Today’s marketplace is very crowded and saturated, so brands are constantly looking for new ways to get on the radar of their target audience. One of which is through influencer marketing. As you may know, this is when a brand collaborates with a popular social media user – be it a content creator, celebrity or industry expert – to promote the brand’s products or services. These collaborations have been ongoing since the rise of social media, and over the last five years, it has grown by over 50% on Instagram and YouTube.
Today, influencers have evolved beyond expanding brand reach; they are now seen as partners who can significantly enhance sales for your brand. Their followers trust and value their opinions, making them a powerful tool for marketing purposes. However, as the world evolves, marketing approaches must also evolve. Brands are now exploring innovative ways to harness the power of these influencers. While traditional influencer marketing is effective, brands can take it further by embracing co-creation or product collaboration.
What is Influencer Co-Creation?
Influencer co-creation refers to the collaboration between brands and influencers to create products that cater to the influencer’s audience. Forward-thinking brands are pushing the boundaries of the traditional influencer marketing approach by involving influencers in the creative process of developing their products. Brands now have the opportunity to team up with influencers or celebrities to create unique and limited-edition products.
The main difference between co-creation and traditional influencer marketing is that with co-creation, your brand and the influencer collaborate to produce a product. However, with the conventional influencer marketing approach, the influencer simply promotes your brand’s product or service to their audience. The influencer has more control over the message and the product via co-creation, which makes the brand and content more authentic.
Because of the crowded marketplace and rising skepticism among customers, they only trust and support brands they perceive as genuine and authentic. Gone are the days when brands had total control when collaborating with influencers. Now, you need to be willing to let go of some level of that control and allow the influencers a certain amount of power and authority with the content they create and the products you both release.
What are the Benefits of Co-Creation?
Here are some of the benefits of influencer co-creation:
Increased Brand Authenticity, Trust and Credibility
Co-creation helps build brand authenticity and credibility. This is because the influencer actively participates in the production process, so their followers perceive the collaboration as more trustworthy and genuine. The influencer’s involvement in the product development process gives an aura of authenticity and credibility.
Exclusive Offerings Drive Sales
Co-creations offer special edition products that are, in most cases, exclusive, limited and timebound – some of these products may not be available after it sells out. This causes urgency and a fear of missing out (FOMO) among the target audience, thereby driving them to purchase the product. Scarcity increases value, thereby driving sales. This is basic human nature. When brands create a perception of scarcity, the target audience will have more desire for the product.
High Engagement Rate
Co-creation fosters an increased engagement rate because you and the influencer can involve the target audience in certain decisions, such as product features or names. This could drive conversations around the brand and the new product. Co-creation also allows for innovative content creation. For instance, brands can create content around the behind-the-scenes of the production process or conduct polls involving the audience’s input. These strategies help keep the audience engaged throughout the process.
Unlike the traditional approach to influencer marketing, co-creation allows you to have clear metrics that help you assess the success of the collaboration. This is because there’s a direct link between the influencer and the campaign, so measuring the influencer’s impact on the partnership is easier.
Case Studies on Influencer Co-Creation
Jaclyn Hill x Morphe
The beauty industry is one that effectively utilizes influencer marketing. With the continuous rise of social media, especially TikTok and Instagram, beauty brands see the value in co-creating with influencers. Over time, many successful collaborations have happened in this industry, such as ABH x JackieAina, Morphe x JamesCharles, etc. The industry continues to evolve and to stay relevant, beauty brands adapt and harness the power of influencer marketing.
One of the first-ever beauty collaborations with an influencer was in 1994 when MAC collaborated with the iconic drag queen, RuPaul, to create the Viva Glam Lipstick. This pioneered influencer co-creation in the beauty industry.
More recently, in 2017, Jaclyn Hill and Morphe collaborated to develop the highly sought-after JaclynHillxMorphe eyeshadow palette. The collaboration had been in the works for two years before its debut and became an instant hit by selling out just hours after its release. At the end of the year, it had sold over 1 million products before becoming a permanent Morphe product due to its success, making it one of the most successful collaborations in the industry.
Molly-Mae x Pretty Little Thing
Love Island is one phenomenon that has captured the attention of millions of people worldwide. Beyond the drama and romance that comes with the show, Love Island creates a new set of influencers who gained massive social media followings through the show.
When contestants leave the villa, whether they were “dumped” or won, the viewers usually anticipate the brand deals they secure. Brands seize the opportunity to collaborate with these contestants for co-creation projects by selecting the contestants who best fit their personalities and voice to collaborate with. One of the most notable collaborations is the partnership between Molly-Mae and Pretty Little Thing (PLT) in 2019.
This partnership is a prime example of how (fashion) brands can leverage an influencer’s personal style to create something special. By involving her in the design and decision-making process, PLT tapped into Molly-Mae’s fashion expertise and authenticity, resulting in a collection that resonated with her audience. The collection had most of its items sold out just a few hours after its release and generated £2 million in revenue. Due to the success of this partnership, Molly-Mae went on to become the creative director of Pretty Little Thing in 2021.
Kanye West x Adidas
Co-creation isn’t limited to influencers; celebrities can also take part in it. A notable example is the Adidas and Kanye partnership in 2016 to create the Yeezy line. This partnership became a cultural phenomenon because three years after the collaboration, Adidas reported an 18% annual increase in sales, doubling that of one of its major competitors, Nike. By 2019, the Yeezy brand generated over $1 billion dollars annually.
Although the relationship between Adidas and Kanye West had its ups and downs, Mark King, who was the president of Adidas’ North America division in 2016, gave credit to Kanye West by saying, in an interview with Yahoo Finance, that he thinks “Kanye definitely helped make the brand cool again.“
The exclusivity and allure of Yeezy products, along with Adidas’ distribution expertise, contributed to its success. Co-creation allowed Kanye West to add his creativity while benefiting from Adidas’ manufacturing and marketing abilities.
Ensuring the Success of Co-Creation
So, how do you ensure your collaboration is successful? Here are three tips to consider when implementing co-creation for your brand:
Find the Perfect Influencer
As care is put into market research, you should also put the same care into picking the right influencer for the collaboration. Quantitative and qualitative data should be looked into because they’re equally important. You should consider their engagement rates, channel mix, audience size, etc., and qualitative attributes such as the kind of content they put out, if their opinions and values align with yours, and how they interact with their audience. Also, you should consider the influencer’s previous collaborations, if they were received well and if there were any previous scandals.
Set SMART Objectives and Deliverables
Your objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely). First, you should clearly define your objective. What do you want to achieve from the collaboration? Increased brand awareness? Sales? Conversions? This helps you guide your collaboration effectively as well as measure the success of it. Also, a fair and transparent contract should be signed with the influencer. This will clearly distinguish the roles of both parties, and each party will know what is expected of them.
Put Trust in Who You Work With
Now, you’ve done your research when choosing your influencer. You know their abilities and capabilities, so you should be comfortable letting them make certain decisions for your brand. Put some trust in the person and let them implement their creativity within the campaign. Allow them to produce content that they know will resonate with the audience. You chose the influencer for a reason. They know what your target audience wants, so let them do what they do best and let the results unfold.
By collaborating with influencers that share your brand values, your brand can build a strong online presence, gain trust and credibility, and succeed in the competitive market. In short, influencer marketing has become a game-changer for brands. Studies show that 71% of people are more likely to buy if it’s recommended by influencers they trust. Influencers bring fresh perspectives, creativity and a dedicated fanbase.