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Influencer Marketing

How Much Creative Freedom Should Brands Give Influencers?

Learn how to strike the right balance between providing creative freedom and adequate guidance to influencers.
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Over the years, influencer marketing has become a highly effective growth channel, helping brands boost ROI while keeping costs relatively low. In fact, businesses generate an average of $5.78 in revenue for each $1 invested in influencer marketing, with some seeing as much as $18 per dollar invested.

Because influencer marketing has become a bigger priority for brands, we’ve seen more and more marketers grabbing the reins of creative control over their influencers’ content. The average influencer brief today provides creators with a strict outline on how to produce content as part of their collaboration, sometimes even including an exact script for influencers to read in their video or include in their caption. 

However, this no longer works — and arguably, never has.

Remember, the new generation of consumers are not blind to the commercial underpinnings of influencer partnerships. There’s a fine line between authentic branded content and scripted endorsements, and today’s consumers are quick to call out influencer partnerships that seem overly promotional, transactional, or misaligned. 

To resonate with the modern consumer, you need to strike the right balance between providing creative freedom as well as adequate guidance to influencers. In this article, we’ll talk about how to achieve this balance and walk through a few exemplary campaigns we love. 

So, how much freedom should brands give influencers?

The short answer is that influencers need a lot of creative autonomy to produce content that creates the type of impact your brand is looking for. 

Think about it. Creators have devoted audiences who follow them for their specific style of content, whether it’s comedic skits, aesthetic day-in-the-life vlogs, or drool-worthy cooking videos. When brands provide the same detailed creative brief to dozens of creators — who all post different types of content, have different personalities, and cater to different audiences — there’s a good chance that many of these influencers won’t be able to create content that is true to themselves, thus stunting audience engagement and not creating any brand impact. 

On the other hand, if you allow creators to incorporate your products into their content in a natural way, they’ll be able to produce content that actually resonates with audiences. Remember, the best ads are the ones that don’t look like ads at all. 

Going forward, brands need to give creators more freedom when it comes to their content creation process. To achieve a better balance between providing creative freedom and brand guidance to influencers, follow these 3 best practices. 

1. Provide guardrails, not guidelines. 

Although you should provide creators with more creative autonomy, it’s still important to communicate your brand values and campaign goals clearly. Provide influencers with a comprehensive brief that outlines your campaign, key messages, and desired outcomes. To get the creative ball rolling, you can even include a few examples of the type of content you’d like to see. Most importantly, keep the brief flexible enough to adapt to their ideas. 

A great example of an #ad that still resonates is Paycom’s partnership with Corporate Natalie. Natalie is known for her workplace comedy content, and it’s clear that Paycom embraced her content style and gave her creative liberty in this collaboration. Even though the video is clearly marked as a paid partnership, it was well received by her audience because it seamlessly blends with her other non-sponsored content. Some viewers even commented, “I shared this with several coworkers before I even realized it was an ad!” and “This was an ad? Lol so relatable.” 

@corporatenatalie #ad There's no way I could survive the corporate world without having everything I could ever possibly need in one place - thanks @Paycom #corporate #9to5 ♬ original sound - CorporateNatalie

2. Work with true brand fans. 

Chances are, your brand already has a community of people who are raving about your products to their friends and family, leaving positive reviews on your site, and sharing UGC on social media. These individuals are who you should work with, as these real, genuine fans can advocate for your brand in an authentic and credible way. 

Take note from Diet Coke and content creator Kristen Hollingshaus, perhaps better known as @hauskris. The brand sent a massive PR package to Kristen, who frequently posts about her daily “Diet Coke break,” which includes a cold Diet Coke with pebbled ice and a True Lime packet. The PR package included dozens of Diet Coke cans, hundreds of True Lime packets, and a framed @hauskris Diet Coke recipe, among many other branded goodies.

@hauskris I’m quite literally blushing. THANK YOU @Diet Coke ILY 🫶🏼 #dietcokebreak #dietcoke #unboxing ♬ original sound - Kristen

Diet Coke’s personalized product seeding campaign resulted in Kristen organically posting multiple times about the PR package. These videos have now garnered over millions of views and undoubtedly boosted brand affinity for Kristen and her audience. 

To connect with your brand’s biggest fans, use a tool like Aspire’s Creator Marketplace. Our Creator Marketplace is teeming with thousands of influencers who have specifically signed up to be noticed by brands and take part in campaigns. Brands simply create a proposal detailing their campaign and influencers can browse the Creator Marketplace and apply to work with the campaigns that are relevant to them.

3. Lean into trend-based content.

Now more than ever, it’s easy for brands to jump into trends and be part of the cultural zeitgeist, largely thanks to TikTok and its unique algorithm that has allowed all kinds of content to go viral. 

When it comes to influencer marketing, rely on your creators’ ability to understand the current social media landscape and give them more autonomy to come up with content that fits these fast-moving trends. 

For example, in partnership with Five Below, content creator Isabela Barbosa leaned into the silent review trend on TikTok, in which creators show off a recent purchase with a visual reaction — but no words or sounds. Isabela’s silent review of everything she picked up at the Five Below store blended seamlessly with her other hauls and reviews, resulting in over 80K views and hundreds of engaging comments. 

@_bela_amor Shhhhhh it’s a Silent Review 🤫 Easter Goodies Edition 🐣 #5BSilentReview #SilentReview #Easter #ad #fivebelowpartner @Five Below ♬ original sound - Isabela Barbosa

Put more trust in creators.

Influencers who achieve high engagement do so by creating a distinctive approach to their content, and sticking to it. When influencers' content is authentic and in line with their unique style, consumers are excited to view and engage — even when the content is an #ad. 

As consumers demand more authenticity and transparency from influencer marketing campaigns, brands need to rely more on influencers’ creative ideas and give them more autonomy when it comes to their content creation process. To get started, download our free influencer brief template to see what you should (and shouldn’t) include as part of your guidelines. 

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