Neil Waller, co-founder of Whaler, speaks with Julie Slater about making advertising more personable using influencer marketing. Whalar, dedicated to liberating the creative voice, is the only influencer marketing platform to partner with Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
Neil and Julie talk about building companies, building brands, and the value of localized, personalized, brand-friendly yet out-of-the-box campaigns created by influencers. Neil discusses how to measure success in an influencer campaign and has advice for companies who have never tried influencer marketing but want to.
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Julie: Welcome to The Brand Moat, the podcast where each month we bring you inspirational stories from global brand leaders who share how to build your brand. And future-proof your business. I’m Julie Slater. I start every episode with big ideas and wrap up each show with key insights. So you can focus on taking action. And in case you’re wondering why do we call this showThe Brand Moat. Well, just like a castle. Your moat protects you from outsiders and the competition. When the idea is applied to your company, it helps you maintain your competitive advantage. Your moat may be a feature, some tech magic or marketing secret sauce, but we think your strongest moat is your brand. This podcast is all about that.
Today, my guest is Neil Waller, co-founder of Whalar. The only influencer marketing platform to partner with Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Whalar is a global platform that connects brands with influencers. The aim is to make advertising more personable, relevant, and inclusive, which in turn makes the creative voices of influencers more powerful. Here’s my conversation with Neil Waller.
Welcome Neil. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me. Sure thing. Hey, you have a great origin story for Whalar. You want a Shopify competition called build a business. Now, what, what did you, when was this specific category?
Neil: It was, so this goes back to 2015. So Shopify ran this annual competition. That was a reward for the top new business sales. So you start a new business and those that grew the fastest within the year, and we won for the category of fashion and apparel, and that has led us onto the crazy journey that is Whalar.
Julie: But now your prize for that was you got to go to the luxury private Island called Necker Island, and you got to hang with sir Richard Branson, the owner of the Island. Pretty cool. Are you guys best friends? Now the saying is a little bit what happens on Necker stays on Necker, but I’m guessing you’d like to know a little, yes. I would love to know how that felt and what happened there.
Neil: It was a magical moment and it was kind of crazy as well because it was, it was not just myself, my cofounder and winners from other categories of businesses. It was also like the Shopify leadership team. And Shopify is just this incredible company because they were kind of celebrating where they’d got to with the business as well. And I think the thing about Necker not to plug it too much, but you’re in the middle of nowhere. And so, you know, where they’re the other winners are there. The Shopify leadership team are there.
We’ve got mentors like Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, Daymond, John, all of who are like disconnected from the rest of the world. They’re not on the phone, they’re not checking their emails all the time. Cause you’re in this beautiful Island. And so you, we really got to just connect with others and really learn from each other.
And that was kind of an inspiring moment. Cause it’s, it’s nice to enjoy. And it was nice for the Pat on the back of success of what had been done, but actually because it led to us then creating Whalar, it was that it was that moment of inspiration that, that happened there. And it’s a special place. And there’s this room on the Island that, you know, they had a group called the elders that Nelson Mandela used to chair. And you just got the feeling of the amount of incredible conversations and people that have been on this Island. It was a true privilege to, to have been there as well as being on an Island in the British Virgin islands. So yeah, once in a lifetime moment.
Julie: So you’ve seen like someone that was really sure of yourself and the direction of the company, the direction it needed to take. How did that come about for you? What gives you that assurance?
Neil: So I think it a sense of it comes off, which is good because you have to be confident in what you’re doing. You have to make a decision and go forward with it, perhaps sometimes without the full information of, if it’s the right way to go, importantly, you have to be willing to take new information and change your mind. As new information comes, that can be new information you’re getting directly, or it can be things you learn from other people. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be sure it’s of yourself at the time of making a decision. And I think for myself and my cofounder, you know, even with the Necker, the business that got us in Necker, which was a watch business, that was our seventh business together. So Whalar’s our eighth and it’s really the, the journey through all of those with successes and failures patchwork throughout it.
I think just a few kind of key principles. And one that I always ended up saying to the team is mountains looked like mole Hills in the rear view mirror. Like there are always challenges and it almost always seems insurmountable at the time or just, how the hell are you going to do that? Or this is going to break this thing and you get over them, you tack it piece by piece and then you look back later and you think, Oh, it wasn’t so bad.
And it’s just taking that experience for, and we’ve learned that you just go through things and you work it out methodically. And even if you’re not right, it doesn’t matter. You just keep on, keep on going. And so that, that gives us a level of assurance from having gone through so much achieve so much done so much failed so much along that journey. You’re just calmer about it. I used to like wear my heart on my sleeve probably was a little bit up and down with it. Now the one thing I always say, nothing really phases us, but his cause you’ve done so much and you learn it’s okay. You just, you just get through it.
Julie: Do you have any personal behaviors that have helped you or habits that have helped you be the person you are?
Neil: I would say the one thing that has changed over the period of time. So myself and my co founder, James dropped out of college back in 2006. So we’ve been doing this road for a little little bit. Now, going back to your starting question, actually that it ties in with of being sure of yourself.
Arrogance has a fine line. Like you have to be stubborn as an entrepreneur and often like where the opportunity lies is in where a lot of people around you say that’s a stupid idea or that won’t work. That’s where an opportunity lies to go and succeed and do something.
So you have to have a degree of arrogance or naivety, put the two together, however you like, but it’s learning that take advice and change. And I think one of the things that we’ve done in the last three or four years is just surrounded ourselves with people that have gone through experiences and are in different places in industry and just seek advice from them. You don’t have to take it all. You don’t have to action at all, but it just percolates in your brain and you get smarter through their experience and the same way, I feel a much better entrepreneur. Now, from the time that I’ve gone on this journey and the things I’ve learned, why would you not go and learn that from as many people as possible?
Julie: That is an interesting perspective to always be open to learning no matter where you are.
And you know, we’ve, we’ve got another little mantra in the business, which is we, we always want to look back in six months and laugh at how we did it six months ago. That’s an acceptance that how we do it now is a bit shit. Like we’re saying, we want to laugh at that in six months time, but we can’t let that paralyze us or we wouldn’t get on with things. So it’s going, look, it will be better in six months, we want to iteratively improve. That’s always the ambition.
So except that everything’s not perfect now and drive within it and always look to better ourselves and know that it will be much better, much better than, and that can be difficult because you’re sort of, sometimes people want something to be too perfect. I need that plan all laid out. I need every angle work that no, just, just it’s better to move.
Julie: So as far as setting goals for a brand or company, our six months goals, the best for you, I mean, do you, do you do like a six months, one year, five year plan?
Neil: The way we’ve always done it is we’ve had a North star somewhere we were aiming for. I dunno what time horizon that is, but it’s like, if we’re building this, this is what we think the capacity for it is to be. And then I think we work in six months, six month chunks. And then as we get bigger and further long, probably one year, you know, if I think about Whalar right now, we’ve got a very clear roadmap and plan for this year. Okay, good. Now, all I care about is the six months next year don’t really know yeah. Brushstrokes ideas, but it sort of, you know, walk before you can run, we won’t get to do what we want to do in 2021. If we don’t achieve what we need to achieve in 2020.
Julie: Now Whalar was the first influencer marketing platform to ever win gold and silver at the Cannes lions international festival of creativity. What was that like to receive that honor?
Neil: It was amazing. It was amazing for the team and for the recognition. The interesting thing is that if the team was to say something about myself and my co-founder, it probably be that we don’t celebrate it enough. And you know, I think in a way that comes from the journey we’ve been on of success and failure, where you can have things that look very successful and can turn away from you at a certain point. And so awards are a nice validation of the journey, but it doesn’t necessarily mean and a thing. So I think in truth, it was a, it’s been more useful to the business because of what it stands for. And it was great for the team that did all that work for me. It’s lovely, but actually it’s kind of, you know, get back to work and grow a successful, profitable, sustainable business, the amount of businesses that can win awards, but have no profit or be out of business later down the line and don’t get me wrong.
I’d rather have won it than not won it. But I think the, the vanity of things is also another thing. Again, as younger entrepreneurs, when we started our journey, the vanity of things can kind of get away from you. I’m going off on a tangent, but I’ll give the example.
I saw some people that are, you know, more of the age when James and I started that just got some funding for something. And I saw on their social media, new office, new laptops to everyone, new furniture and celebrating all of that. I did that. We screwed that business up. It doesn’t matter. Do you know what I mean?
Those are not the important things. You know, it doesn’t mean don’t do them, but it’s it’s. I remember being that. And I remember celebrating that moment. And actually what you should have had is a crappy office and, you know, invested in it, make sure that the business foundations were solid.
I think that’s the other thing of just the journey you, you just learned to stop valuing the vanity stuff and it’s, it’s important and valuable along the way, but it becomes secondary to actually building a, a proper, a proper business.
Julie: Can you give me the elevator pitch for your company Whalar? What do you do? What is it?
Neil: Good question. So, well, I’ll tell you why it’s called Whalar. Cause it kind of leads into it nicely and actually causes a lot of problems. Cause my surname is Waller. And so everyone thinks I’m an ego test and the company’s been named after me, actually my co-founder named it and he would not have named it after me. My ego is big enough.
So it’s called Whalar because a whale call can travel 10,000 miles under the ocean. And other whales can hear that message. What we love through the fabric of social media is people could be publishing something and someone sitting in London can connect and get meaning from something published by someone in Tokyo or Cape town or here in Los Angeles.
The message can travel that distance and still be heard. And really Whalar is an influencer marketing company at our heart. We view influencers as publishers. So people publishing on topics. They’re passionate about have some level of knowledge on it in many ways, our journalists of today, obviously in some capacities of the industry, not but in a good segment of people that are publishing on topics that they have a lot of knowledge on and people choose to follow them for. They are kind of journalists and publishers and then we help brands find the right people to work with and collaborate with them to create amazing creative work and share messages through those channels of distribution.
Julie: So you’re a matchmaker, of sorts.
Neil: Of sorts. Yeah.
Julie: Are you the Tinder of brands with influencers?
Neil: Yeah, it’s it’s, it’s a fair, it’s a fair question. I think once that’s something got published about us being a dating site at the end of the day, there is a matchmaking component of finding the right people to collaborate with where there’s going to be a true, true affinity. It’s it’s two brands working together because the influencers as publications are a brand in their own, right? And today you can do that on scale to where you could work with in one campaign, 200 around the world, we need to find the right 200. You need to find the 200 that are going to be a match for you. Your brand asthetics, what you stand for the audience. So yeah, we’re a matchmaking site.
Julie: So for a brand that really has no idea what influencer marketing is, what would be a basic, like an influencer marketing 101 for them.
Neil: So I think very simply you’ve got individuals that at one point in time were called bloggers because they were publishing on a blog and they are publishing content that people are back then reading and consuming because they found it interesting. Then social media platforms came along and people were doing that same thing on TikTok and YouTube and Snapchat and Instagram can’t call them bloggers anymore.
So you call them influencers and really it’s those individuals that have publishing online on social media predominantly that have built up followings of individuals that are find passion and interest and intrigue in what they’re consuming from those individuals. And therefore they have influence over them in the same way that a newspaper or a magazine has influence over its readers. And so for brands tapping into that world is a way to access that audience through the trusted voice and opinions of an influencer. And so I just very simply wrap it up as publishing.
Julie: And you did do a campaign. Was it your DIor? Was it with 200 influencers? So how do you go about, I mean, that, I guess is the expertise and why someone hires you, how do you go about finding those that right. 200 people. Yeah.
Neil: Well, so in that scenario, Dior came to us with a here’s the profile of customer I’m trying to talk to, here are the aesthetics of this campaign that we at Dior want to achieve because there’s a visual imagery and mood board to it. Here are the different personas of people that we think represent our brand and our customers, as well as the audiences we’re trying to talk to. And we just go off and match that and look in the data. There’s also like the team, visually looking over things, but essentially going off and looking in the data and going, okay, we’ve now found them 200 people from these different markets they were looking for that have an aesthetic creation style that matches to deal have perhaps even shown beliefs in what they talk about and what they follow and what they’re interested in that match the kind of belief and interests of deal. And then lastly also have the audience match that is the audience targets that you’re trying to speak to. And then once we’ve done the identification through the tools where we were contacting them, we’re briefing them and we’re reviewing the work.
Julie: And how would you explain the success of that campaign? What about it worked the best?
Neil: So first and foremost, that campaign achieved huge reach and engagement for them online and awareness of what they were trying to promote. The bit that surprised them was the level of creative production that came back from people all around the world. And so, you know, they had 200 different people creating creative assets in 58 different countries. Dior ended up putting that in stores around the world and did an exhibition in China showcasing the work cause they just went, this is amazing. This is creative work coming from individuals that belong to our customer base from all around.
But can you imagine trying to do 200 photo shoots in 58 countries? Sure. They could. It’s a big enough company, but the amount of work that would be required to do that, people flying around, we did all of that in 45 days for them and they just saw these great assets and went, wow, that’s amazing.
We can use that. And that’s been one of the, the, the trends in general, the amount of times work’s going on buses and billboards and digital out of home and print advertising. And it’s coming from these different creative voices. It’s also diverse, you know, an entire spread of a creative community that comes from every walk of life where, you know, income upbringing, beliefs, none of that really matters. It’s their creative voice that they’re being discovered for and used and working with them to, to tap into that.
Julie: And how much control do you give influencers on a campaign?
Neil: Here’s a good question. I mean, my political answer is loads and none, so loads because they’re given a very clear brief that could have very tight parameters or very open parameters, but they’re given a very clear brief, and they can say that for me, I think I can do a great job for that. Then they are held to account for delivering on that brief,
Julie: Do you preview what they’re going to deliver? Or they just deliver it.
Neil: We don’t preview it in real time in terms of them creating it, but we are approving it and reviewing it before it gets to the client. And before it goes out in the wild. But I think in essence, it’s sort of, if I go with that publisher analogy again, if you were to collaborate with good housekeeping, you know what that magazine stands for, you know, what the aesthetic is there. So if it’s a good match, the brand kind of knows what they’re going to produce. As long as they stay in parameters of what good housekeeping stands for and what the brief said, it’s kind of like that with influencers. So that’s where so much work goes into that matchmaking side to truly find the right people that are suitable. You see all the portfolio of their previous work, you know, what they stand for creativity and from a messaging standpoint.
And you’ve got a clear, brief that saying what you want produced. And they’ve said, yeah, I definitely think I can do that. Now stuff comes back that pushes the boundaries, but that actually is quite what brands like a lot of the time cause they go, Oh, I haven’t thought of an idea like that. Or I haven’t thought how, you know, a, a single parent in this market might have interpreted this kind of brief and it teaches them something as well. So once they’ve got the brief and being chosen, they’ve got complete creative freedom as long as they create in the parameters of the, of the brief.
Julie: And do you ever worry about, you know, like what stops an influencer from going directly to these brands and not working with you?
Neil: Yes. All the time, but not from a contractual standpoint, our job is to provide value to both brands and influencers in the ecosystem. And if we can’t do that, we don’t have a place being there. And so, you know, we have had this conversation internally kind of all throughout times since we started. So it’s no good putting it in a contract. I’m sure we have the clauses in the contract because it would be silly not to, but it’s not the approach to go to. It’s not the place to think that you’re going to enforce it.
The place to focus on is, am I adding value? Am I helping both parties out? That’s, what’s going to give you longevity and what you got to do, you’ve got to be serving people and giving them service and value that helps either make their life easier. Save them time, make them more money, allow them to find better things to do, help with the measurement, help them keep on top of things, whatever it is. You’ve just got to be adding value.
And then, you know, you focus on that. You won’t get cut out. And if we ever do get cut out and we have on times, I go to them and say, why, what, where did we, where did we drop it? Where, where did this scenario rise, where it didn’t make sense to work with us? And then we go and try and work out. Should we be adding value there? And if we don’t, I’m happy for them to not need us
Julie: Go off and have kids on their own. [laughter]
Neil: You got to know where you, you know, you’re adding value.
Julie: And then I’ve also, it’s interesting. A lot of people with influencers, of course, it’s all about the numbers of the influencer, but I have seen interviews with you where you say sometimes it could be an influencer just who has a solid 5,000 followers. That could be great. How do you figure out who is someone that has value and how does a brand figure that out?
Neil: Let’s stick with the avenue of influencers as a distribution channel, as a publisher, all that really matters beyond the high level of following numbers is who are the audience and how engaged is their audience with that influencer on the topic that the brand is wanting to access them about. And you could have a million followers and only 2% could be relevant. So actually there’s a good example here. There was a, I won’t name the brand, but there was a brand that was desperate to work with this big YouTuber that had an unboxing account so that you see the quite fascinating videos where they like going through
Julie: Oh yeah. They are like unwrap things?
Neil: But it kind of, if you don’t see it, yeah but done in a really interesting. People would be like, what the hell are you talking about? That sounds crap. But go Google unboxing videos. And there’s some really cool ones. So I think this person had, I dunno, maybe like 2 million views, a video and this company needed to reach an audience in Canada. They were obsessed with the idea of working with this YouTuber.
Julie: And did they come to you?
Neil: And they came to us and they said, we really want to work with this person. We really, really want to work. So I was like, okay, it’s going to cost a bit of money, which is fine because actually the amount relative to his audience and what they achieved was, was sensible. But I said, but you know, only 2% of that audience is in Canada and Canada was where they were targeting. And so thankfully they came to their senses and went, yeah, we’re not going to pay for 2 million people when only 2% of it makes sense.
So to your question of when does 5,000 makes sense when that 5,000 is an absolute solid match and this example in Canada, working with 50 people, all the 5,000 in Canada. So it’s, it’s really a case of looking at the audience. Of course you can work with smaller ones. Everyone says, okay, smaller ones are more engaged with their audience. Yeah. But that’s, they are, but they’re smaller audiences. So there’s naturally a higher engagement as you get bigger. There’s drop-off does it mean bigger ones don’t make sense to work with because there’s economies of scale in the pricing as well. You don’t tend to pay 20 times the price for someone with 20 times the audience. So it’s looking at the audience and it’s looking at your budget and saying, can I afford that or do I need to play here? And there’s, there’s solid value. And in the smaller ones, and all you got to look at as the audience,
Julie: What other campaigns would you say were really successful or that you thought were the most creative that you’ve been involved in?
Neil: You know, there’s been such a, an interesting range. I th I think the fundamental thing for me is always, again, just that creative bar and I’m sort of waiting for a Superbowl ad to be made through this community. Cause I think the creative talent is there and is available. Um, for that I’ve been really proud of some work that we do around the purpose driven stuff. So stuff with Burt’s bees and stuff with Unilever that is helping brands tell that purpose story, we build a community. And I say, we actually, the community kind of drove it called the change collective, which is a group of influencers that are all about businesses with a purpose, with a sustainable supply chain that give back to the community in some way, shape or form.
And they actively look to go and work with brands like that and help tell that story as well. And equally they can go and help brands that aren’t strong on that and advise them, what do we look for as consumers? What do we like about what other brands are doing? So I think the work around that is particularly poignant at this moment in time.
Julie: And do you work with, with the influencers? Do you have exclusive contracts with certain influencers?
Neil: So we do with some that we sort of represent and help them manage and grow their, their career. But no, in general, we don’t, because for us, it’s about finding the right talent to work on the right job for a brand, wherever they may be, versus just having a set of influencers that we have to give work to all the time and that of reliance solely upon us for that income stream. Whereas I think, you know, actually it’s quite important that the job is no, let me find the best people that are suitable for this, for this brand.
Julie: And what about the worry about people having a false fake followers? And that’s huge. So what do you, how do you manage that?
Neil: It’s a huge problem in the industry. There is an absolute ton of it. Some self-inflicted where people have gone and done things that actually on the face of it might look like real marketing things, you know, companies advertising, Hey, do this and we’ll get you 50,000 real followers and people go, Oh, okay. Yeah. Why would I do that? When actually it’s not the case actually from a technical standpoint of dealing with it, it’s very, very easy because we get the, we we’re connected to the platforms and we get to see the data. And it’s very easy to see what’s real and what’s not.
So you can’t detect it, just looking at account, looking at followers and work it out. But when you connect it to the data, it’s, it’s a nonissue, but it’s big in the industry. There’s been a lot of it.
Julie: Let’s say a brand is considering what kind of advertising they want to do. What would you say the difference from hiring like a George Clooney to do your commercial, as opposed to hiring an influencer who could also be at George Clooney out there? What’s the advantage of really going the influencer route as opposed to a commercial?
Neil: Ideally it doesn’t have to be one or the other, but if you think about the money that you’re going to spend on someone like George Clooney, it’s probably a hell of a lot. And you could probably work with 10,000 influencers for the same money. It’s probably somewhere in that quantum. I don’t know what he charged, but I’m just going off. What I suspect it might be.
Julie: How do you test the value of an influencer? Because I would imagine it’s not just sales, maybe it’s conversations that are started online.
Neil: Yeah, exactly. And you can measure all of that. So we do brand awareness reports where you can go out to the audience and show did people’s perceptions shift about this product? Did their awareness shift about this product? Did they change their emotional response to the brand in some way, shape or form so that when they come across it again, they kind of lean into the advertising or, you know, when they’re in the supermarket and see on the shelf, that’s the one they pick the kind of all the stuff that advertising is generally designed to do can all now be measured through influencer marketing as well. This will blend in with the previous question where you said campaigns to be proud of. We worked with a brand called Saint John nets and we did a campaign with them. It actually was written up in the New York Times, I think last week of just how this brand is reinventing itself.
And in that campaign, we work with 75, really amazing. I mean, I never know where these labels should come from, but we’ll call them micro, mid tier macro influences just a spread, but they also work with three Hollywood celebrities. And that was a desire and a push from the brand. But actually the campaign with all of it together worked really, really well. And Hollywood celebrities still gave some cache and interest to it from audience. And actually it was interesting for the influencers to be involved in something alongside Hollywood celebrities as well. So it can still work really, really
Julie: what’s the difference with a macro or a micro influencer and are there other,
Neil: I mean, I think the one I can’t stand the most is nano influencer because what I mean nano doesn’t that like a molecule
Julie: What’s the most successful social media platform you use?
Neil: Well, Instagram it’s, it’s still the one, that’s the magazine for people. And it has the broadest range of, of people using it. Tech talks up and coming and exciting. 1.4 billion users outside of China. It’s huge. The age range demo on it is growing all the time. And everyone still, I think thinks of it just as for a younger generation, but the amount of users that are over 25 and even over 30 on it. Yeah. Growing rapidly, I think it’s still got, you know, some brand safety things to work through, but they’re, they’re recruiting amazing people from other platforms that are going and bringing all the learnings of the past to, to drive it forward. But now Instagram is still the bread and butter. YouTube drives a lot of value, but it’s expensive relative to, to Instagram, but Instagram for the majority.
Julie: And then without giving away any of your secret sauce of your company, would you say most of what you do is based off of like an algorithm? How much is human research? How much is maybe a gut of what you think might work.
Neil: All the inner workings. So there is no silver bullet. It’s not one thing we’ve built a ton of tech and that tech enables what we do. And you know, our technology team we’ve been going around for almost coming up to four years now have been building and evolving the product to serve our team and the function of what they do, these collaborations over that period. And so then one part of it is just the experience that the company has and they have in working in this space. The final, last part of it is then the measurement capabilities, because you can look at a lot of data. You can think you’ve got great ideas. If you can’t measure it, you can’t learn from it. So you can’t just hypothetically say, Oh, I think that works.
So we’ve spent so much time and money and great people in building and working on with the industry on these measurement capabilities. That’s partly about being able to help higher up, prove to higher ups the effectiveness of this stuff, but it’s also like learning, Oh, okay. This kind of stuff worked best here. I can now plug that back in to the beginning of the, of the process. So yeah, no, not one single silver bullet, but you certainly can’t do this stuff manually.
Julie: So one of the features of Whaler is that it standardizes the process, the rules, the pricing, and reporting of influencer marketing across multiple platforms. Why would you say that’s important and who does that benefit?
Neil: It benefits everyone involved. One of the biggest problems for an industry to grow is when just no one has a clue what anyone should paid, what’s the worth of anything. And people get taken advantage of and people take advantage of people. So, you know, I, I remember a few years ago, you’d, you’d see some influences of the exact same kind of caliber in terms of creative audience size capability and charged brands, two totally different prices for a job. And you know, it ultimately doesn’t really work in the end. Brands get annoyed by that. And how do you justify it? So the more this stuff becomes process driven and streamlined, and there are rules around it. The more it can become a reliable part of the marketing funnel and people can drive more money into it and plan around it. And, you know, startups play well in the unknown.
You know, they’re better at finding the boundaries and being a bit scrappier, big companies do not like doing that, which is why they’re often slower on these trends, right? Because it just takes them longer to actually commit to doing something because of all the rules that they have. But they’re where the money’s at as well, that where the big advertising dollars are out. And so why this industry is growing so fast now is because the biggest advertisers in the world, uh, plowing their budgets into influencer marketing. It was Estee Lauder that said, I can’t remember if it was US or global, but 75% of their marketing budget was going into influencer marketing mind blowing. They wouldn’t do that without the rules and process and thinking, this is a reliable place to pump that much money through. So it benefits absolutely everyone by getting to that point, it also helps take work out. Where was it not working and, and stop that happening.
Julie: The fascinating thing about influencer marketing of course, is that it’s global, that people from, you know, someone in LA and someone in London can talk to someone in Singapore, but how could you talking to a brand? How can you tell a brand, you know, how do they use this as a great power? And what’s a warning for how you could misuse that.
Neil: One of the mistakes of the past was just saying as a loud speaker where you kind of rent this influencer and rent their audience. And if I go back to the publishing analogy, Vogue, for example, I think any brand that ever worked with Vogue fell, Oh, we’re just going to rent their audience. We’re going to force them to say what we want them to say. It was a true collaboration to work with them and access that audience and learn from them as well. And so the, the big, no, no for brands is, don’t just your, you’re not just buying media and just putting your message out there. This is a collaboration and they are publishers and work with them and learn from them as well. The end of the day, these are the customers of the brand. It’s breaking down the walls between brand marketing teams and the end customers.
You know, we were super fortunate when started Whalar within a few months, I was speaking at an event in London and a chap by the name of Sir John Hegarty was in the audience. Someone I’d never heard of before. And he’s the founder of a creative agency called BBH is one of the most awarded and heralded creatives of all time. And he became our an investor and he became our chairman and he gave us this mission statement, liberating, the creative voice, and really that’s what it stands for. It’s, it’s allowing these creatives all around the world to share their creative voice and get an income for that level of creativity in the voice that they’ve got. So when they truly tap into that, it’s really powerful.
Julie: What would you say if, if a brand is looking to do some influencer marketing for the first time, like how what’s the first step to dipping your toes in?
Neil: I think that the thing is go and look at what people are talking about your brand. I’d be very surprised if brands don’t exist, where some influencers aren’t already talking about that brand. Doesn’t again, matter what size the influencer is. If you’re a brand and there are people online on social that are posting about it, that are engaging with your account, go to them, go learn from them, send them a message. Hey, we’re thinking about doing a campaign, you know, would you like to get involved? You can learn so much from starting, starting there and going to the people that are the true diehard fans of your brand. And then that’s not the only place you can live. You’ve got to grow that over time. One of the things, again, that John Haggerty said to us is in advertising, it was called broadcast that’s cause it needed to go broad.
Otherwise you’re just speaking to the same people all the time. Speaking to the same people all the time is the easiest way to win more sales. You know, everyone says like your, your best customers, your existing customer, but if you want to grow, you also need to get more people to become customers. And that’s where you start to kind of broaden that, that reach. But I would say I would, you know, when you’re first starting off, start small, start with the people that are already fans of the brand that have some social following and go and try and collaborate with them and grow it from there. I think the other thing that we did well when we had our brands was we tried to turn every customer. I’m not going to say influence. So we tried to turn every customer into a marketer. So like we made really nice packaging.
And the amount of times people received our products and took to social to share the packaging. We tried to turn every single customer into a marketer and talk about our brand. And again, that starts the whole cycle of things. And then my very last one, again, this is what we used to do is when we first started our brands, we put all of our own brand assets. You know, that we’ve taken from photo shoots that we’d done into our advertising.
As we did more and more on social, we started to take the assets coming from influencers and our customers and put those in our advertising. Our advertising performance went through the roof. I think it created assets that were more realistic, more appealing to people. I also think like we have people create in Sydney. So when we were advertising to people in Australia, it was with assets that had Sydney as a backdrop.
Well, it appealed to them more, it better, it had a stronger resonance and the results were better. So, you know, it’s seeing it as how many different places can you leverage this across your business? And actually one last one is we, we put social feeds on our websites. When people were looking at our products, they could see other people wearing them. And that gave that kind of social currency of, Hey, you’re not going to be the only one buying this product. Don’t worry. There’s other people talking about it and loving it. That helps you choose to make that purchase decision as well.
Julie: So we call this podcast The Brand Moat, and it’s about, you know, as a castle, you have a moat around to really fight off.
Neil: Hey, as a Brit, I know that well.
Julie: The competition, how would you use your influencer marketing as a brand moat to fight off competition
Neil: Brand is the most incredible thing. What makes me willing to wear this hoodie today that I could have bought for $20 and probably bought for a hundred brand affinity? What that brand says to me, how I feel about that brand, how I feel about other people that wear that brand? What an amazing moat, why the hell did I, there’s no logo on this today? Why am I not wearing a $20? I mean, I’m saying that slightly in shame, how stupid, but like, this is what reflects consumerism. So it’s the brand story. You’ve got to tell that brand story. And again, going back to Haggerty, cause I always go there to make myself seem more intelligent.
A brand is not what a brand says. It is a brand is what consumers say about a brand.
Go work with influencers, drive that consumer story, make it be out there, make people hear about it, come across it where everyone’s talking about it. Cause again like influencer marketing is, is, is circles. People follow more than one influencer. And when they see customers talk about it, what am I missing out on? What do I need to know about this brand? And unfortunately like that’s what allows people to charge a premium, um, for, for products. So you want to mote build a, build a brand. We want to build a brand, get talk, people talking about it. And there’s kind of no better channel right now than influencer marketing.
Julie: That’s great advice. Thank you, Neil. Thanks for being on the program.
Julie: That’s our show. Hope you enjoyed it. Listen to us on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. This podcast is brought to you by Loomly, the brand success platform that helps your team collaborate, publish and succeed all in one place. Check out Loomly.com and start your 15-day free trial. Now. Thanks for listening. I’m Julie Slater.