How To Succeed With Influencer Created Content Marketing

Neistat Nike Commercial CNN Content Marketing Gone Wrong

In November 2016, CNN plunked down a reported 20 millions dollars to purchase Beme, the video-sharing app started by YouTube star Casey Neistat. CNN hoped to fashion it into an independently operated daily online news program that would appeal to today’s digital centric consumer. By January 2018, Neistat was out and the effort became a glaring example of a big content marketing mistake that many brands are making today.

Content is Not Marketing

Too many companies wrongly assume that that just because a person can make themselves famous though digital content, that they can replicate that fame/success for the company or its brands. To be fair, Neistat made his bones by doing just that for Nike. If you haven’t seen it, click the photo in this post to watch.

The story is Nike gave him a big budget to make a movie for their Fuel Band. They wanted something that would bring the tagline — Make it Count — to life. But instead of making their movie, Neistat and a buddy blew the budget on a 10-day around the world vacation, which they filmed of course.

Personally, I think the premise was made up… he always intended to create what he created and Nike likely knew that when they gave him the money. If you watch the video, it clearly was shot not as a “hey I’m on vacation” video but to be edited into what is an incredible final product that you not only love but definitely want to share.

Which seemed to prove that Neistat could turn content into marketing. So what went wrong with the CNN gig? Well, if you break it down, what went wrong was the same thing that goes wrong so often when brands hire influencers to create content marketing, especially the kind that is supposed to “go viral” or “make the brand famous” or any of the other hosts of reasons that brands turn to consumers to create marketing.

Influencers Aren’t Content Marketers

Stick with me… I’ll explain. First, it’s kind of easy to make yourself famous via digital content marketing on places like YouTube or Instagram. You don’t have pre-existing boundaries. You’re an unknown. A blank sheet you might say.

You’re also usually not selling something or facing revenue pressures. There is nothing for your fan to buy or even do outside of telling you they love you and sharing your amazing content with their friends.

When you’re goal is to make yourself famous, you’re selling you and a relationship with you. It’s a “like me or don’t” proposition so you just do your thing and hope enough folks will think you cool enough to follow.

And because there is nothing to buy, it’s relatively (vs selling products and services) easy to become loved and thusly “famous.”

The Difference Between Content and Marketing

Brands and companies, especially legacy ones have a lot more hurdles to jump over. To begin with, they’re known… they have established brands, histories, products, relationships with consumers, and thus consumers have expectations of the brand. So from the very beginning, trying to use content marketing to build a brand is a completely different ballgame.

Brands also need the consumer to buy something, preferably now. Creating content isn’t a hobby that the brand hopes will work out. When brands produce content, that content has to produce revenue.

Brands have to give folks a reason to connect and follow and seldom is that going to be “awww you just like me for me.” With the possible exception of Red Bull, it’s hard enough for brands to create content that not only captures the attention of today’s self-educating buyers, but also moves them to make an economic decision — to buy something. This economic necessity is a game changer.

The Key To Influencer Produced Content Marketing

So if Neistat could do just do it for Nike, what happened at CNN? In short, it wasn’t a good match.

In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Neistat spoke candidly about his inability to figure out a viable strategy for “Beme News,” which CNN had intended to become a central part of its digital business. Instead, Neistat said he slowly, and frustratingly, distanced himself from his own company, retreating into what he knew best — producing videos for his personal YouTube channel.

Neistat was really good at creating content that people loved. And that’s exactly what he did for Nike. He create a quintessential Casey Neistat video — one in which he the protagonist thumbed his nose at the establishment and “blew their money on a vacation.”

It was content… that succeeded as marketing.

But with CNN, he couldn’t do what he does. Instead, he had to create “marketing” or at least content that was marketable.

And that is the great mistake so many companies are making today. They don’t realize that creating content marketing that effectively works as advertising isn’t just an art, it’s a science. And not every artist can be a scientist.

How To Succeed With Influencer Created Content Marketing

If you’re trying to leverage this hot new space for your brand, I’d offer you two suggestions and one recommendation.

First, vett, vett, vett the content creator not based on virality or fame, but on their past performance creating content marketing for brands. Really ask yourself (and the Influencer) the hard questions about actual sales performance or achievement of marketing KPIs.

Second, view them through the same critical eye that you do your in-house or agency produced marketing campaigns. Ask yourself, can this person create content about us/our brand that will engender the same love and virality that they get on their own content?

Third, and this is the recommendation, maybe don’t go down that influencer created route. Maybe hunker down in a conference room with your marketing team and your agencies and do some good old fashioned advertising and marketing work. Figure out:

  • who your talking to,
  • what you should be saying to them,
  • where you should be saying it
  • and then the all important, how you should phrase it.

You’d be surprised. You might find out that your brand team may not be the best at creating content. But they’re damn good at creating marketing.

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About Tom Martin

Tom is 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets that helps digitally challenged companies create innovative and effective digital marketing strategies. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale and a contributing writer for Advertising Age. Tom guides clients through the digital marketing maze and helps companies teach their sales force how to Painlessly Prospect their way to more sales. Connect with him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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