Influencer Marketing and Brand Impact During COVID-19

Alyssa DeSangro | Jun. 2 2020

Amidst the smog of COVID-19, brands and advertisers have been reassessing their objectives and strategies. Along with first-hand experience in crisis management, we are leaning on news, research and reports to validate or debunk our thoughts. From linear to streaming to OOH, we’ve seen immediate implications due to our current climate and are being flooded with publisher trends on the matter. However, perhaps the one advertising tactic that isn’t as obvious, is influencer marketing. 
While brands reconfigure current campaigns, they should take a deeper look at the influencer marketing strategies they are using currently and have previously leveraged. In doing this, they can uncover brand perception, observe attitudinal shifts in influencer consumer relationships, and unlock ways to connect with influencers and their following. This is essential in providing more personal guidelines on how to step back into reality, whatever reality may be at the end of this. 
For brands with live influencer marketing campaigns, what are the risks and rewards of advertising during COVID-19?
What we know is that consumers have leaned more and more on influencers as a trusted source of information (no thanks to the idea that mainstream media is full of “fake news”). This makes it even more important to look at how that influencer is connecting with their audience. Is it sensitive? Is it a hard sell? What is the sentiment of their engagement? And how could this positively or negatively affect your brand’s perception through the eyes of that influencer’s following? For those who do this well, your brand is in excellent hands, as influencers are arguably the closest your brand can get to a consumer.
Furthermore, with production dramatically affected by social distancing guidelines, influencers are more powerful than ever as a resource for content creation. The more an influencer maintains their authenticity and vulnerability, connects with their following and curates content, the more trust they gain from those that follow. However, the consequences of those who fall short of this could be devastating for your brand. 
For brands with a long-standing influencer partnership, with no live campaigns, how could an influencer’s notorious association impact the brand? 
The implications for this scenario are the exact same, because as consumers, this relationship between brand and influencer never dissipates for us. 
So what does this mean for influencer marketing during COVID-19 and beyond? Right now, it’s important to keep up with your influencer network, past and present. Just as they’ve been a representative and voice for your brand up to this point, it is more important than ever that they are authentic, yet tactful. On the flip side, it is equally as important that brands show up and support their partners. This is a defining moment in time. The loyalty brands exemplify during a crisis builds much needed trust.
Looking to the future of influencer marketing, while it’s in flux right now, it’s not going anywhere. 
However, the current climate and looming grief hanging over society raises the possibility that this advertising medium will see a shift much like other mediums. There will be prevalence for those who influence effectively. But on the other side of that, we may find a bigger barrier of skepticism for brands and future influencer partners to overcome in order to gain the same trust that was more easily won by fans pre-Coronavirus. And while this is very likely the course in which influencer marketing was heading to begin with, COVID-19 will be the ultimate catalyst for change.

Alyssa DeSangro is Associate Media Director at The Many.