Caspar Lee, co-founder and chief visionary officer of Influencer.com, began his career on YouTube in 2010 and has since amassed a cumulative following of 19 million. Lee recently spoke to The Drum about the state of creativity within Influencer Marketing and how brands can work in closer harmony with online content creators…
Are brands responsible for a lack of creativity within influencer marketing?
There is still a huge lack of understanding among brands around how to include influencer marketing in their overall marketing strategies, which results in an apparent lack of creativity.
What many brands fail to understand is that the same creative cannot be used across the different mediums. This means that an idea that works extremely well for a television advert can sometimes be squashed into an influencer marketing campaign.
Brands should instead find the key creative strand that will run through all marketing initiatives. They should then allow the creators to run with the idea themselves, while sticking to the key messaging, to ensure that both synergy and creativity are maintained.
Do you think the leading social media platforms encourage creativity?
Right now, the social media platforms are providing the opportunity for really creative ideas to do well. For example, these days on YouTube it's not just about how many subscribers you have but about how long people are watching your content for. The more creative the content, the more people watch it. On the flip side, I have seen cases where people are trying too hard to be creative, leading to content that people aren’t interested in.
What the social media companies are doing particularly well currently is allowing people to be creative by finding something that’s doing well and putting their own twist on it. Templates are growing in popularity on platforms like TikTok, where people can get creative with guidance, which allows everyone to get involved.
Have we gone too far towards data?
Absolutely not. Data is essential to proving the value of human creativity in influencer marketing campaigns. At Influencer, all our creatives are underpinned by historical data from our campaigns. This data acts as a guide, showing us and our clients what works well and informing the decisions we make going forward.
At Influencer, you wear both hats; creator and platform-owner. Is this a positive?
It can be difficult to juggle the two, but I have a unique experience of, and perspective into, the industry. There are a few creators who have delved into both representing themselves and representing brands, but it's not that common.
My role at Influencer, where I am chief visionary officer, is definitely impacted by my experience as a creator. It allows me to represent the creators on our platform. I know what they want from brands and from the wider industry. It also helps me to advise our clients on things like campaign creative. As a result, Influencer is able to provide brands with solid creative ideas, but more importantly with creativity that we know will drive traffic, engagement and ROI.
What do you think is the key to a good influencer marketing campaign?
I can’t stress enough the importance of a clear brief in influencer marketing. When the brand’s message and concept is clearly laid out in the brief, they’ll attract the right creators who are able to put their own creative spin on the brand’s message, without losing the key parts.
It could also be worth brands considering making the brief slightly unique to each creator, if they have particular people in mind. This means a little more work may need to be done from the campaign side. As with all campaigns, brands will need to research the right creators and then time will need to be spent customising the brief to fit each one. The end result will be stronger as the campaign feels like it was made for that creator.
What should brands be focusing on in 2020?
2020 is the year of branded content. Too many brands are paying creators for their audience, and ignoring the huge benefits of the content itself. At Influencer, we provide brands with education around how to use creator content in their wider advertising activations, as well as the ability to generate it at scale. A creator’s audience should reflect the brand’s target audience and therefore, content created will appeal to the wider audience the brand is trying to reach.
For this reason, brands need to see creators as part of their wider creative team and the ways in which they help to build content for the brand, not just for their audience.
2020 marks ten years since you launched your YouTube channel. What is the biggest change you’ve seen?
The biggest change has got to be the sheer volume of content being created, making getting people’s attention more competitive. It’s not just content creators but also publications and brands, who have whole teams behind their content creation. While this has made the industry more competitive, it has also meant that the content that succeeds is more creative, which I think is only a good thing.
The other big change is people’s awareness of the industry. Even four years ago, when people asked what I did and I said I was a YouTuber, they would ask what my real job was. Now they have loads of questions. Everyone knows it's an exciting space to be a part of, whereas before they didn’t know it was even a space.