Meet the Speakers: Emily Young, Takumi

Ahead of YMS19 LDN, we’re chatting to some of the youth marketing experts who’ll be taking to the stage about their passions, experiences and what they’re looking forward to at the event in April.

Today we’re introducing you to Emily Young, who leads the UK team at Takumi. Their app matches Instagram influencers with brands, with clients including P&G, Unilever and Nike. Find out her predictions for 2019, her tips for brands on how to tackle influencer fraud, and the best and worst campaigns she’s seen.

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What do you think sets apart the influencers who resonate most with young people?

Undoubtedly one of the key drivers of a great influencer partnership is brand affinity, where the influencer can credibly and confidently be an online mouthpiece for the brand. Brand affinity was highlighted as a key driver of success through Takumi’s YouGov poll of 550 Instagram users, where we saw that 57% of people don’t trust influencers who post about products or services that aren’t relevant to the channel or content.

A famous example of poor brand affinity is that post by skinny Scott Disick promoting BooTea protein shake. Sparrow-like arms and a lacklustre lifestyle post led to comments such as ‘LMFAO’ and ‘No f*cks given then.’ Not a desirable outcome.

Affinity goes hand-in-hand with authenticity. In our daily lives we are constantly talking about or showing off our favourite brands, and influencer marketing just takes this conversation online. People will always crave this genuine word-of-mouth marketing, and young people, in particular, are highly sensitive to anything that doesn’t ring true. For brands who achieve this, our poll also showed that 47% of 18-24s are more likely to buy the product if they’ve seen it promoted by an influencer or social advert. So it goes without saying that this is something both brands and influencers must be sensitive to.

What are your tips for brands who are looking to try influencer marketing for the first time?

Begin by understanding where your audience is and how they like to be communicated to. For instance, look at which social platforms they are on, what kind of content they are consuming, what messaging resonates well with them. From there you can find the right influencers who are aligned with your brand and will help you engage those audiences.

Influencer marketing provides an incredibly powerful way for brands to test and learn what does and doesn’t work. For relatively small investments (compared to the likes of print and TV), you can try out different briefs, formats, platforms etc, while getting real-time feedback from your audiences via influencer comments and engagements.

What is your advice to brands who are worried about influencer fraud?

Influencer marketing, along with all other forms of digital media, will never be completely free from fraud. But there are many steps brands can take to minimise its effects and wheedle out the real deals from the fakes; you just need to know what you’re looking for and have the right resource to manage the process.

Every brand should look to invest in fraud detection software, and there are plenty of great ones about (Takumi partner with HypeAuditor), but also take the time to manually vet each influencer. This can be a very laborious process, which is where working with a platform can help; we have the benefit of scale and resource to continually vet and monitor influencers, but also to build relationships with them. Takumi is constantly updating our influencer pool by removing those who no longer meet our high standards, and recruiting only those who pass our strict vetting process. I like to think of it like cooking a rich Bolognese sauce; we bubble it away over time so that it just gets better and better - something only time and effort can achieve.

What action is taken when you realise that an influencer present on your platform has engaged in fraudulent activities?

We are alerted to fraudulent activity either when our hawk-eye campaign managers spot something suspicious, or when a HypeAuditor alert is automatically generated against their account. Following a manual review we contact the influencer to notify them of what we have found and reiterate our code of conduct.

The influencer will be put on a ‘cool-down’ which gives them a chance to clean up their account, to be manually re-reviewed after 1 month. If they haven’t adhered to the clean-up, they will be blocked from our platform indefinitely. Fair to say Takumi doesn’t suffer fools gladly!

How can brands create sponsored content that doesn't feel like blatant advertising, while still following the legal requirement to declare paid promotions?

I’ve always been a big believer that people don’t mind where content comes from, as long as it’s good content. What they don’t like is feeling misled; 92% of British IG users don’t trust ads that aren’t clearly labelled or signposted. Therefore brands have nothing at all to fear about disclosure but instead should focus their attention on writing great influencer briefs which allow for the most creative interpretation. If a piece of content comes across as blatant advertising, this is usually the result of poor execution and not the medium of influencer marketing.  

At Takumi, we saw that 2018 was about brands dipping their toes and testing who to work with. In 2019 the focus is how, and we are helping our clients activate influencers in new and creative ways. Furthermore, influencers are becoming ever more proficient at creating elegant and engaging content for their followers, and brands who learn to trust them are reaping the rewards. So put the cookie cutter away and let’s work alongside influencers to produce campaigns that are spectacular, and unique to both the brand and influencer.

What changes do you predict we'll see on Instagram in 2019?

So many!! I expect to see ongoing product updates particularly around Stories, so they stay competitive in this space and allow for even more engagement and feedback. I hope to see IG continue their crackdown on fraudulent activity, by making it harder for influencers to purchase followers and penalising those who do. Shopping functionalities will be enhanced, data and analytics will become more sophisticated, and direct messaging improvements will help fulfil our desires to keep more things private (or is this just a nice dream I had??). I’m intrigued to see what they do with IGTV this year, after a sluggish start. I can’t see them dropping their interest in the format, so they will probably look to make it easier to subscribe to a channel to encourage people to post in IG before YouTube.

What have you learned in your career that you wish you’d known when you started out?

I’ve worked across print, TV, digital and now influencer marketing, and one thing has never changed: keeping the consumer at the heart of your approach/campaign will make your company more successful and your job far more interesting. Remember that you’re a consumer too, so applying some gut feeling to a campaign can go a long way.

What’s your favourite app at the moment?

I could pretend to be original and quirky and come up with something unexpected, but it just has to be Instagram. I went cold turkey in January to remind myself what life is like without it (it sucked) and now I’ve got a new puppy who I’m obviously going to make #instafamous. Make sure you follow him @walter.and.co!

What are you looking forward to at YMS19 LDN?

There’s always a certain energy at YMS that you don’t get at other conferences; Millennials and Gen Z are the next generation of big spenders, but they’re also probably the hardest to reach. So there’s always an amazing sense of innovation and creativity which I can’t wait to tap into.

You can hear more from Emily at YMS19 LDN, where she’ll be giving a keynote on ‘Influencer Marketing: a shift from WHO to HOW.’ Click here for full details and to secure your passes for the year’s biggest youth marketing event.