It’s the age-old question of influencer marketing:
How much creative control do you allow influencers over their sponsored content?
Some claim the answer is “as much as possible.” Given the influencer has creative control, they can properly connect with their audience in a way the audience members are familiar with. Others, however, are on the fence.
If brands don’t have a say in what content an influencer produces, how can they ensure their sponsored influencers are properly spreading their message? What happens if things don’t go to plan?
These are all questions worth exploring, as both options (total creative control and limited creative control) have pros and cons. Let’s explore them, shall we?
Total Creative Freedom
What exactly does it mean to give an influencer creative freedom over sponsored content?
In short, when an influencer has creative freedom, you have little say in what type of content they produce to promote your brand (i.e. they’re free to spread your message in whatever way they see fit). This method places trust in the influencer’s hands as it’s expected they know how to connect with their audience better than anyone else, thus ensuring an effective promotion.
Let’s dive into some of the reasons you might choose this method:
1. Younger generations don’t respond well to “advertising.”
The effectiveness of traditional advertising with younger audiences has been on a downward spiral over the past few years.
So much of a spiral, in fact, that brands have resorted to making fun of advertising in their advertisements to get the attention of younger generations:
Giving an influencer creative freedom is one way to ensure your sponsored content doesn’t come off as “selly.” Let me explain:
A common trend in the influencer marketing world is “scripting.” Scripting is when a brand sponsors a streamer and requires them to recite a pre-written script written by the brand to their audience.
Scripted content rarely performs well. Why?
Every influencer has a unique style. A style of speaking, a style of creating content, etc. It’s present in all their content — and as a result, their followers are accustomed to it. It’s the reason they followed the influencer in the first place.
“[Influencers] understand their voice, demographics, community, and other aspects that you just can’t grasp as much as they can. They know what works and doesn’t across the board, which can help with avoiding a disingenuous message that individuals can sense immediately.” — Dan “IDSHOCK”, Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Webaround Gaming
Scripted content interrupts this style. And when an influencer’s style is interrupted, not only do their audience members lose trust in the influencer, but they also lose trust in your brand.
2. Influencers prefer to have creative control.
And according to the same study, 77% of influencers reported they’d be more willing to repeatedly work with a brand if the brand gave them creative freedom on their projects.
If you’re looking to develop long-term relationships with influencers, creative freedom seems to be a “must.”
Now that we know some of the good that can come from creative freedom, let’s talk negatives:
1. You risk spreading the wrong message.
As marketers, we understand the importance of messaging in any form of advertisement.
Influencers, on the other hand, aren’t obsessed with marketing, and many times don’t understand the importance of spreading a specific message to their audiences. This can result in the creation of sponsored content that doesn’t match the message you’re trying to spread.
2. Your sponsored content may go “off the rails.”
The creative process is fun. But it’s also filled with uncertainty.
In one moment, you can be staring at a blank canvas with a paintbrush in your hand, trying to think of something to paint. And in the next, you could be standing in a parking garage blasting paint-soaked shirts out of a shirt cannon at a 10x10 foot blank canvas. You never really know where the creative process is going to take you.
My point is, it’s easy to get carried away in creativity — and while that can be a good thing, sometimes it can result in a disconnect from the original point of your sponsored content. This is especially true if your sponsored influencers aren’t totally familiar with your product/service and its benefits.
Now that we’re familiar with the benefits and risks of giving influencers total creative freedom, let’s do the same for limited creative freedom:
Limited Creative Freedom
“Limited Creative Freedom” refers to a method of sponsoring influencers that places little creative freedom in the hands of the influencer and instead opts for a straight-forward, in-between-the-lines approach to sponsored content creation.
While not totally restricting the creative freedom of influencers (like “scripting” would), the content creation process with this method is very much in the hands of the marketer.
So what are the benefits of this method?
1. Your messaging is safe and negativity is at low risk.
Sometimes influencers slip.
Although rarely on purpose, you do run the risk of spreading a negative message about your brand when your sponsored creators are free to say/do whatever they want to promote your brand.
Therefore, when you know what type of content is going to be created and what the general structure of your messaging will be, you know the chance of a negative message about your brand spreading is reduced drastically.
2. The influencer selection process becomes easier.
If you have one type of video/image/etc. in mind for your influencers to create and one set of messages for them to promote, it matters little what influencers you choose to promote the message.
As long as the general style of their content fits your product/service, you don’t have to work as much to ensure you aren’t choosing the wrong influencers to hire.
(i.e. if you’re a drone company, all you really need to do is find influencers who make videos about drones.)
But what are the downsides to limiting your influencers’ creative freedom?
In short, the downsides to this method are the opposite of the upsides of giving your influencers creative control:
- You risk poor audience reception of your sponsored content since the way you direct/write/speak won’t match the way your sponsored influencers do.
- When marketers are in control, there’s a good chance your messaging will come across as “selly,” thus lowering the effectiveness of your sponsored content.
One other thing as well:
Although it’s mentioned as a benefit for “limited creative freedom,” loosely choosing which influencers to work with can be a bad thing. Developing strong relationships with influencers and carefully selecting who you work with can be extremely positive, as some influencers are better brand advocates than others. It’s worth putting in the time.
So where should we stand?
How about right in the middle?
There’s nothing restricting you from combining the best parts of each method and forming your own. Not only does it makes sense to do so, but it has been proven to work.
Let’s use the example of a sponsorship between Scotty Sire, a popular YouTube influencer, and Two Hats beer, Scotty’s sponsor:
Notice the mixture of creative freedom and proper messaging in Scotty’s sponsored content?
The skit at the beginning of the video was created by Scotty. As a marketer, I know I wouldn’t have had the time to choreograph such a complex scene for a simple sponsored post.
Notice, however, that all throughout the skit, Scotty and his friends made a good effort to promote the selling points of the drink. Before sponsoring Scotty, Two Hats ensured he was familiar with the brand’s selling points.
“Brands should have say on how their product is represented and the influencer needs to respect that and vise versa. But I do believe that with this type of hands-on approach from both parties, you can ensure that your points are made, but in the voice and delivery that the influencer and their community respects and is tuned to.” — Dan “IDSHOCK”, Director of Marketing and Partnerships at Webaround Gaming
Scotty and Two Hats’ sponsored content is the perfect example of how the two methods mentioned above can coexist. Scotty remained in creative control of his content, but Two Hats took steps to ensure that Scotty was promoting the correct message of the brand to his audience, and it worked.
But don’t take my word for it:
When the viewers comment on how good your sponsored content was, you know you’re doing something right.
And that’s it!
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