Influencer marketing strategies are all the rage with marketers at this moment in time. We’ve all heard of multi-million dollar empires being built out of a teenager’s bedrooms and web-celebs from YouTube or Instagram who are building global followings for brands from a single post. Savvy marketers have been tapping into this strategy for their own purposes: influencer marketing campaigns drive sixteen times more engagements than paid or owned media.
Meanwhile, there’s a fresh approach that many are taking around micro-influencers (with 10,000 followers or fewer) to ground their brands in a word-of-mouth approach. And then there’s Hollywood, where celebrity endorsement deals have been core to building star-powered brands for decades. Many CMO’s have asked us: where should I be placing my investments in 2020?
To begin this conversation, we interviewed Clarissa Striker, who leads the charge for celebrity partnerships for Google for their consumer apps.
For those who do not know what Celebrity Partnerships is about at Google: give us your elevator pitch! Why does Google need to work with celebrities? How is it different, or better, than a brand endorsement deal that a sneaker company might do with an athlete?
The concept of celebrity engagement and featuring talent in our ads is still somewhat new for Google, but we’ve seen that when we partner with the right people who are invested in our brand, they can help us tell the story of Google and our products in a relatable way that extends to audiences incremental to our own. In our “Make Google Do It” campaign, we showed how John Legend and Chrissy Teigen take on the annoying task of searching for a TV show when they could just “make Google do it” and use the Google Assistant to make things that much easier. In our Home Alone remake, the now-adult Macaulay Culkin uses the Assistant to get things done more seamlessly than he did in the original iconic film, like adding aftershave to his shopping list. What made these campaigns so effective was leaning into the real personalities of our partners to showcase relatable use cases that speak to our audiences.
Every brand is engaging in some type of influencer activation today. Your approach was very strategic and holistic: collaborating with both product and marketing in a seemingly organic way. Tell us about the collaboration with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. How do you measure the effect of the story?
What’s unique about our ongoing relationship with John and Chrissy is that it’s grown over time as we’ve gotten to better understand how we can play in each other’s spaces in a way that’s natural for both parties. That’s really where the magic lies - when you get to tell real and authentic stories that resonate with your audience and can strike the delicate balance of brand and celebrity voice. What started out as shooting the first-ever music video on a Pixel phone for John Legend’s song, “A Good Night,” grew into a larger partnership that featured he and Chrissy in our “Make Google Do It” campaign, which garnered millions of views on YT, and ultimately the launch of John’s voice on the Google Assistant as our first celeb cameo. As a result of these activations, we’ve seen a positive impact on brand awareness, conversation volume, and sentiment, and an increase in brand interest outside of our typical Google fanbase on social media.
"As a result of these activations, we’ve seen a positive impact on brand awareness, conversation volume, and sentiment, and an increase in brand interest outside of our typical Google fanbase on social media."
The “supply” of quality authentic influencers is not infinite, but the demand is growing wildly, as every brand manager needs an “influencer strategy.” Your approach was obviously very unique, but what can others learn from your experience?
Authenticity should reign supreme whenever you’re working with talent. You need to ask yourself the question, why are they a credible voice for your brand specifically and what are the strongest, most mutually beneficial ways to work together? If there’s no authentic tie-in with your brand, audiences will sniff that out immediately.
"You need to ask yourself the question, why are they a credible voice for your brand specifically and what are the strongest, most mutually beneficial ways to work together?
What advice would you give other leaders of brands in terms of how to be successful at sourcing and managing partnerships with celebrities, or thought leaders, or influencers?
Our team has developed a set of qualitative and quantitative criteria that talent needs to check the box on in order to work with us to ensure they’re a good brand fit. I think it’s a useful exercise that every brand interested in working with talent should undergo to establish some guardrails for partner selection.
As you look out at your strategic objectives and Google’s business in 2020, what’s most exciting for you? What are you seeing in the larger ecosystem that you’re passionate about, and want to engage in, creatively or strategically?
I’m most excited about developing a more robust measurement framework next year so we can better prove the direct impact of our celebrity partnerships on our business. It’s been challenging to create one cohesive methodology to track the impact of celeb vs non-celeb campaigns, especially since each one tends to vary and touch on different Google products we’re marketing across disparate channels (social, digital, TV, OOH, etc.). Also, many of our products are apps that we offer for free, so we’re not always driving retail sales, which adds another layer to measuring success. I hope that once we crack this, we’ll be able to scale our model out to other partners and develop even more exciting collaborations down the line.