Influencer marketing & personalisation: The evolution of person to person advertising

Amelia Neate
Senior Manager
The evolution of person to person advertising

The days of sitting through a sequence of TV adverts that have little to no relevance to our lives are numbered. Instead, we have become far more accustomed to receiving personalised messages from brands we choose to interact with. But what is it that has driven this change?  

Well, it’s a little thing we like to call the human touch. 

The concept of person to person (P2P) advertising is nothing new and it is actually the very principle on which influencer marketing is based today. But, before we expand on that, let’s revisit the timeline that brought us to where we are, beginning with the 60s - when TV adverts first began to hit our screens in the UK.

Although relatively new to British audiences, brands were learning quickly from their American counterparts that promoting products and messages via television was an incredibly powerful advertising method. 

Imagine, it’s 1963 and we’re gathered around a small, fuzzy-screen TV set with the family. We watch a petite, attractive female advertising the latest vacuum cleaner. As the actress lists off the benefits, the mother feels compelled to call the number on the screen and place an order. 

With no knowledge of what alternative models were available on the market and no internet to conduct independent research, there was no reason not to believe the convincing figure on screen. 

Before this, magazines and newspapers carried advertising but brands soon became aware that nothing else had the ability to showcase or glamorise their products quite like TV did. 

A New Age of Marketing

TV advertising like this continued for decades. The concept was new and exciting to an audience, which was growing as more and more people purchased television sets.   

But the seed of P2P marketing was planted in the next evolutionary shift of TV advertising. Shopping channel, QVC, was the first of its kind, advertising products to consumers by means of what appeared to be an authentic recommendation – a seemingly neutral figure delivering a detailed review of a product in an informal, homely studio setting and generating greater conversions for the brand as a result. 

QVC shopping channel
Source: The Telegraph

Selling items from ironing boards and coffee machines right through to jewellery and makeup, the mass word of mouth format was incredibly successful due to its ‘honest’ nature and the audience rapport that was built through the conversational, ‘kitchen table’ style of delivery.    

However, as an increasing number of companies attempted to capitalise on the opportunity by recreating something similar, viewing figures began to drop and, consequently, so did sales. It wasn’t until social media platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter took off and gave P2P advertising a new lease of life. 

Popular sportswear brand, Gymshark was one of the first to reap the benefits of the new digital age in advertising. Those of you who were using Instagram in 2013 might remember how the brand slowly infiltrated the minds of consumers through some of the platform’s familiar faces. This move is one that inspired another evolutionary shift in advertising and gave birth to the concept of influencer marketing that we know so well today.  

Gymshark influencers
Source: YouTube

Ben Francis, the young founder of Gymshark, gifted clothing items to individuals that had risen to new-found levels of social media fame by building a large and loyal following. Although he did not pressure recipients to wear the items, they enjoyed the gift and the clothes themselves and, naturally, began to wear them. 

The most important factor of success, in this case, were the photos posted by the social media stars, who generated greater awareness and interest for the brand among their followers. Unsurprisingly, sales soared as consumers trusted the unbiased opinion of the influencers. 

Gymshark’s influencer marketing campaigns are the reason it is one of the world’s leading gym apparel brands and a billion-dollar business today. And ever since many other brands have replicated the model - so much so that it is virtually impossible to scroll through your feed and not come across at least one sponsored affiliate or brand ambassador post. 

Why is influencer marketing so effective?

Much like the QVC-effect, people are more likely to trust a neutral third party. This plays a vital role in bridging the gap between consumers and brands as the fellow social media user is a lot more relatable. And, although these are very often paid partnerships, consumers still believe third party opinions to be unbiased as, after all, the influencer’s reputation and credibility are also on the line.

But the difference, and maybe even the strength, of influencer marketing compared to the advertising formats that came before it is the way it empowers consumers. In this form, adverts don’t feel as forced as they used to. Rather, we have control over the influencers we follow and, therefore, the type of adverts we see. 

As a result, brands are spending much less on mass, untargeted broadcasting wasted on large demographics who have no interest in their product and, instead, are opting for targeted campaigns via influencers that generate better results. 

But, even with influencer marketing, getting the P2P element right is crucial for a successful campaign. Here’s what you can do:

1) Focus 

The traditional method of reaching as many consumers as possible has become outdated and wasteful. Instead, campaigns that are focused on targeting a specific segment have a greater chance of generating relevant awareness, loyalty and sales. 

An influencer has a niche area of expertise, which their followers are self-identifying as interested in. If your product or service fits that niche, the influencer provides a valuable gateway to your potential customers. 

2) Take a human to human approach 

One of the biggest pitfalls of technology is its lack of the human touch. However, social media appears to offer the best of both worlds for brands and consumers. It leverages the latest in technological advancement and combines them with our instinctive need for human interaction to generate greater brand engagement and loyalty. 

For those that have mastered the in-store experience, an online one can also be created through the use of social media, which allows brands to show their personality and really connect with consumers.  

3) Offer customer service on social media  

It’s time to retire old customer service processes and embrace personalisation and online connectivity and that is exactly what many savvy companies recognise today. 

Platforms, such as Twitter, offer an alternative to customer service call centres whereby consumers can contact you in their own time, quickly and concisely. Handling issues in this way is transparent, less time-consuming and much more informal and friendly. 

4) Personalise messages 

With information available to them 24/7 at their fingertips, consumers are more inclined to search for the things they need, rather than wait for an advert to tell them they need something. Therefore, marketing in this new age needs to be relevant and personal in order to be effective. 

This is why creating engaging social media posts that are not just promotional but useful too is a better use of time and resources. Customers don’t want to feel harassed or pressured and respond more favourably to brands that make them feel as though they’ve come to a decision themselves through the engaging content and information the brand has provided them. 

The reality is, although the channels and platforms of advertising have changed, the basic principles remain largely the same. People should still be at the heart of a brand’s activities and the best way to ensure this is through genuine human to human connection. 

In that sense, not much has really changed since the 60s. But this doesn’t come as a huge surprise as it takes centuries for primeval, animalistic and instinctive behaviours to change so, until then, emphasis should continue to be placed on people. 

For more information on creating successful influencer marketing campaigns, contact our team today