Last week, Bauer assembled media and agency types at the Auckland Museum Auditorium to deliver findings of research it has conducted on what influence means to Kiwis in the modern context.
With the emergence of social media stars that have accumulated millions of followers online, the word influence has come to be synonymous with the likes of Jamie Curry, Jay Alvarrez and their ilk, and brands are rushing out to tap into the opportunities they offer.
And while there is certain value in engaging with the massive audiences of these new-age characters, Bauer's research shows that the Kiwi understanding of influence is by no means limited to kids producing grainy videos from their parents' bedrooms.
In fact, the study found that the personalities Kiwis find most influential are far more conventional than what we might think. Top of the influence pile for Kiwi men was John Key, while All Black Richie McCaw reigned supreme for women.
While Kiwi men and women had Key, McCaw, John Campbell and Paul Henry in common in terms of their lists of the most influential New Zealanders, Kiwi women shifted from the more traditional choices by picking Lorde and Nadia Lim.
"Women have very different perception around influence, from the drivers of influence to who has it," says Paul Gardiner, the commercial director at Bauer. "They are more connected with new power vs. old power (positional), which resonates more with men still today.'"
This trend was also evident when it came to international figures. While men went for more traditional political and corporate figures, women included Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Angelina Jolie in their list of the most influential figures.
When asked to choose categories rather than people, men ranked politicians as highest while women went for sports people. Both men and women ranked media commentators as the second most influential people in the world. And this is significant in light of the often controversial remarks made by media personalities like Hosking and Henry. And while they might not be journalists in the conventional sense, their level of influence means that what they say has the potential to have a broad impact on Kiwi society.
The differences in the choices made by men and women could largely be attributed to the disparity between what the respective genders believe constitutes influence.
Experience and respect rated highly as attributes of influence, but there were also some important differences, with women ranking 'social networks' and 'authenticity' significantly higher than their male counterparts.
In light of the recent Volkswagen debacle, one of the most interesting findings was that honesty was regarded the most valued leadership trait among those who were surveyed for the study (it rated 2.5 times higher in importance than integrity). This insight would have caught the attention of several brands, because it illustrates how much damage dishonesty could potentially cause to a brand—thereby impacting the influence it has on consumers.
Most sophisticated brands have become adept at crafting stories in the available media channels to influence consumer perceptions. And while ad spend is shifting across to digital channels, the Bauer study revealed that there's still value in using magazines to tell these stories (which is also part of the reason why Bauer held the event).
"We have been talking to clients and agencies and know that there is interest in the market on this and after all magazines are an extremely influential media so it seems that this is a good opportunity for us to lead the conversation," says Gardiner.
Until now, this conversation has been dominated by the loud voices of the new-age influencers, who carry the promise of engaging with masses. However, Gardiner believes Bauer offers something unique.
"Not all influence created is equal," says Gardiner. "For Bauer, we feel the credibility and trust attributes around our brands and experts is a real point of difference for advertisers seeking an influence-led strategy."
This move also comes at a time when the idea of a magazine is changing. These days, the industry isn’t just about selling paper anymore. It’s about serving a community and it’s an ongoing conversation with that community through print, online, social media and events.
As Gardiner says: "Our focus is to provide commercial partners with a one-stop content creation shop backed by the best insight, creative and editorial experts in New Zealand. To lead this strategy, we launched the Media Collective last year to develop audience-based, insight lead ideas for clients. Many of the campaigns the team are working on are Bauer influencer content executions distributed across multiple platforms, encompassing paid, owned and earned."
Bauer's campaign for Persil Ultimate tapped into the influence of the Woman's Day brand and its food columnist Chelsea Winter and won best sales solution at the recent Magazine Media Awards. And it's not alone in its efforts to extend its brand, with Kowhai Media's New Zealand Geographic and Tangible Media's Dish both winning awards in the 'Branded Community' category for pulling their respective readerships across various channels.
By extending communities across these channels, magazine publishers create new means by which to work with brands. And because the editors working at magazines are often highly respected by their readers, it presents an opportunity for brands to tap into the influence they have.
"We have always known that magazine readers are early adopters and are influencers themselves so that’s a great platform to launch off," says Gardiner. "I think the two work really well together. Digital provides the opportunity for us to amplify and extend the content and to drive continuous interaction with audiences. And social is proving to be really successful in this area with strong engagement eg on average we are generating 13 times more reach than the number of our followers and it’s still early days. To put that in context, some of the brands we talk to are only reaching three percent of their total followers."
Gardiner also points out that brands have a variety of influencer options to choose from when it comes to working with a magazine.
"It’s about finding the right match, which is easy for us to do as our portfolio of brands covers most segments," explains Gardiner. "Through the Media Collective we can match our brands and influencers [editors, columnists and journalists] with our clients. For example, we have been working with a new Spark product Morepork Home Security [on a campaign] featuring Shelley Ferguson, editor of Your Home and Garden. It initially ran in Your Home and Garden and then reached nearly 63,000 on social."
The social influencer bandwagon has over the last few years come to commandeer the word influence, but this doesn't make it any less important to brands.
As DDB's global chief creative Amir Kassaei said: “Influence is the only thing that matters to a brand. Only influential brands are relevant. Only influential brands change the way people think, live and behave. Influence shapes society, impacts culture and adds value to people’s lives. We are not creating ads. We are not creating clicks, or likes or impressions. We are creating influence in the world.”
And, as the enduring appeal of Richie McCaw shows, that influence doesn't only come from teenagers' bedrooms.