Influencers: Liquor advertisers running out of time
by Jason Stewart (@HaveYouHeard_SA) A ban on liquor advertising in South Africa (which has, for the past five years, been mooted as two years around the corner) will herald an era of dark marketing for the industry.
Some brands will clear the hurdle without breaking their stride; others will falter predominantly because of what they are not doing now. Time is not on their side.
Some marketers believe the way to the Dark Side lies with The Charming Brand Ambassador.
Despite how the boardroom powerpoint phrases it, this involves paying a good-looking guy who thinks the world of himself to develop a database of other good-looking guys who think the world of themselves, and who may or may not develop an affinity for the brand.
It sounds like a no-brainer — everyone always wants to hang with and mimic the cool guys, right? But, on a business level, it does not build the brand as it combines excessive and ongoing cost leakage.
The Charming Brand Ambassador strategy doesn’t work in isolation because ‘coolness’ is only effective if grounded in credibility and authenticity. Consumers are skeptical of paid representatives, regardless of how cool they are. They prefer to look to their social role models to see what they freely use and advocate as a representation of their identity.
Enter The Influencer.
Other brand owners view influencer marketing as the way to the Dark Side. This form of influence sways purchase behavior and differs from brand ambassadorship because it incorporates credibility and authenticity. But, it is very difficult to reproduce by a corporate institution and, when implemented without care, it, too, won’t work for the brand.
Paved with data
I believe the way to the Dark Side is paved with data — a carefully designed and maintained database that supports customer relationship building, guides the distributions strategy and informs relevant packaging and promotion.
But, when it comes to data curation, the local liquor industry is nowhere near ready to even step into the starting blocks. It is losing valuable time when it comes to building extensive and rich databases of communities.
How do I justify that statement? Well, are you able to name a liquor brand owner that has begun building a SmartShopper-type loyalty programme? No, neither am I.
I can name several brands that are active in the social media space, but I suspect their database-build success here is pie-in-the-sky because of the results of a recent in-house study. This analysed the performance of South African liquor brands’ current performance across all social media platforms. The majority — read 98% — are underperforming against the already low benchmark set by local brands in general.
It seems almost everyone in the liquor industry is waiting in the cloakroom for the call to venture onto the track. And, when they get that 12-month heads-up, 150+ liquor brands with decent budget will start fighting for a lane, at the same time.
Jason Stewart is currently managing director of HaveYouHeard (@HaveYouHeard_SA), an innovative word-of-mouth and social media agency founded in Cape Town in 2008. A Red & Yellow School graduate, he joined the industry as a project manager at Draftfcb Cape Town before taking on business development responsibilities at Instant Grass, a position he held for three years. His monthly “Influencers” column on MarkLives focuses on word of mouth.
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