Innovation has always been a top priority for brands looking to improve their products and services and perfect the customer experience. But staying innovative in influencer marketing has never been more critical than it is in today’s creator economy as thousands of brands in countless industries compete for the finite attention of the modern consumer.
In this blog, we’ll examine major brands leveraging innovation to stay ahead of the competition and share some tips on how your brand can keep the creative juices flowing.
Innovative marketing requires an approach that challenges the status quo by introducing new methods, ideas, and experiences. Successful marketers use research to understand exactly what their customers need. But innovative marketers use that same research to predict their customer’s future needs and meet them before the competition.
Innovative marketers in the creator economy need to be sharp enough to cut through the digital noise to reach consumers on a personal level.
But in-house marketing departments can no longer do this alone.
Today, brands win by forming long-term partnerships with authentic social media influencers who align with their mission and values. These creators act as brand storytellers and provide genuine product endorsements with a human touch that traditional, brand-controlled marketing can no longer compete with.
Social media creators have proven capable of producing some of the most innovative marketing tactics we’ve seen over the last decade. By forging partnerships with high-performing creators, brands can earn the trust of their engaged followers and gain access to a voice that resonates best with target audiences.
Creativity and innovation need to be pillars of every brand’s strategy in the creator economy. As a result, marketers should incentivize creators who consistently exemplify those core values. Encourage your influencers to put a spin on the latest viral trend or take a stab at a new TikTok challenge—anything that gets the creative juices flowing while generating content for your brand is a great place to start.
A gift card or cash bonus is a simple but effective way to show your team how much you appreciate the creativity and fresh ideas they bring to the table. Be sure to add a personal touch with a note that reflects on how valuable that creator is to your brand’s overall mission and describes specific projects or ideas from them that you particularly enjoyed.
Roughly 77% of influencers say that creative freedom is a key factor motivating them to get involved with a campaign. Don’t stifle their creativity. Stay flexible and let your influencers work their marketing magic.
“Creators know their audiences best. The two most important things a brand should do is get to know a creator’s content and listen to the creator because they know what will be most effective.”— TikTok creator Alexia Del Valle (@lexdelvalle)
Sometimes allowing creative freedom and managing project deliverables can be a delicate balance. Provide your creators with detailed campaign briefs that familiarize them with expectations and success metrics. But when it comes time to deliver your message on social media, let your influencers do the talking.
Two is always stronger than one. If you’re already partnering with creators, take it a step further by inviting brands (and their influencers) who complement your product to collaborate on content.
One way to do this is through Instagram’s Collabs feature, released in October 2021. Instagram Collabs enable you to co-author content with another account and have the content show up on both your profiles.
One of the best examples of brand collaborations is GoPro’s partnership with Red Bull. The two companies have worked together on many events, but none bigger than the “Stratos” project in 2014. The stunt thrust both brands into the international spotlight when Felix Baumgartner skydived from a pod hovering more than 24 miles above Earth’s surface with a GoPro strapped to his helmet.
Many experts, including the Harvard Business Review, note that diversity and inclusion are essential to better innovation and collective problem-solving. Simply put, brands that welcome alternative perspectives perform better when marketing and improving their products and services. Inviting diversity into your influencer marketing strategy makes a far broader audience reach and a better chance of forming authentic relationships with everyone in your target audience.
Brands that take a vocal stance on diversity and equality improve their standing with consumers even further. Research shows that 31% of consumers will stop frequenting a store that does not take a public stand on diversity and inclusion. Nearly 45% will go out of their way to visit a store they’ve never frequented.
But in today’s social environment, there is far more at stake than just a brand’s bottom line. Companies now have a responsibility to use their reach and resources to become levers of change for marginalized communities and inspire action that leaves a lasting impact on society.
Making the right choice in a sea of products and services can easily overwhelm when one brand seems indistinguishable from the next. To stand out, brands need a way to connect with people and show how they are unique. Telling your brand story through words, images, and design is the best way to make customers feel a connection by showing them who you are and what you stand for.
But effective storytelling goes further than the history of your products and services. It’s also about you and the people who help turn your innovative visions into reality.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you stand for? What do you hope to become?
Answering questions like these and being open with your audience gives them something deeper to connect with and helps distinguish your brand from the competition.
“To tell a good story, you have to be honest, you have to be open, and you have to be vulnerable.”— Josh Roush, founder of Movetic, from the GRIN Gets Real podcast
Consumers would much rather get product recommendations from peers rather than brands. A recent study found that 60% of consumers view user-generated content (UGC) as the most authentic and successful form of content.
UGC can be any third-party mention of your brand online and is perhaps the most valuable digital marketing technique at your disposal. Innovative marketers know that investing in tools that allow them to easily source mentions from customers, creators, and key opinion leaders has an enormous impact on success in the creator economy.
Ecommerce mattress brand Casper rolled out the astroturf carpet for more than 20 Insta-famous pups to celebrate the release of their new dog bed product line in 2016. The event featured a day of fun for the attendees that included everything from a ball pit to a complimentary lunch of steak and hotdog-flavored water. Even though no famous humans were in attendance, Casper proved that in-person influencer events can be a goldmine for generating content and buzz around a new product.
“Since our launch in 2014, thousands of customers have shared photos of their dogs snoozing on Casper mattresses. We immediately realized that our mission to provide a better night’s sleep for everyone should also include our dogs.”— Philip Krim, Casper co-founder and CEO
Moxy is an experiential hotel brand with 60 stylish and playful locations across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. In 2015, Moxy partnered with comedian Taryn Southern to produce an original YouTube show titled “DO NOT DISTURB.” As a brand that prides itself on “breaking the rules of conventional hotel stays,” Moxy created the web series to feature cheeky interviews and hilarious—and sometimes edgy—content.
“We partnered directly with YouTube influencers and enabled these creators to do what they do best—tell original stories, engage audiences, and ultimately create entertaining content where the brand plays a character in the story. We chose to partner Moxy Hotels with Taryn Southern, who like our brand, is someone young at heart and not afraid of challenging the status quo, to show the world what ‘moxie’ really means.”— Vicki Poulos, global brand director for Moxy Hotels
@stealthysnorlax Day 17/66 @gymshark #gymshark66 I am so sweaty 😅 I go hard what can I say. #gymshark #WhatsYourStuf #gymrush #jumprope #jumpropechallenge ♬ Blinding Lights – The Weeknd
Gymshark collected hours of user-generated content while encouraging its audience to live healthier with its #gymshark66 challenge. The challenge featured social media users who spoke about how they formed healthier habits for their mind, body, and soul in just 66 days. Gymshark used the challenge to help illustrate its motto, “We’re stronger when we’re together.”
“What we’ve built is a community-led, purpose-driven, direct-to-consumer model. It’s where the future of brands will go. We’ve had some massive retailers put huge orders in front of us. We could be twice the business, but we said no every time, we feel like that model is outdated.”— Gymshark founder Ben Francis
Chipotle’s 2021 Pride Month campaign helped the company drive sales while also raising money to support multiple LGBTQIA+ organizations. The company partnered with drag stars and Chipotle superfans like Trixie Mattel, Kim Chi, and Gottmik to produce content for two events—the Chipotle Queen of Pride competition and a Chipotle Drag Lunch that aired on Mattel’s YouTube channel. Each influencer also created their own signature bowl to feature on the Chipotle app, with a portion of its revenue donated to various charities.
“For more than 27 years, authenticity, diversity and inclusion have been core principles of Chipotle. As a longtime supporter of the LGBTQIA+ community, we’re excited to leverage our real food to help drive real, positive change.”— Chris Brandt, Chipotle chief marketing officer
Lizzie Peirce is a photographer and videographer who inspires young creators to start their own creative businesses with the mantra, “If she can do it—I can do it.” After graduating from the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University, Lizzie left her full-time job at a Toronto production company to start her own business, Know Hau Media Operations Inc., with her husband and fellow YouTuber Chris Hau. Some of their main clients include Corona, Toyota, Mercedes Benz, and Meridian Credit Union.
Dagogo Altraide delivers content on some of the world’s most innovative technologies. He is popular for uncovering little-known histories of some of the most well-known products on the market today and analyzing the latest tech trends. Dagogo’s mission is to let his audience experience the cutting edge of the world around them in a relaxed atmosphere.
Thaddeus Coates is a model and self-taught artist with a goal to “revolutionize, propel, and inspire.” Known online as “Hippy Potter,” the New York-based illustrator is passionate about clear and thought-provoking design with beautiful and bright aesthetics. His company works with brands to help manifest their creative ideas.
Kevin Rose is a partner at True Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in early-stage tech startups. He founded the social news site Digg, intermittent fasting app Zero, and meditation app Oak. Kevin is a five-time Webby Award winner, and TIME and Businessweek named him one of the most influential people online.
Isis Breanna’s claim to fame is transitioning from kindergarten teacher to “retired” six-figure social media entrepreneur in less than eight months. The digital sales guru now coaches other entrepreneurs on how to turn their side hustle into a full-time gig. She shares tips and inspiration on her social media feed for those looking to gain financial independence and live life on their own terms.
You can also follow Isis on Pinterest.
Alexa is a product designer, creator, and educator based in California. As a senior product designer for a Bay Area tech company, she is passionate about designing technology and experiences that can help maximize human potential. When she’s not creating videos about design and careers in tech, Alexa spends her free time writing about travel journeys on her blog.
Mike Locke is an industry leader in UI/UX product design. He shares the secrets he’s learned over his 20-year career through his online UX academy and equips aspiring designers with everything they need to develop apps and projects that last. Mike’s content is for anyone looking for inspiration to level up at work or in life.
Sam Ushiro is an industrial designer and stylist dedicated to making every day a party with her signature “aww-sam!” style. Known for her retro flair with a modern twist, Sam started her creator journey focusing on parties and DIY but has expanded into photography, creative workshops, and photo styling. She has collaborated with major brands like Target, Google, and Dunkin’.
Shudu is a CGI influencer and member of The Diigitals Agency—the world’s first all-digital modeling agency. She was created in 2017 by British fashion photographer Cameron-James Wilson. Shudu doesn’t talk or use AI, but Wilson hopes to bring more empowerment and diversity into the fashion industry by using her likeness.
The ONLY rule I’ll force you to follow lol♬ Bitch – Ana Infante
Hyram Yarbro is currently one of the hottest names in skincare and beauty right now, amassing more than 5 million followers on TikTok in less than five months. He has earned the trust of his followers with his honest and transparent approach to product reviews and recommendations. Hyram’s channels nurture a community of love and positivity as he encourages his audience to “stay confident and change the world.”
You can also follow Hyram on YouTube.
Innovative marketers need to constantly be on the lookout for the latest trends and techniques to cater to the present and future needs of their target audience. The best partners they can have to accomplish this goal are social media creators with a finger on the pulse of what works and what doesn’t in the digital world. Marketers should remain on the lookout for authentic, brand-aligned influencers producing content that resonates with their target audience.
Updated: December 2022
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