Welcome to my first contribution to the Exploratree Marketing Blog! We’ll be covering all things affiliate, influencer, content creator as well as covering our eco-journey as we plant trees with our start-up Kinsume – the world’s first eco affiliate marketplace!
My name’s Rob Pringle (A.K.A. Green Arrow), co-founder of Kinsume and Author of Exploratree Marketing Blog. As well as this I’m a business master’s graduate from the University of Leeds, a Marketing Consultant for Shanghai-based celebrity partnerships firm MGI Entertainment, Head of Marketing at prop-tech start-up Restfull and owner of the music site Plastic Mag. Alongside my business partner George Spain-Warner (A.K.A. Green Lantern) we’ll be guiding you through the world of affiliate and influencer marketing, always with an eco-twist lighting the way in the darkness and showing you where to shoot – we hope to do our bit to save the environment via purpose-driven campaigns through Kinsume.
First up, I’m going to run through the affiliate and influencer marketing industries, what the differences are, how they work and why they’re so great to get involved in!
The most effective way to manipulate a purchase decision has always been through recommendation. Whether that’s from peers such as friends or family, a celebrity sponsorship, an implied endorsement from a trusted publication or website and more recently through influencers – the online pseudo-celebrities whose opinions and tastes are valued and trusted by their followers.
Recommendations manipulating decisions in by no means a new phenomena – you could say it’s prevalence runs alongside our entire history with the serpent’s suggestion of the forbidden fruit to Eve (if you’re that way inclined) – but it’s efficiency has been fine-tuned to surgical levels and it’s scope broadened to give brands and businesses a plethora of ways to get their product or service recommended to potential customers.
Firstly, the main two segments of the recommendation space we’re going to be dealing with are the affiliate marketing world and the influencer marketing areas. Although there’s huge crossovers between the two environments, there’s a few key differences. This mainly manifests itself in who and what operates in this area as the “recommender”. Of course, as with almost all marketing, the best practice is to spread your efforts over several channels, but how you split this depends on the goals, budget and target audience of the brand in question.
What’s the difference?
In simple terms, affiliate marketing mostly reaches audiences via established blogs, news websites and publications. Realistically, when dealing with online affiliate marketing, any site that has a half-decent level of traffic can (and most likely will) be engaging in affiliate partnerships with brands. The goal here is mostly to drive sales volumes, generate leads, or, when dealing with free software and apps, increase downloads.
Influencer and content creator marketing, however, leverages the sway influential people have with their following. This includes figures at the very top of the ladder such as Ronaldinho promoting a new Brazilian energy drink to his tens of millions of followers, right down to micro and even nano-influencers sharing updates of a new boutique fashion line to a highly targeted and local audience. While the goals of influencer marketing are often ultimately to increase sales, the aim and method will usually centre around boosting exposure via an implied endorsement to the influential figure’s following. This works by using a follower’s trust of the influencer’s preference and taste as well as activating an aspirational desire; they trust an influencer’s opinion, they want to be more like them.
“Hey, Selena Gomez is wearing this new lipstick and said how great it is. Pretty sure I’d like it and I can get her look too!”
In terms of compensation, again there’s a general difference between the two. Affiliate marketing is all about commission. A strict reward per desired audience action arrangement, credited to the party that generated the traffic. While many of the larger affiliates may have a direct relationship with the advertising company, this is often facilitated by a third party platform such as Webgains or CJ Affiliate who manage all aspects of the partnerships including tracking, payments and the adverts themselves.
As for influencers and content creators, this is usually sorted on a more bespoke arrangement. While there are plenty of influencer agencies out there, most likely a brand will be engaging with an influencer directly to organise everything from the creative of the content to the payment. The nature of the compensation will depend on the campaign, the influencer and the goal.
Larger influencers can command astonishing fees on a pay-per-post basis, with this arrangement typical of this type of marketing. If exposure is the game, then there will be a direct fee paid no matter how the results pan out. On a more surgical level, a commission-based set up is likely, with payments directly tied to sales, clicks or downloads. This is often managed with unique links tracking where the customers have arrived from, discount codes unique to a specific influencer and with larger campaigns, a dedicated page or even separate website URL can be utilised.
Another key difference here is the fact that brands, on the whole, don’t need to seek out affiliates to market for them, this exchange of audience exposure traffic for commissions on actions is set up more like an open offer to anyone or any entity that believes it’s worth their efforts. No traffic and sales? No commissions paid. It’s a more passive arrangement, but of course there’s no guarantee of getting successful and effective affiliates engaging with your campaigns. With influencers, brands wanting to promote to their audience will need to engage with the more directly and individually which can often be time consuming and labor intensive – especially when done on a smaller scale – but when done right, the results can be incredible: on average, business are making $5.20 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing.
The sheer scale of the industries are testament to how effective companies see them as a channel for their budgets. Combined, they’re worth an incredible $20 billion per year, and it’s growing fast!
Obviously leveraging the influencer of a person or entity is nothing new. Who could forget the 1950s partnership between Alfred Hitchcock and Western Union!? Justin Timberlake and McDonald’s? Or the slightly tarnished campaigns that may not have aged so well. Michael Jackson and Pepsi? Woody Allen and Smirnoff, anyone? But it’s the tools at the disposal of the modern marketer that make this industry pop today. The tracking, the insights, the targeting and the ability to tap into such specific audiences that if you’re failing to drive sales, it’s the product that’s the problem.
So where is this recommendation industry today? While both sides of the coin are spiralling upwards in terms of industry growth, it’s already worth well over $20 billion each year when factoring in both affiliate and influencer marketing. Rapid growth across both sectors, as more and more consumers flock to online shopping has directed brands to refocus their marketing spend to this area.
For sure there’s some downsides and negative consequences of this. With every Dom, Rick and Larry wanting to be an influencer and cash in on brands throwing money at influencers and hoping something sticks, the rise of fake followers has created many issues. Unless their followers can be verified, there’s often no guarantee of seeing returns when working with a new influencer for the first time. When you factor in a pay-per-post compensation model, you can see why many brands are wary of wasting their budgets.
Of course a solution for this is a commission-based payment model. An influencer doesn’t generate any sales for you? You won’t have to pay them. If they drive up your sales? Great! They get a percentage on each sale – a clear win-win scenario.
At Kinsume, we’ve built an affiliate marketplace where influencers, content creators and publishers alike can find campaigns they want to get involved with. Whether you’re a seasoned pro at marketing products to your audience, or just putting your feelers out for the first time hoping to monetise your audience; Kinsume offers commissions on selling products from thousands of brands from the well-known household names to the new, niche and unique. And hey, guess what? We even plant trees with every sale! So if you want to get involved and start earning commissions, you can help us save the planet by being an eco-influencer on Kinsume.
Why You Should Get Involved
Whether you’re a brand or a content creator, you’ll no doubt be wanting to dive into the world of affiliate and influencer marketing – either to boost sales and exposure or monetise your following.
Influencer marketing is one of the most efficient ways to spend marketing dollars and a brilliant way to create a meaningful connection with your consumers.
For content creators, influencers and bloggers, recommending products to your audience and using affiliate links is one of the best ways to monetise your following. Earning commissions and referring products to your followers helps them find what to buy and earn the recommender passive income with a percentage commission on each sale.
Thanks for reading! I’m Green Arrow, showing you where to shoot for your marketing success. Check back soon for my next article where I’ll lay out the Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing.
P.S. For more reading on this topic check out these posts: