If you’ve read my previous work, you know I am very gung-ho on influencer marketing. No matter the niche, there’s an influencer within the market who has authority among customers. Brands, companies, and salespeople know how to optimize these voices of influence to reach their target audience and drive sales.
Influencer marketing is supposed to be worth $13.8 billion in 2021. For context, it was worth $1.7 billion in 2016. The industry is growing exponentially, and has already transformed how the world understands marketing. Where brands previously sent out mass-market advertisements, or focused on traditional marketing strategies, influencers offered brands a more targeted and often more loyal audience to market their products toward. It transformed marketing and made it feel more personable, because trusted voices (influencers) were at the center.
The newest phase in influencer marketing? These figures are now creating and promoting their own products. This next step in influencers’ evolution looks familiar. In fact, it looks a bit like Mickey Mouse and the expansion of Disney that created a global franchise phenomenon.
I sat down with Eyal Baumel, whose company Yoola represents, manages and develops brands with creators, to discuss the future of influencing, where the market is heading, and why we can all take a page out of the Disney playbook.
Capitalize On Characters
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse is undoubtedly one of the most well-known, and most profitable, characters the world has ever known. The original figure of Disney’s empire of billions, worlds were built from the personality, storyline, and appearance of Mickey. The next phase of influencer marketing will see a capitalization on characters.
Eyal Baumel is pioneering this new wave of influencers’ evolution. He studied Disney’s approach and it researched models that would serve the influencer market most efficiently.
He said the new wave of influencer marketing centers around characters, much like Disney’s approach. Baumel sees the possibility for franchises under each influencer’s name and brand notoriety. Much like Mickey Mouse, these influencers begin as content creators, propelled to success by the storylines they generate. After notoriety is established, though, there’s room to distribute and commercialize that content into products, experiences and intellectual property.
Ultimately, Baumel sees room for growth around how these influencers have established themselves as characters. Their brand, like Mickey’s brand, can move from its foundation in storytelling, to provide tangible products worthy of sale. Here’s what’s even more interesting about the influencer franchise concept: their target market is already built-in. The most important part is finding a product that corresponds with the audience’s interests.
Brand Notoriety Will Drive Influencer Success
The original allure of influencer marketing was, and still is, their built-in audience and loyal followers. Any brand who chooses to partner with an influencer will immediately gain that content creator’s credibility, importance in the community, their creative and communication skills, and their loyal following of people with shared interests. An influencer in the world of music will, generally, have followers who are interested in purchasing music-related items. An influencer in the beauty or fashion realm will have followers who want to purchase clothes, skincare or makeup.
This franchise model will push the industry even further and Baumel largely attributes it to the influencer’s notoriety. One of Yoola’s clients, Anastasia of Like Nastya, has more than 200 million subscribers across her multiple YouTube channels. The 7-year-old influencer already has a thriving set of products under her name, all established under the management of Yoola. With a production deal with Will Smith, branded toys, apparel, sleepwear, accessories, this young influencer is leading the way in a degree of brand notoriety that led to commercialized products and diversification of content formats.
Good Content Is Worth The Investment
Content is still central to the influencer marketing game, even as brands become more established and sign product related deals. Baumel said content is essential because it is what drives people to make purchases today. Brands like Nike use powerful and inspiring video content to drive customers to their brand, and it works. For influencers, this content creation will remain a significant facet of their success because it develops a storyline around which products, experiences and intellectual property can be monetized.
After a year of significant volatility, Baumel sees content (influencing, YouTubers and the like) as a viable investment both for the creators themselves, and for outside sources and believes that the key for influencers’ long term success is in the mix of art and science – the art is the unique creative and format, and the science is the platform and algorithm expertise . As we have seen in the last year, people are driven to engaging content to provide both entertainment and a sense of belonging. These things, ultimately, will establish brands even further and create more profitable franchises for the creators and stakeholders involved.
Influencer marketing isn’t on its way out. In fact, it’s only just beginning. Experts like Baumel, who are early adopters and innovators in the field, see the importance of adapting and pushing the needle forward to ensure that the market for influencers stays competitive. As it turns out, most industries have a lot to learn from Walt Disney. In this case, and with Mickey Mouse, good stories sell.