Sparking authentic conversations with Populr

James Polhill, managing director, Populr

How has Populr evolved since it was founded?

The business is now firmly established as the category leader. When we founded Populr in 2012, the category was in its infancy globally. The channel has now cemented its position in the marketing mix, as a long-term brand building platform. When done well, it’s one of the most effective channels to drive mass reach, high impact and trigger purchase. We’ve firmly retained the ethos to be creatively-led, with ideas and storytelling at its heart, versus short-term post cycles. Research suggests there are few things that drive sales more effectively than a word-of-mouth recommendation, often resulting in more than twice the sales of paid advertising.

The truth is influencer marketing isn’t a new concept; it’s everywhere and always has been. In its purest sense, it’s partnering brands with well-known, credible personalities to build brand awareness and trust with customers and/or prospects, now amplified by the rapid growth of celebrity culture.

Populr has evolved to be long-term focused, conditioning consumers through repeated exposure; talking directly to potential customers before they purchase a product or service. We’re continually refining the model around mass reach, scale and penetration for our client’s brand and long-term success.

“Unfortunately, a great deal of the early thinking around how to use digital media was also side-tracked by this ‘persuasion’ model and billions have been spent on advertising that creates no distinctive assets for brands. Ultimately, this is a misuse of the media and has undermined their potential contribution to long-term effectiveness,” Peter Field, Why Aren’t We Doing This, 2018.

What were the client challenges you were looking to solve when the business was in its first years?

In the early days, the biggest challenges our client’s faced was proving the commercial value and effectiveness of the investment to their leadership teams, as we shifted marketing budget from mainstream media to digital, social and influencer marketing. As we shifted the investment, we focused on driving mass reach, engagement and effectiveness metrics to ensure return on investment.

We’re on the cusp of another step-change, with the recent Kantar ‘Getting Media Right’ report, indicating that growth is carrying on unabated, with over 70 percent of marketers stating they will be increasing their spend on social media, and 84 percent will be increasing their digital investment overall. This, combined with our focus on brand building, makes for an exciting future.

As the category matured, we had to reimagine the traditional customer lifecycle and counter industry buzz terms, for example, the self-proclaimed term ‘micro-influencer’, which is counter-intuitive to the very notion of ‘influence’ and the ability to drive mass reach.

What are the main challenges you face now?

The term ‘influencer marketing’ has been hijacked by social-only players and the category has been dumbed down. This had been accelerated by fragmentation within marketing departments by treating social as a silo. In our experience, it remains a mass-marketing play and should be integrated within the marketing mix.

The challenge we often face is persuading clients to think long-term, beyond a quick silver bullet or to counter a drop in sales. It’s a proven 12-month strategic advantage, and any marketer knows brand building takes time, consistency and focus.

What brands do you work with, do they have a common goal?

We continue to work with a range of stable blue-chip clients, building their influencer marketing strategies, platforms and running their campaigns throughout the year. The brands we partner with share our ambition, to create ideas and conversations that are overheard, shared and interacted with on mass scale.
We continue to influence consumer behavior with high-profile talent.

How do you attract talent in your business?

We’ve built and maintained, strong relationships with all the talent, led by Jay Reeve across the years. We understand and respect the commercial value of their personal brands and continue to build strong relationships with their agents and leading management companies. It’s mandatory we provide best-in-class management for both the talent and the brands they represent.

What are some of the main misconceptions you see with influencer marketing?

The most common misconception is that influencer marketing is primarily linked to social media. And within that, to be genuine you need to have a limited number of followers, so you’re seen as real with your fan base. Neither is true, it’s not a short-term activation nor a shot-gun approach. We firmly believe it’s a long-term, integrated play within the marketing mix, most effective when built over a 12-month period with continual optimisation.

How does Populr solve the challenge of matching brand to personality?

Our biggest competitive advantage is the depth of roster and access to the highest-profile talent in the country. Once we’ve established the partnership, the basic fundamentals apply. It needs to be an authentic and genuine endorsement, mixed with a healthy dose of common-sense. A true brand partnership will see talent integrated upstream in brand campaigns, new product innovation, through to connecting with the real-world in the form of in-store activations, digital and or social media experiences. The best-in-class examples are Nike or Adidas and their strong commitment to their talent across sport, music, fashion and culture. It’s critical the brand builds a long-term partnership, not a short-term perceived quick win.

This story is part of a content partnership between Populr and StopPress. It’s the first in a StopPress series examining influencer Marketing. To read more on Influencer Marketing, click here.

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