Nathan Poekert has reason to be cynical about the influencer industry.
As global director of communications and marketing at BMW Group he’s seen influencers Photoshop their metrics or completely whiff on their contractual obligations.
He’s stumbled across engagement pod communities where influencers pool support for each other in a quid pro quo effort to game the Instagram algorithm. Whenever someone in the group posts something new, the other members are required to like it and leave comments.
Fake engagement entices real brand dollars, and there’s been a growing backlash among marketers against the lack of transparency and accountability that exists in their dealings with influencers, with massive ad spenders like Unilever leading the charge.
“It’s such a volatile industry,” Poekert said, speaking at a conference hosted by content measurement startup Knotch in New York City on Thursday.
That’s not to say that Poekert, who focuses on brand strategy for the MINI line of vehicles, doesn’t see potential value in influencer marketing. He just goes in with his eyes open.
The brand/influencer relationship is a transactional one, he said, don’t kid yourself.
You hear words like “authenticity” and “connection” thrown around when people talk about the influencer channel, but most influencers aren’t shilling for a brand because they love the brand or believe in its mission. “These people just want your money,” Poekert said. “That is the reality.”
To try and bring some authenticity back into the equation, BMW Mini is starting to take a cue from luxury hotel chain Four Seasons and its Envoy initiative. Through the Envoy program, Four Seasons invites artists, poets and painters to tell stories about their travel experiences.
In a similar vein to the Four Seasons effort, content creators can apply to MINI for access to a car, which they can use any way they choose. “We encourage content creators to come to us,” Poekert said. “You have a trip to Napa or through Iceland or whatever? We’ll give you the car, and we have no parameters for how you have to shoot this, film this, do this.”
If MINI likes the results, it will pay for the content, and if not, it won’t.
According to Poekert, the best way to think about content is as a vehicle for generating brand equity and positive sentiment, not for ginning up clicks.
“I’m really trying to convince people to stop looking at clicks,” Poekert said. “If you base a multimillion-dollar annual plan on what I call the one-five-ten second rule – it takes one second to double tap, five seconds to comment and 10 seconds to share a post – then you’re not getting the point.”