The Influencer Marketing Strategy

At the end of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy stands in the Emerald City trembling before a massive, shadowy floating head. With the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom in one hand and surrounded by her 3 trusted companions, she humbly asks, “I’ve brought you what you wanted, now will you help me get home to Kansas?” Flames ominously shoot out of the side columns, black and white smoke pour out for added effect, Dorothy’s knees shake as the booming voice of the Great and Powerful Oz hollers, “No, come back tomorrow!” Upon hearing those words, Toto has had enough of this ‘wizard’. He heads straight to the glittery green curtain, yanks it back to reveal a well-dressed old man, frantically cranking this handle and turning that knob, speaking into a microphone, “Ignore that man behind the curtain. I am the Great and Powerful Oz!” At the end of this epic tale, the great and powerful was nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

What is a Marketing Influencer?

And that is exactly how I felt a few months ago as I listened to pitch after pitch from the ‘Great and Powerful’ in the social media arena: Influencers – these ‘warlocks’ of YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. These “Pied Pipers” who were touting that they could generate a phenomenal amount of traffic, clicks, and revenue to my client’s site, if only I bought into the hype and pay a substantial fee. Initially, I was like Dorothy, mesmerized by the ‘smoke and mirrors’. But the questions began to arise. What were the Marketing Influencer benefits? Were these charlatans nothing more than flashy salesmen behind an emerald green curtain, and great PR? Well, whether an influencer’s audience is small or large, an influencer can reach consumers via their blogs and social networks that brands may not be able to. And there was only one way to find out for myself. Follow the flying monkeys with an influencer marketing case study.

The Test

Two clients: one in fitness and one in menswear agreed to consider the opportunity of entering into an Influencer Marketing Agreement: Fitness to be partnered with an armed-forces powerhouse; Menswear aligning themselves with a YouTube celebrity. Now neither of these two clients agreed quickly. I had to speak to each of these companies about the value of what an Influencer could bring to the table. Yes, this sort of collaboration was something that neither had ever done before, and, yes, this was completely out of the box from the usual “affiliate relationship”. I highlighted their exceptional Alexa ranking, their massive YouTube subscriber figures, and their unparalleled appeal to a consumer base that was NEW. Yes, the ‘Ruby Slippers’ in this equation: New Customers – those elusively shy ‘munchkins’ with the magical ability to push a brand to a whole new level. There’s no place like home…that’s for sure. Conference call after conference call was arranged. Emails were flying as if by a tornado. General as well as specific questions were presented:

  • What happened with other clients who worked with you?
  • Were previous brands satisfied with the outcome?
  • What rate of return could YouTube guarantee?
  • What would you consider a success if the test is conducted?
  • How much product needed to be sold?


Going into this test, we knew there would be differences in working with our clients as well as the Influencers. Those differences became blatantly apparent very quickly. Where the two Influencers parted ways significantly was in their style, as well as other areas (as you will read in the next blog post). With the Fitness Influencer, clarification on banner placement, clicks, rotation of the placement and fees began to take center stage. Banner design and discussion took two weeks. Legal got involved with email strings going on for 1-, 2-, 3-weeks regarding 2 sentences or 3 words. I watched my Fitness client grow weary and apprehensive as conference calls were consumed with questions about boundaries, consumer reach, and a lack of clarification on potential revenue. And unfortunately, the test hadn’t even launched yet. Uneasiness began to set in. “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

But what happened next was something truly exceptional – Blog Post #2