How much creative freedom are you willing to give influencers?

Influencer marketing is growing in prominence today. While many brands enlist the help of influencers to boost brand awareness and increase engagement with consumers, marketers behind these brands still struggle to create the perfect working relationship.

Speaking on a panel at Marketing magazine’s recent PR Asia 2017 conference, blogger Jemimah James Wei, (pictured left), said that while she likes having brand guidelines, she personally prefers working with brands that give her creative freedom.

She added that she tends to take on projects with clients that she has already worked with, as the relationship has been established and clients will trust her creative direction.

When asked what made a great working relationship, she cited the work she recently handled with cosmetics company Laneige, where she conceptualised the campaign, and helmed it together with another influencer Trishna Goklani.

For the campaign, Wei focused on diversity and representation in the Singapore media and the beauty industry, with the marketing of Laneige’s new BB cushion. Coming from an advertising background – having worked at Havas Media – also helped with her work for Laneige.

(Read also: Now following: Jemma Wei)

She also added that influencers have the responsibility of walking marketers through the ideation process, and that marketers should not solely rely on creative agencies to handle everything. However, Wei also said:

While influencers should take the initiative to do so, it is not their job to babysit marketers.

Blogger Wendy Cheng (pictured second from left), better known as Xiaxue, added that not all influencers were creative enough to come up with an ideation process such as the one Wei undertook. Many influencers, who are not capable enough of coming up with creative executions and strategies quickly, will usually take the easy way out by taking a selfie with the product.

(Read also: Now following: Xiaxue)

Agreeing with this was Pat Law, founder of Goodstuph, (pictured second from right), who said the creative process was best handled by the agencies:

If influencers can do my job, I might as well be out of a job.

She added that at the end of the day, the responsibility still falls on creative agencies to conceptualise a creative idea and work with an influencer to execute it.

Do your homework

When asked how she works with the influencer community, Law explained there is no right or wrong way in how you choose to work with an influencer, but the strengths of each individual influencer need to be understood before embarking on the journey.

Besides stepping in to help influencers come up with a creative concept, Law said it was the job of the agency to manage client expectations.

Most of the time, Law says she will send out a release to influencers, who will cut and paste the content on their social feeds.

But there are also the likes of Gillian Tan, founder of, for example, who Law gives free rein to market a product rather than telling her what the client wants or needs from an art direction standpoint.

Adding to the discussion was Cheng, who said that marketers might find influencer marketing confusing because many of them are buying fake followers, and they are unable to sift out those with a real following.

“Sometimes with brands, the marketer in charge will simply choose the influencers with a high count just to report it to their bosses, and they think their job is done [without attempting to find out if the followers are real or fake],” Cheng said. But this needs to change.

(Read also: Xiaxue on fake followers: Still a very real problem in the ad world?)

When asked what her perfect relationship was with a brand, Cheng said an ideal start would be where brands hand influencers briefs which are more open to creative means of product promotion, instead of just having the influencer pose with it.

She cited an example of how make-up remover brand Bifesta came up with a video concept of pitting its ambassador, Mediacorp actress Carrie Wong, against Cheng to see who could sell more Bifesta products at Watsons within 20 minutes.

Cheng said the challenge not only allowed both women to promote the product, but also offered them the opportunity to reach out to consumers and “sincerely” educate them about the benefits of using Bifesta products.

“I think the campaign was effective in showing consumers a creative and fun [side to the brand]. Carrie has her followers and I have mine. It makes viewers excited to see who is actually going to win,” Cheng said.

She added that brands also need to understand their budgets when asking for a certain type of content. For example, YouTube videos will definitely cost more compared with an Instagram post.

Not your ideal product

When asked about promoting a product that isn’t in your niche, Cheng says there are always creative ways around it.

“While the product may not be a good fit for me, if the company is really interested in working with me, I will still find a way to work around it and make it relevant to me,” Cheng said.

For example, if a shoe brand is not suited to her style, one way for Cheng to continue working with the brand is to involve the people around her in the post.

Something that is irrelevant to me might work for someone else.

Meanwhile, Michelle Tan (pictured right), actress/model at Night Owl Cinematics, said that influencers should always be true to their brand DNA when working with companies.

Working with a brand that is irrelevant will not benefit influencers and may even cause them to lose their authenticity.

“Your followers can tell that you’re just taking it up for the money because you are not known to associate with certain products,” Tan said.

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