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Influencer marketing brand-lift studies are improving

Out of more than 1,000 Marketing Brew readers surveyed last month, about one-third said they think measurement for influencer marketing has “evolved significantly” over the past two years.


By Phoebe Bain

September 9, 2022· 5 min read



Grant Thomas


From your first vacation in months to the first sunburn of the season, summer comes with a lot of firsts.


This summer, influencer marketers received their very first organic measurement guidelines from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), just as the ocean became warm enough for people to actually swim in.


The guidelines represent a milestone of sorts: Measurement in influencer marketing, an industry that grew to $13.8 billion in 2021, is growing up. So much so, in fact, that it needs rules to follow.


Out of more than 1,000 Marketing Brew readers surveyed last month, about one-third said they think measurement for influencer marketing has “evolved significantly” over the past two years.“As any channel starts to grow in popularity and investment, then you start to see a much more demand for rigorous measurement,” Evyenia Lyons, CMO of influencer marketing platform Traackr, explained.


There are different ways to approach measurement depending on the objectives, but one of the biggest focuses across the board among experts we spoke to is optimising brand-lift studies to make them more useful for influencer marketing specifically.


A brand-lift what? Is that like a ski lift?


Brand-lift studies aren’t new—marketers have been using them to measure the effectiveness of TV ads and out-of-home (OOH) advertising for a long time.


Essentially, they are dot connectors. They can include a series of questions about a brand, asking things like, “Do you believe X brand is sustainable?” Or, “Are you likely to buy a product from this brand?”


Those questions are posed to two groups of people: Those who have been exposed to a certain ad (or, in this case, piece of influencer content), and those who have not. Any difference between those two answers is the lift, explained Natalie Silverstein, chief innovation officer at influencer marketing agency Collectively.


The results can help the company make decisions as small as whether to double-down on a certain type of messaging or as big as whether to cut back on influencer marketing spend. Social platforms like TikTok and Meta offer brand-lift studies too, and many large companies have used them to better measure the impact of influencer marketing campaigns.


How have they changed?


“Brand-lift studies were not part of the conversation in influencer marketing five years ago,” Tim Sovay, chief BD and partnerships officer and COO at influencer marketing software platform CreatorIQ, told us.


Now, that seems to have changed. It’s possible that, as marketers have begun to understand how influencer marketing differs as a marketing channel from more traditional ones, they’ve been able to create more refined types of brand-lift studies that cater specifically to the field.


Adjusting questions “to account for the fact that creators are not machines, and not every piece of content that they produce will be equally successful” is one of the bigger-picture ways marketers have refined these studies, according to Ali Fazal, VP of marketing at creator management platform Grin.


The approach is often different, too. “Typically, brand-lift studies from TV or terrestrial ads focus on three things—recall, consideration, and interest in the brand being studied,” he told us, noting that the questions in those studies typically ask if customers can recall the brand, its name, and what the ad was about. Traditional brand-lift studies might also ask if the ad made them consider buying the product.


“With an influencer marketing brand-lift study, questions go a level deeper,” he said. Those questions might focus more on brand affinity, or how consumers feel. For example, “is the brand cool? Is it viral? Is it modern?”


“These questions focus less on what consumers remember, and more on a brand’s overall or social appeal,” Fazal told us. In an influencer marketing brand-lift study, he said, the questions focus on the full picture rather than just the ad itself. “This measures the true depth of impact that creator marketing has,” he said.


Zoom in


Companies like ThisThat, a UK market research firm specialising in brand-lift studies for influencer marketing, aim to help marketers better measure this space.


Max Osborne, ThisThat’s co-founder, said that the company has partnered with Meta, major influencer marketing agencies like The Outloud Group, and media agencies like GroupM. He told us ThisThat’s revenue has grown tenfold “two years in a row and shows no signs of stopping,” although he did not share figures.


Influencer marketing brand-lift methodology used to be copied and pasted from TV-specific ones, according to Osborne.


In those instances, a panel of consumers of a certain demographic (think: age, location, gender) would be forced to watch a piece of content, and that would be the “test group” for the study, Osborne explained. The researchers would refer to that group as the advertiser’s target audience, but according to Osborne, that doesn’t exactly capture how an influencer’s followers and fans might react.


“You really want to survey the creator’s audiences themselves, because their response to a creative is very different to a random audience,” he said. “They’re fans of the influencer, they might have seen historic content, which gives them a particular know-how or context to that piece of content,” he told us.


Perhaps the reason why people might come to companies like ThisThat, then, is because they could want a brand-lift study where the test group is the influencer’s followers, rather than a broader demographic.


“It’s better quality data,” Osborne said.