Guest Lecture with Stefano Balestra and Anna Meyfarth from Collabary, Zalando Marketing Services’s self-service platform matching brands & influencers
A blog by Airinë Nuqi
In the Winter Semester 2020/21, Stefano Balestra (Director of Marketing Strategy & Operations) and Anna Meyfarth (Marketing Lead at Collabary) of Zalando Marketing Services (ZMS), gave a guest lecture at HMKW on the subject of ZMS’s influencer marketing platform, Collabary, a platform that begun as a startup within Zalando Marketing Services in 2016 connecting brands with influencers. This guest lecture was held as a part of the “New Trends in PR” module taught to third semester PR and Digital Marketing master students, by Prof. Dr. Kim Murphy.
With numerous years of experience in the industry, Stefano and Anna provided the students with a direct insight into the services of ZMS, how they are successfully matching brands with influencers and helping brands to run influencer campaigns. As part of the lecture, Stefano described four of the key trends in influencer marketing that he and his marketing team have witnessed over the past year, and which will continue to shape influencer marketing in 2021:
Credibility & Creativity
The pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives and one knock on effect is that consumers increasingly want to see authenticity and substance from brands and influencers. According to Stefano, they saw credibility and creativity evolving through 2020, as a result of the pandemic and other global events like the Black Lives Matter movement. In terms of authenticity and credibility, people want to hear from influencers who take a stance on important social and political issues. Over the past year, Zalando and Collabary sought out influencers who will be honest about their values and, most importantly, give a strong opinion even if only some segments of their followers agree with them. Faced with the pandemic, many brands had to also ask themselves over the past year: “Is this the right time to do marketing?” and how can we do it in a way that is credible and authentic. Stefano explained how Nike successfully confronted this dilemma, coming up with the “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world” slogan, accompanied by workouts people could join, engaging them from their homes, and helping them to feel part of a community while in isolation.
Change & Tech Platforms
The second trend that has emerged over the past year and which will continue is the evolution of tech platforms. Stefano observed how on the one hand social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are noticeably shifting towards more commerce, on the other hand ecommerce platforms like Zalando are increasingly becoming more social. Stefano also described how TikTok is trying to set itself apart from other platforms by focusing increasingly on topics like health and education. In 2021, YouTube will most likely try to compete with TikTok with the introduction of more short form video content. Brands need to closely monitor these changes and ask themselves where will their customers be and on which platforms? If brands want to stay relevant, they need to keep up!
Customer-Centricity & Immediacy
The students also got an insight into how live shopping and livestreaming is making a comeback in the digital age (another consequence of the pandemic). While live shopping has existed for some time, certain influencers are selling products, whether for a brand or their own, to live audiences at record speed. “The customer wants access, immediacy and exclusivity,” Stefano says, “this is something to look out for, since people want direct access.” He described how brands and influencers are all trying to “tap into” this type of interaction, where you can provide your audience and potential buyers with the sense of urgency through, for example, count-down timers and such.
The Rise of AI
The final trend is the rise of AI and the virtual influencer (e.g. LiL Miquela). Brands reach out to influencers to promote them, but they know that this comes with giving up control and this scares them, as influencers are free to interpret a brand’s message however they choose. However over the past year, more companies and brands have started using virtual influencers and will most likely continue, over the next year, to engage with virtual influencers like Lil Miquela. He also expects that brands will start using AI to generate more marketing content, for example, generating whole scripts, stories.. While AI can be a great tool to use in marketing and brand promotion, it is also a topic that raises many social and ethical questions and has to be looked at closely.
If you are interested in learning more about Collabary see https://www.collabary.com/ or visit Zalando Marketing Services at https://zms.zalando.com/