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Earlier this month I attended Salesforce’s annual digital marketing event, Connections hosted in Atlanta. There was a wide variety of speakers and topics covered, from email marketing to life in space from astronaut Scott Kelly, and buzzwords like “scalability” and “consumer journey” baked into powerpoint after powerpoint.
One of my favorite sessions was uniquely titled “How Taylor Swift Changed Marketing Forever.” The sheer volume of Tay Tay fans made this session hard to get into and what caught my eye wasn’t T. Swift, but instead the speaker: a Gartner Analyst by the name of Martin Kihn. I am familiar with Marty from his most famous book “House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time”, which was later adapted into a Showtime Series “House of Lies” where the main character’s name is Marty Kahn (played by Don Cheadle).
As Marty opened with some trivia about Taylor, I immediately realized I was the least knowledgeable person in the crowd about the music star. Then he went into explaining how Taylor changed marketing by creating a unique brand, which Marty coined the “Unbrand.” What makes a Brand different from an Unbrand is their differing habits:
The concept of the “Unbrand” resonated with me and immediately I realized how these same Unbrand habits are applied to best-in-class influencer marketing programs. Brands that are practicing influencer marketing correctly work with Unbrands as their influencers. These are the individuals online affecting your brand’s consumers buying and decision making process because they are trusted members of their online communities. They are real and we see ourselves in them, can relate to them, and trust their thought leadership. I recently purchased an Amazon Echo because several people I look to as tech thought leaders in my network were sharing their positive experiences and use-cases of the technology, not because Wired wrote a review of the product. I bet you make purchasing decisions in a similar fashion, right?
Unfortunately not all marketers understand this yet. I regularly walk into meetings where the goal is centered around an influencer marketing program working with folks with the largest reach possible. They dig in and focus on vanity metrics like number of followers, connections, etc... These influencers also have a tendency to create A TON of content, engage very little and cover an extremely wide range of topics. They are talking heads and drive little action with their audiences by throwing stuff at the wall all day hoping something insightful sticks.
Marty highlighted key takeaways and, while all were very insightful, a couple of them really resonated with my influencer marketing application:
Influencer marketing can learn a lot from the concept of the Unbrand. First comes the brands and their interactions with influencers. Brands need to focus on relevance ensuring they aren’t getting caught up in the vanity of it all, listen to their influencers to ensure they are hearing and understanding their needs, and work with influencers that reflect their consumers.
The other half to the equation is what influencers can learn. The more that influential people understand the concept of the Unbrand the better the space will become. My belief is that most influencers online incorporate the qualities of the Unbrand, but many did and changed once they became influential and strayed from their roots. You see this when people with influence begin to opt-in to paid networks and suddenly start spamming their audiences with irrelevant ads. And suddenly, they are not listening and engaging with their own audience because they’re too busy “running a business.” It’s an easy way to lose your following and break trust with your audience.
So how does your brand stack up? Brand or Unbrand? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.