.
A powerful complement (or alternative) to paying
influencers is earning their support, a practice we call VIP relations. In order to earn support,
you have to identify the right talent, establish relationships, and nurture those
relationships over time, ultimately building real loyalty. The payoff of those
relationships can be quick or sometimes take years, but when they hit for our
clients, they hit big!
VIP Relations can include seeding, experiential, and dressing. Let’s define. TMA’s approach to seeding is strategically creating gifts that are customized to surprise and delight; they are not available for purchase. Bear in mind, VIPs get a lot of gifts. A lot. So It takes exceptional insight and creativity to craft a seeding experience that inspires talent to share with their followers.
Designing unique experiences for the VIP provides another gateway to earn their loyalty. Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy, for example, introduces VIPs to the biker experience, and for many who try it, riding becomes an enduring part of their lifestyle.
Celebrity dressing connects fashion designers with talent for red carpet and editorial opportunities. This practice is a core offering of the VIP relations division that operates out of Hideaway, TMA’s luxury lifestyle and fashion showroom located in West Hollywood. In addition, brand events at Hideaway enable us to bring VIPs into an immersive experience of community that engages all the senses.
As the largest brand-side agency in celebrity endorsements, TMA has been fostering relationships with talent for 27 years. Through our Film/TV/OTT and Music practices, we have an inside track on identifying talent on the ascent. Working with a client over time, we develop a robust portfolio of brand evangelists in all career stages.
A fully developed program, in its ideal state, covers the entire continuum of influence. We use an always-on approach to keep the brand top-of-mind for consumers, and constantly expand the brand’s creator community across key markets to ensure a healthy baseline of earned media.
Additionally, we look to integrate our clients into memorable cultural events throughout the year through our VIPs. This pulsing is driven by earned exposure and should include paid amplification. One of the benefits of earned is helping to identify talent who have real affinity for the brand. This should be a vital consideration whenever graduating to a paid partnership.
When paying, a brand gets to control the timing, channels, and messaging of the influencer’s content. For down-funnel objectives, where you need specific and direct calls to action, paid campaigns are the way to go. But payment shouldn’t be the only tool in a brand’s influencer kit.
For the brand moments of highest importance, we leverage the most effective influencers to reach a wide audience most efficiently. When the time comes to select a spokesperson, who could be more authentic and effective than a talent who has been immersed in your brand since the early stages of their career?
Depending our clients’ KPIs and unique business challenges, we can leverage either our VIP Relations, paid influencer or celebrity acquisition practices. Yet when combined, they produce something greater: a holistic solution that results in maximum cultural resonance for the brand.
TMA’s Kate True, Indigo Charles and Jake Schneider contributed to this article.