The UK Is Investing in Influencer Marketing—and Learning From US Successes

The evolution of influencer marketing from a little-understood fad to a legitimate business practice has spurred the emergence of a major sector in marketing—and all the cash that comes along with it. That’s particularly true in the United States, where influencer marketing was expected to be worth $6.5 billion by the end of 2019 (compared with $1.7 billion just three years ago).

Influencer marketing has made a splash in the U.K. as well, albeit a smaller one.  A less developed space, however, also means a less crowded one, with fewer players and more opportunities to get noticed by followers as well as brands.

“We’re seeing it grow, and it’s growing rapidly,” Dave Murray, evp, international operations at monetization platform rewardStyle, said of influencer marketing in the U.K., adding that more and more brands are coming to his company wanting to make bigger investments in influencer marketing, regardless of whether they have experience with it.

U.K. businesses making influencers a bigger piece of their marketing strategy mirrors an ongoing trend in the U.S., with two-thirds of brands increasing their influencer marketing spend in 2019, according to BigCommerce. And those who have worked in influencer marketing in both countries have seen certain differences that affect both business and influencers.

Most predominantly, the U.K.’s influencer market is still a bit green.

“The U.S. market is just more mature,” said London-based influencer Emily Roberts. “It’s just been around longer, brands have been investing in influencer marketing and, as a result, the U.S. is spending more. But with that, it’s certainly a lot more saturated and competitive when it comes to bloggers and content creators.”

A younger industry does have its benefits, however. Three content creators who spoke with Adweek pointed to advantages such as more direct relationships with brands (working with an in-house contact rather than one from an outside PR agency), a less saturated market and more travel opportunities (with bigger budgets).

However, the downside, according to influencers, indicates an industry at an inflection point, where the economics of broad-based marketing butt up against the demands of the burgeoning influencer class. Some influencers noted lower pay than in the U.S. and more skepticism from brands about investing in influencer marketing in the first place.

Meanwhile, archetypes have developed within the influencer marketing industry in the U.S. For example, it’s rare to find a fashion blogger who isn’t promoting Nordstrom’s annual anniversary sale come July and, in the fall, countless influencers partnered with Olay to promote its new retinol line. In the U.K., there’s been less time for these sort of widespread partnerships to develop and influencer-favorite events—which Mollie Shepherdson, an American influencer based in London who runs the website Mollie Moore, said leads to more diversity in content—to catch on.

“In the United States, there are a lot of girls that do the exact same thing from very similar backgrounds with very similar styles sharing the same types of content and the same types of outfits,” Shepherdson said. “In London, I feel like you get a more diverse background. People will have all sorts of different styles, which I think is helpful to grow a little bit as no two bloggers are really the same here.”

That diversity extends to the people following the U.K.-based influencers, too. According to Murray and rewardStyle, American influencers’ followers are predominantly American—88% of their audiences are domestic—while in the U.K., 50% of audiences are British. Those numbers may be explained by the fact that at 512 million, the population of the EU is closer to that of the U.S., at 327 million, than the U.K.’s, at 66 million. Murray said that often means U.K. bloggers are a natural fit for partnerships with brands outside the U.K., opening up their businesses to the greater European market.

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