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We spoke to Rachelle Denton, Co-Founder and Senior Creative Strategist, The Storm Collective

How are you seeing organisations become ‘more digital’? 

An organisation ‘becoming digital’ can mean so many things. How companies look at social media is a good example. I think a lot of people consider social to be a bit of a bolt-on; one of the outcomes of digital. As in “we do print, we do radio, we do social…”.  It turns into a tick box list as opposed to part of an integrated strategy. We all need to think more about ‘baking in’ digital behaviour into everything we’re doing, because that is actually the way most audience segments work. People don’t think about being digital or non-digital, it’s all the same to them.  

To give an example, research shows people aren't very cognisant of their own behaviours and despite statistics, they don't consider themselves to be frequent users of mobile devices. You hear people say things like "young people don't watch TV". The truth is they do watch TV, they just don't watch it on a traditional television. Some great entertainment providers are challenged by whether people tune in to programming content live or watch it on demand. 


With consumers controlling how and where they enjoy your content, how much of your marketing can really be measured against your own targets and planning?

Measurement can be a challenge. Firstly there’s the issue of tracking how consumers are discovering your content. For example, a friend of yours on Facebook might say: “Did you see that clip where there was this speed boat and a dolphin jumped up and stole the fish right from someone’s hand? It was unbelievable, you have to watch it!.” Then you notice on the same thread that someone else thinks this is a TV show, maybe on Netflix. That type of conversation happens all the time. A GIF has been shared and yet no one has named the actual TV show. 

I think when you're doing marketing it's okay to have some stuff that's nebulous and some that's trackable. As long as you're clear about what your expectations are and what you can and can't track. You can't have everything being nebulous and I don't think everything can be 100 percent tracked either. If you're clear up front on your measurement framework, people are more comfortable with some softer metrics.  


How are you seeing legacy brands approaching digital? 

Some do it better than others. I think the bigger the business, the harder it is for them to integrate digital processes across the entire business. When we ask clients how their company is implementing digital processes, we often hear people say “that's not my specialty, that's not my bag.” They think it's okay to shut down the question. I think knowledge is really important. However, whilst a little bit of knowledge is dangerous, none is probably worse. For example, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recently asked about his controversial use of Twitter, his response was: "the twittersphere is not really my provenance". It really isn’t good enough for someone to claim ignorance of such a widely-used digital channel and way of communicating to the public. Besides, if President Donald Trump can learn how to use Twitter, everybody can.

Businesses with people at the top who have a personal fear around anything ‘digital’ because it’s outside of their comfort zone, need to change. There is a tendency for senior managers to talk about digital as something they don’t personally get involved with but they ‘understand’ because they manage the people that are hands-on and do work at a tactics and channels level. The fact that they don’t actually understand the concept is dangerous territory to be in. To have great digital objectives and outcomes there needs to be a level of knowledge that allows for digital to be ingrained into tasks from the briefing stage. There needs to be leaders who understand when and how to cross-pollinate teams and expertise.


What other big trends are you seeing across your clients?

We are getting more requests for influencers from our clients. Currently these are often last minute in nature and almost always a part of an important product launch. However, depending on the industry, the assumption about what influencers are, what they are good for and how they can help, is changing. 


Do you think there's still a lot of education required around influencer marketing?

Influencer marketing definitely has an association with examples that feed into people's fears and concerns and gives them a reason to be skeptical. Many refuse to do influencer marketing full stop because they don't believe in the ROI on it. We've done quite a lot of work around this which is shared in the learning module I wrote for Circus Street on influencer marketing (to be released in 2020). From our perspective, unless the influencers are content creators, it shouldn't be a paid-for relationship but instead a value exchange. 

Questions marketers need to consider include: what is the value in it for the influencer and what is the value in it for the brand? How can you meet each other's requirements to have a mutually beneficial relationship? 

There’s a way of creating much more authentic content. If you simply find an influencer that talks about makeup and assign them to your makeup brand you’re just doing old fashioned advertising. Successful influencer marketing is more about finding someone who deeply cares about the principles you have and the topics you talk about. It’s about exploring a more open, collaborative relationship. 


Are you finding that companies are more receptive to influencer marketing when it’s being framed as a ‘value exchange’?

Yes. You don't tend to have as much pushback on it. I mean, companies don't always have to spend money on getting influencers on-board. Sometimes it’s more about spending time nurturing the relationship and making sure you are valuing their time too. 

If you're operating on behalf of a charity, for example, you want to be very particular about budget. It’s possible to partner with someone who has the same beliefs and principles as you, and help them use their audience to distribute your message. You can generate conversations without having to spend money and instead look at someone who works with a different incentive.  


Would you say influencer marketing takes on a similar mindset to identifying other commercial partnerships? 

Definitely. Partnership principles is a really great way of looking at it. When we're talking to our clients about influencers, we often say “can we just start by calling them 'people of influence' in the sphere that you operate in?”. Influencers don't have to be defined by their volume. They can be defined by their presence and their authenticity.


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