Influencer marketing is the most powerful tool in a marketer's toolbox, but the term "influence" is widely misunderstood, said Team Epiphany founder and Managing Partner Coltrane Curtis at the One Club's Creative Summit Thursday.
"Influence is a force of nature. Influence is not for sale; you can't sell influence," said Curtis, who started Team Epiphany in 2004. The influencer marketing shop works with brands like Coca-Cola, Nike, HBO, Cadillac, Heineken, Hendrick's Gin and Google.
Curtis broke down the five key principles that marketers have to always remember when it comes to so-called influencer marketing.
'Pay for play. No fucking way'
The best way to work with influencers, which requires a little extra effort, is to co-create with them.
"You can't buy cool," said Curtis. "If you pay solely for amplification, you don't get organic support."
Brands don't influence people
People do. "Brands generally hire the people to create the energy around the products they're making," said Curtis.
Influencers are not media outlets
Influencers are people, too -- and marketers should use them for engagement, not impressions. The clever way for marketers to use their media budget, said Curtis, is to put dollars behind an influencer's post to amplify the message because it'll help get more eyes on the content, he said.
Celebrities are not influencers
The network or community that creates and curates the celebrity are the true influencers.
"Would Kim or Kayne be who they are without a team that created them? Nope. Influencers often shape the personalities, looks and decisions of celebrities," he said. Sometimes, celebrities will get involved with a campaign for free if they see an influencer in their own community who's already taking part.
Celebrities are also inherently inauthentic, said Curtis, and in the last month, more than 90 businesses, celebrities and musicians have been called out for deceptive marketing efforts on social media. Micro-influencer campaigns, however, are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than influencers with large followings. And with a lower cost per engagement, influencers net a higher return on investment than a generic celebrity.
Influence is not a tactic
It's a strategy. Influencers should be baked into every stage, from conceptualization and research to execution and scale, in order to achieve the most success, he said.
For Glenfiddich, which was aging out a bit, Team Epiphany was able to garner 150.6 million media impressions in hip outlets like GQ and Esquire by partnering with street-style influencer Josh Peskowitz. The influencer went to the Glenfiddich factory in Scotland and created a modern fashion collection imbued with Scotch history.