Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

At the recent Sunday Times Generation Next youth marketing conference, influence activist Arye Kellman led a panel discussion about influencer marketing and the right ways for brands to use  influencers to drive awareness in the youth market. 

The panel members, Simmi Areff, Jessica Nkosi (also the MC for the conference) and Katlego Mohoaduba are three millennials who have been chosen to appear on 2017’s #Kellman20 list of 20 millennials to watch this year. The trio discussed how often brands get it wrong when approaching influencers, and how influencers choose the brands they represent.

Each panel member explained that they know their followers – they know what will resonate with them and what they find believable in terms of brand endorsements.

Nkosi said she resists being told by brands what to do, saying that if she works the endorsement her way, her followers will find the association authentic, but if not, they’ll know she’s being paid to represent a brand and simply dismiss it.

Areff agreed, adding that he would work only with brands of his choosing and had rejected a number of offers from brands he doesn’t like. “Don’t offer me a McDonald’s sponsorship; I like Burger King,” he laughed. He said that while it’s hard to turn down money and say no, when the fit doesn’t feel right, that is what he does.

There’s no fooling today’s generation, pointed out Mohoaduba, which is why she believes it is important that she remains true to herself when working with brands. “It’s important to be authentic, which is why I cannot promote brands that I don’t use – my followers would pick it up in a minute,” she said. However, she will represent brands that are aspirational – “perhaps I don’t use a certain brand now, but I will represent a brand that gives me something to aspire to in the future,” she explained.

When asked if influencer marketing really works, and if this is where brands should be putting their budgets, Nkosi was quick to point out that millennials spend far more time on their phones than they do watching television. It therefore makes sense for brands to move their budgets from television to social media – “because this is where we live,” she said.

Mohoaduba said it was unlikely that she would buy a product because she saw it advertised on TV, adding that millennials buy into what influencers are saying, doing, wearing or using and so this is the way for brands to target the youth market.

Ultimately, the panel insisted that brands should learn to listen to influencers, as they are the ones who know what will work in the market. It’s about co-creating content that will be authentic, yet at the same time meet the objectives of the brand.

The big take-out: Influencer marketing is a highly effective way for brands to get their products onto the radar of the youth market; however, this has to be done in an authentic manner with brands and influencers working together to co-create content.

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