According to Google Trends, influencer marketing didn’t really hit the scene until January 2016, but has since been the talk of the town. While this emerging discipline has permeated through the marketing landscape, there seems to be more variations than flavors at a Baskin Robbins.
Some brands are leveraging celebrities and macro-influencers to drive top of funnel metrics like reach and awareness. Others are teaming up with micro and nano-influencers to increase engagement and reputation.
At this point, we’ve become desensitized to the horror stories of influencer marketing campaigns gone wrong. Not only have these influencer marketing campaigns failed to deliver a positive return, they’ve been the cause of overwhelming negative publicity and even, at times, legal consequences. This year Netflix and Hulu jumped on the bandwagon, documenting the disastrous Fyre Festival, that landed Billy McFarland behind bars for six years.
We’ve reached an apex in influencer marketing where consumers see through these inauthentic efforts and they are responding accordingly – or not at all.
Your customers are your best influencers
But the most forward-thinking brands are recognizing the immense power of collaborating with their existing customers and fans (rather than traditional influencers), to empower authentic recommendations and drive real sales.
Think about it…
Who did you consult with the last time you made a big purchase? Was it a Kardashian, or Badgalriri, or even Logan Paul? Probably not. Instead, you turn to someone you already know. Someone who already has experience with the product or service in question. Your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, etc – these are the people we actually trust.
Why is that?
Simple. It’s because you trust that person’s opinion and you know their motive is to help you, rather than gain more followers or secure another paid partnership with some brand they’ve never heard of or used before. When those close to you share a personal narrative about a brand or their product experiences, it creates a real and relatable storyline that gives you the confidence needed to make the purchase.
Tesla customers are Tesla marketers
When brands team up with their customers and fans, the results are staggering - just ask Elon Musk. Tesla has empowered their existing customers and fans to share their fandom in a way unlike any other brand on the planet.
Musk and his team have given their customers the ability to act in place of a marketing team. Tesla has never paid for an influencer post, programmatic ad, TV spot, radio commercial, or billboard. Instead, Tesla has created a simple, easy-to-use way for existing drivers to share their experiences with potential buyers through their customer referral program.
Customers who recommend Tesla to other drivers don’t receive a commission check, or an affiliate rate on a sold car. Instead, they are given access to a loot box and a chance to win exclusive gear, free supercharging, and recognition from Tesla.
Elon Musk recently revealed his latest project, the CyberTruck. During his global announcement his lead designer “accidentally” shattered two bullet proof windows with a pebble. The internet went crazy. Stocks plummeted (but not for long). This was the beginning of the end for Tesla.
In fact, many people wonder if the shattered windows were a PR stunt. While that’s a bold claim, I wouldn’t put it past Musk. You see, he recognizes the power of word of mouth. He knows his customers are loyal. They are believers. And they’ve been given a platform to share their love and admiration for the Tesla brand.
There’s incredible power in the voice of loyal customers. Days after the alleged PR stunt, Tesla had secured more than 250,000 pre-orders of their “faulty” CyberTruck. Something tells me, this strategy is working, and I for one am looking forward to picking up my CyberTruck in 2022.
Bringing It All Together
Marketers who are bold enough to entrust their customers to act as an extension of their marketing strategies will give their customers exactly what they want: real recommendations from people they already trust. And in turn, their customers will buy their products and tell their friends to do the same.