ROI: Return on Influence

AI-powered influencer platform Influential uses social data and conversion technology with support from IBM Watson. The data helps leverage similar or overlapping audiences between brands and influencers. Instead of being pitched in a traditional TV or web video spot that interrupts the content a viewer is watching, a familiar personality online broadcasts their use of a product in an “authentic” way to a more attentive audience that is likely to want to emulate the influencer’s behavior.

With better data-crunching capabilities, the possibilities involved with orchestrating this kind of influence follow more complex models. Also, as is the trend across the entire marketing industry, there is a greater pressure to prove results with data.

Through an ongoing partnership with popular energy supplement 5-Hour Energy, Influential demonstrates the power in mobilizing influencers to get provable results. The relationship kicked off late last summer, using music entertainment to drive the buzz.

“Functionally, 5-Hour Energy is a great drink at concerts,” Influential CEO Ryan Detert told me.

They chose to place three handpicked influencers at a concert featuring country star Dierks Bentley in late 3Q. These influencers “captured the great time they at the event while showcasing the product and themselves enjoying it,” Detert explained.

The influencers ran videos and images through their social channels the day of the concert, and followed up with related content for the next eight weeks. The brand team also “boosted” this content with paid ads on the same social platforms. This synergy resulted in an influencer audience that saw the product used at the Dierks Bentley concert, then was reminded about it by the influencer. And, finally, the impressions were reinforced by branded advertising. (Bentley also appears in some of these ads, and 5-Hour Energy was an official sponsor of Bentley’s tour.)

Influential and 5-Hour Energy could then go back and determine the lift, based on existing retail data in markets where the campaign was deployed. According to Detert, 5-Hour Energy saw $1.2 million is sales generated directly by the campaign. Also, Influential measures return on ad spend (ROAS) and calculated that the campaign took in over six dollars for every dollar spent.

“We saw a great lift in sales between the markets we targeted, and ultimately this is leading to future campaigns,” said Detert, adding that with AI they can take the data generated through this initial effort to optimize future campaigns.

To provide the in-store sales attribution for this effort, Influential partnered with consumer purchase data and predictive analytics provider IRI. Influential has worked closely with IRI over the last year, and IRI has a wealth of data on the 5-Hour Energy brand after working with parent company Living Essentials, LLC for a number of years.

“Targeting and measurement with IRI, aligning that influencer and creative with the right audience, that’s where the special sauce comes together,” Detert explained.

IRI’s President, Media Center of Excellence, Nishat Mehta, told me that IRI’s role was solely to provide third-party measurement data for the campaign. He confirms that the campaign “did outperform our benchmarks for all digital media campaigns, consistent with our expectation.”

Mehta added, “IRI believes strongly in advertising channels that respect the consumer. Influencer marketing is a perfect example of this as the consumer selects the individuals they want to follow because of a perceived similarity in their preferences and then receives non-interruptive brand messaging that is more relevant to them in a way because they selected it. As a result, we expect this type of media to deliver stronger results, both in terms of sales lift and brand loyalty.”

For Detert, the strategies enabled by this measurability represent a “paradigm shift” in the influencer space. After 2014, the influencer model for brand advertising at scale had hit its stride, “but that was about getting the biggest face and connecting with followers for vanity metrics,” he said. “Over the last few years, we’ve made [influencer marketing] a science that shows real results. Why not spend on a platform that’s generating revenue?”

“It only continues to grow this way,” Detert stated. “Marketers are interested if you can validate the strategy with data. This attitude is now more common and hard to deny.”

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