In the world of brand comms, there’s no doubt a well thought through and strategic influencer plan has become a tried and tested way of elevating new product, campaign or news. And with the influencer industry set to exceed $15billion by 2022, it’s not hard to see why.

The CPG industry has long used influencers as a valuable and essential way to build engaging and connected brands and offers. After all, a toothbrush, cleaning product or razor can be seen as a relatively functional item at face value. But when smart creative strategy is partnered with on-brand, relevant and credible influencer activations, the functional becomes emotional. And that emotion leads to likes, shares and, increasingly, sales.  When done right, influencer collaborations are an unmissable way to grow your audience, relevance and share of attention.

But with recent criticism over tone-deaf holidays to Dubai and misleading use of image-altering filters, while we’re all stuck at home a million miles off looking Insta-perfect on a sun-drenched beach, it’s clear that the industry has, in places,  got it wrong in establishing itself as a trusted and credible comms and commerce channel for brands.

With ever-changing consumer needs and increased scrutiny, how does the CPG industry and beyond ensure successful, smart influencer campaigns that tap into the authentic new normal?

Read the room and keep it real
Relatability is key, with Gen Z actively demanding more diversity and equality from brands they’ll engage with. But with the pandemic causing untold hardship at the worst and plain boredom staring at the same four walls for months on end at best, a trend of realness is emerging. No longer are people wanting to see unrealistic, unattainable portrayals of perfection anymore. Instead, the content that will be engaged with will be more true, realistic and relatable than ever – and we’ll expect our influencers to dial down the portrayals of a perfect world and let us into their reality too. It will be about celebrating small moments of ever-growing freedom, connection and emotion more than filtered and dazzling experiences. The polished perfection that once made them so aspiration could ultimately be their downfall if not addressed.

Authentic, values-focused partnerships over paid-for ‘grin and hold’ content
Authenticity is in sharp focus and people can smell a forced, paid partnership a mile off. Whereas once, beautiful unboxing and product content emblazoned with #ad would suffice, consumers now want so much more from the people they follow and trust. With a greater need than ever before for brands to have a credible social purpose, it will be the content that shows authentic collaborations between influencers and brands living and breathing shared values that wins. If brands are simply treated as a paid media channel to advertise product, they will lose their power of influence and, ultimately, their trust. It will be increasingly imperative to have an earned-first, editorial view to create truly compelling content that will drive credible impact.

The rise of influencers as sales agents
The pandemic has shifted our purchasing habits more than ever, with the effects of Covid lockdowns adding £5.3billion to e-commerce in 2020. While the high street will no doubt bounce back as a valuable source of brand experience for those big-ticket purchases, the reality for our essential CPG products is that we will likely continue to look for the quickest and simplest possible path to purchase and, as a result, this surge in online shopping, including social commerce, will continue. As a result, the way we look at all online activity will change too, including influencer output. There will be a growing opportunity for brands to collaborate with influencers in a more commercially-minded way, measuring them beyond reach and engagement and transforming them equally into e-commerce channels in their own right, thanks to growing capabilities across platforms including Instagram.