Why more and more brands are putting their marketing in the hands of creators

Marketers from Coles, Glenfiddich, Officeworks and more talk about the rise of the creator economy and how they're harnessing its power to foster brand engagement

Finding the right guardrails

Stephanie Seebacher began her exploration of the use of external creators in her former role as associate manager for social for Sunbeam at consumer goods maker, Newell Brands, where she launched its influencer program in partnership with Tribe. Back then, she saw a space for harnessing communities of content creators to connect in with Sunbeam’s brand and products.

“What we quite quickly realised was there is an even greater opportunity to build genuine brand advocates through these creator partners, while also having a strong, engaging and built-in community of creators ready to tell the brand story we required through their content,” Seebacher says. “It started with a need to reach a new audience and grew into an opportunity to plug into creators to help us talk about our products in a consumer relevant way - and fill a gap that is so often present in the social media space - feeding the content beast.”

Seebacher is now setting up a freelancing/consultancy business focusing on social strategy and execution, which will offer guidance on and support with creator leverage. One piece of advice she is happy to give away is the need to think beyond what’s obvious when choosing creators.

“It may not always be creators in the categories you think that can get the best results for your brand,” Seebacher says. “If you traditionally speak with a certain category, think about other ways through creators to enter different ones. That’s the beauty of the creator economy, we now have so many ways and avenues to connect in and be relevant to our target audience through the creator partners that we work with.”

Seebacher cautions, however, that it is important to rethink the briefing process when working with creators and to keep it as simple as possible.

“Often as brand custodians, we try to get our marketing activity to tick numerous boxes,” Seebacher says. “The key with engaging creators to support your brands is to understand exactly what each campaign - and more specifically, the role each creator partner has for your brand.”

While Seebacher initially provided written briefs, the most successful engagements came about when she engages directly engaged with creators and built relationships between her, them and the brand.

“It’s definitely time consuming and a pretty old-school approach to marketing, but I think it’s invaluable to invest time into building relationships with your creator partners,” Seebacher says.

Lund agrees the answer to the question of how much a brand should intervene in the output of their creators is ‘very little’.

“Outside of brand guidelines, the more they intervene in the creative process, the less they will benefit from it,” he warns. “You can have something that is really easy and safe, but you have to pay a premium to that, and that is creative agencies. But if you are buying someone’s audience as well, you are leaving it up to them.

“Those people that are trusting reap all the rewards. If you can’t afford to be trusting, then you shouldn’t play in that.”

Seebacher agrees so long as you have done the foundational work, any risks in the engagement should be mitigated.

“If you have aligned with the right creators and done the foundational work on objective, creator brand/style alignment, and providing them with a clear picture of the end-goal, then my recommendation for brands is to let creator partners do their job,” Seebacher says. “You have selected those creators because you have seen their content and style resonate with your target audience. Have faith in the groundwork you have done and let them do what they do best. I believe that this is why having strong relationships with your creator partners is key - it’s a collaboration after all.”

Adapting the briefing process is something Oh has taken on board at Coles and she says is critical if Coles is to engage with their audiences in an authentic way.

“Authenticity is so key in all of this,” she says. “They need to be able to tell their stories and produce content from their own perspectives. It is not about us briefing them word-for-word on what needs to be posted or shot creatively, as we might traditionally. We have brought them in to understand the brand, understand our objectives and feel passionate about it.”

Oh says Coles briefs its creators each month on key priorities, but then lets them choose what they work on.

“As part of their contract, they have a minimum set of deliverables, but we are flexible with it. If in one month they can’t fulfill it, then they will make it up later down the track,” Oh says. “Consumers and audiences on social media are getting smarter and smarter, so they know when we are selling something to them. Coles has to follow guidelines around having clear call outs that this is an ad or a sponsored post. But when the content becomes more relevant to that content creator’s audience, they are more likely to engage than when it something that is purely a sponsored post.

“It’s been a really exciting journey for Coles as a brand as this is quite new. The results have been phenomenal. Internally, there is so much excitement around the potential that this will bring from a longer-term perspective.”

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