Why Influencer Marketing Takes a Whole Village
In 2013, Vickie Segar was about to enter a new stage in her life: motherhood. For nearly a decade, she worked as a creative, both on the agency side for Crispin Porter and Bogusky and Wieden + Kennedy, and on the client side for fitness brand Equinox and a direct-to-consumer (DTC) startup. called Aloha. . Starting humbly from her kitchen table in Brooklyn, she took a leap of faith that would give her the flexibility to adapt to her life as a mother, as well as the opportunity to prove those who doubted influencer marketing wrong. .
The result was Village Marketing, a social media agency that merges brand and performance marketing – leveraging bloggers and creators in a full funnel capacity to build brands. Initially working with former colleagues from her previous jobs, Vickie describes how the early years were particularly challenging as the company progressed into the emerging – but virtually non-existent – industry of influencer marketing.
“Everyone said influencer marketing wasn’t real and wouldn’t last,” she says. “The influencer industry didn’t exist in the form it has today, nor did social. But I had started doing influencer marketing in one form or another (leveraging personal brands to build the consumer brands I worked for) three to four years before I started Village. It was really the merging of my creative agency experience with my acquisition marketing experience that led me to create an agency that had a comprehensive marketing approach.
“Building brands through people” is the philosophy behind Village Marketing – an idea born out of Vickie’s observations of the public’s growing mistrust of brands. “Consumers, who are incredibly smart, seek the truth,” she says, explaining how people‘s insights and anecdotes seem more reliable and less biased than traditional messaging straight from a brand. Although they are paid to market products, Vickie says influencers can act as “critical curators” and are often selective about the brand partnerships they offer to their audience – allowing brands to reach a group more targeted and applicable demographic, and allowing the influencer to speak more honestly about a product they really use or believe in.
“At Village, we view influencers as both talent and media,” she says. “It allows us to think about how a brand can best penetrate the social space where its consumer spends 3.5 to 4.5 hours a day. It’s our job to make sure the right people are talking about the brand at scale and making things happen for our clients’ businesses.
Vickie acknowledges that the influencer marketing space is still in its infancy, but also has matured a lot over the past decade. Brands now have 10 years of experience using influencers as representatives and are now allocating larger shares of their advertising spend to this sector. Soon, she says, “influencers are going to be commerce” – predicting that they will simply be an extension of the retail ecosystem, alongside traditional marketing.
The reason for influencer marketing’s success over other forms of social and digital marketing seems obvious when explained by Vickie, who believes it’s the best method of reaching consumers online. According to her, the main alternatives – paid social ads and proprietary channels – are not sought after by consumers and are, “mostly noise”. She continues, “Influencer marketing places brands in the content that people are on social media for. The content is less scripted, it’s personalized, it portrays brands in consumers’ lives rather than consumers’ minds, and it’s proven to be much more impactful and memorable. »
Now 200 strong, Village has emerged from the pandemic with momentum, growing alongside the growing industries of which its customers are a part. In addition to a host of loyal clients from day one, the agency has created work for a variety of “brands that are built by good people who want to do good work,” and even two U.S. presidents, presidents Biden and Obama.
“I will always be incredibly proud to run a presidential campaign on TikTok, YouTube and Instagram,” Vickie says. “Not only did we have to invent what influencer marketing for a political race should look like, but we had to take risks on a massive scale and under heavy press scrutiny. In the end, the job worked, and of all the campaigns we needed to succeed, this was the one.
Unlike DTC brands, tracking ROI can be more challenging for larger brands that invest in influencer marketing. Therefore, educating big brands on upper and mid-funnel models, and how to use data and tracking, is part of Vickie’s job. With more and more time spent by consumers on social media, she says it makes “very good sense” for big brands to increase their influencer marketing budget proportionally – recommending up to 15-20% for a Fortune 500 company, and 50-70% for a DTC brand.
As with all emerging fields, however, there are skeptics and opponents to the sector. Vickie sheds light on the three common influencer marketing myths she’s noticed most often: that if an influencer is doing something wrong, they’re representative of the entire industry; that influencers are dishonest because they get paid, and that influencers shouldn’t be paid at all.
Refuting these ideas, she says, “Influencers say ‘no’ more than they say ‘yes’ to brand partnerships. The good ones only accept brands they really like. And influencers get paid because they are the creative director, producer, talent, scout, editor, project manager, and media channel. Along with running what is a full-service creative agency, they also sit in their DMs to build relationships with the audiences you want to meet. I don’t understand why anyone would debate whether creators should be paid. »
Continuing, she adds that relationships are everything in the influencer space. “If you don’t respect the creation (the influencer), their craft, their relationship with their audience, then you shouldn’t work in the space.”
After joining the Wunderman Thompson Network earlier this year, Vickie looks forward to expanding the agency’s work into a more integrated marketing approach. Now, with the backing of one of the largest agency networks in the world, Village’s influencer work can combine with the broader verticals of commerce, data and social media in which Wunderman Thompson has expertise. experts and infrastructure. “It was wonderful,” says Vickie. “Having smarter, more creative minds in your business is never a bad thing.”
This team of talented and experienced leaders has enabled Village to continue to leverage creators for influencer work and all other forms of paid media. But finding the right person is not as easy as hiring someone from the network. When adding to this dream team, Vickie has ambitious criteria to ensure the Village team is made up of smart, positive people who are ready to bring a new vision or perspective. “I hire people who are excited about the unknown – about the possibility of being the first to something,” she says. “I want people who have an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to make things happen, even if the path is different. We hire as many non-influencer marketers as influencer marketers. We need people who can build a communications strategy or a data dashboard – a tough mix – and so we do a ton of training to develop the talent that’s right for us.
With innovations constantly developing in the influencer marketing space, there’s never a dull moment (and rarely a second to stop) for Vickie and her “villagers”. So, as she looks to the end of the year and into 2023, there’s plenty of excitement on the horizon and plenty of opportunities to continue the trajectory that started from Vickie’s kitchen table. “Platforms are constantly changing, and each change is an opportunity for us to do something different. We’re supporting exciting new brands and continuing to develop how we use influencers to build brands.
In closing, she adds that she is quite sure of one thing: “There has certainly never been a more exciting time to be in our industry.”