Influencer Marketing

5 Influencer Marketing Trends from the 2019 Cannes Lions Winners

By July 19, 2019 No Comments

The Cannes Lions Festival needs no introduction; it’s the largest international award ceremony in the creative, communications, and advertising fields. Lasting five days, Cannes draws the best delegates from over 90 countries to the French Riviera. 

The Social and Influencer category was just introduced last year, signaling a huge shift in the upper echelons of the marketing industry, and unequivocally validating influencer marketing’s strategic maturity. “Winning at Cannes Lions puts you among the creative elite. It means you’ve created game-changing work. That your campaigns have delivered results and moved the creative needle. Winning means new business and world-wide exposure.” As Patrick Hickey, the CEO of Rothco stated, “Winning at Cannes Lions puts you among the world’s elite, and I believe shows our best work is still ahead of us.”

In context, this means that the best is yet to come in social and influencer marketing, and that this new category is definitely worth a look to understand emerging influencer marketing trends in the space. To check out the full list of the 2019 Cannes Lions winners, click here!

But first, a look at this year’s Social & Influencer Lions Awards winners. 

About the Social & Influencer Lions Award Winners:

Grand Prix: Wendy’s “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” 

It’s 2019, and Wendy’s familiar red-headed, pig-tailed mascot has joined Fortnite to become an ax-wielding beacon of destruction. The sole winner in the Grand Prix, Wendy’s Keeping Fortnite Fresh campaign took the Twitch platform by storm. Fortnite is a video game phenomenon, boasting 250 million players as of March 2019, that largely consists of players in the 12 to 24-year-old range. Many fans also use Twitch, a live-streaming platform for video games, to watch their favorite gamers play Fortnite. 

One of Wendy’s most widely-advertised principles is “fresh, not frozen beef”, and they truly took that commitment to a new extreme. Instead of simply placing a billboard or advertisement within Fortnite like other brands before them, they created a doppelganger of Wendy, their mascot, and live-streamed their character destroying all the fast-food freezers that house beef patties within Fortnite. This quickly caught the attention of other players since the traditional aim of the game is to hunt other players. Famous gamers soon followed suit, and tens of thousands of fans started sharing clips of themselves joining in on the destruction. Wendy’s managed to crack the cultural dialogue surrounding Fortnite and even caused developers to program out all freezers in later updates of the game. Check out the image above for some quick stats, and if you want to see the full-length Twitch clip of Wendy in all of her ax-swinging glory, click here

Gold: Nike, My Life as a NPC, & More

Nike hit a cultural note with its Dream Crazy and Dream Crazier campaigns. It stood out because they chose athletes who are known for being advocates of Black Lives Matter, Colin Kaepernick, and gender equality, Serena Williams and Billie Jean King, to represent their chosen cause in videos. Dream Crazy was Nike’s most successful campaign ever, generating 6 billion dollars in brand value and raising stocks to an all-time high, and Dream Crazier became Nike’s most-watched video on Instagram while garnering praise from the New York Times, Alicia Keys, and Ellen to name a few. 

Ubisoft ran their most successful social media campaign ever with their work on My Life as a NPC. Focusing on the NPC (non-playable characters) within the popular game Assasin’s Creed, Ubisoft took a humorous approach and imagined what it would be like to be a background character in a game focused upon a war-like storyline. In total, the campaign reached 3.7 million on Facebook and 2.5 million on Instagram.

Diesel launched a campaign called Be a Follower that pokes fun at the ridiculous things influencers must do in order to create content, and praises the lifestyle of an average person. It resulted in 55.6 million views on their videos, see below for one of the YouTube spots, and a 230% engagement rate.

Sleeping Giants launched a campaign for social good, pushing back against the hateful rhetoric permeating America’s political climate in the Campaign to Defund Bigotry. Originally meant to be a two-week campaign on Facebook and Twitter, Sleeping Giants launched with no money and no public face. Today, the movement boasts 11 national chapters, 355k members worldwide, and an impressive roster of achievements, including a direct role in causing Bill O’Reilly, a serial sexual harasser, to step down from his longtime show on Fox.  Check out their Facebook and Twitter for more information, and see some of the stats from this successful movement below.

March for Our Lives created a jarring and impactful film, titled Generation Lockdown, that serves as a call-to-action for gun law reform. The film has been featured on every major television news network, including CNN, FOX, CBS, and NBC, and has at least 54 million views to date. Most importantly, it created a 396% increase in lockdown discussions on social media. It features an 11-year-old girl teaching adults in the workplace rules to follow during a shooting.

Trigger warning: gun violence and school shootings

For more on March for Our Lives and information on how to support their cause, click here

5 Must-Know Influencer Marketing Trends Learned from Cannes Lions Winners

With these campaigns in mind, here are five influencer marketing trends marketers can learn from and apply to influencer campaigns as we move our attention to the second half of 2019.

1. Gaming is Validated as an Influencer Marketing Strategy

As the only 2019 Social & Influencer Grand Prix Lions winner, Wendy’s ‘Keeping Fortnite Fresh’ validated Twitch and social gaming’s role in mainstream influencer marketing strategy. Wendy’s was far from the only award-winning brand who harnessed the social power of gaming though; ‘My Life as a NPC’ brought the stories of the game to life by transforming the non-playable players from Assassin’s Creed into virtual social media influencers on Facebook and Instagram. These campaigns succeeded because there was co-creation of culture and brand experience. Wendy’s executed based on the Twitch community’s culture and terms, as a player and ‘co-creator of culture, gamer, and entertainer’. 

Marketers who are aiming to reach men ages 18-35, the most common demographic represented on Twitch,  can also take a cue from Wendy’s and implement gaming in their own influencer marketing programs. For Twitch campaigns, we recommend that proper research is conducted so your brand can seamlessly blend into a native environment, much like Wendy’s introduced itself to Fortnite. Consult influential Twitch streamers, as well as micro-influencers of the game you’re interested in activating within, to understand the culture and rules of engagement when creating your own influencer strategy. 

2. Double Down on Influencer Authenticity 

In a world where trust is at a historic low, only 44% of people worldwide trust social media according to an Edelman study, authenticity in advertising matters more than ever. Diesel, a Social & Influencer Gold Winner for its ‘Be a Follower’ campaign, found success in rejecting the curated, fabricated highlights permeating social media. Instead, they focused upon “the average Instagrammer who’s a part of the 99% instead of the ‘elite’ 1%”. Rather than contracting a few Twitch macro-influencers to help increase awareness and engagement in Wendy’s Fortnite Food Fight, Wendy’s relied on acting authentically within the norms of the gaming community. It was only then that the brand was able to command the power of the Twitch and Fortnite communities to get tens of thousands of gamers to join the fight against virtual frozen beef, organically. 

In a more serious vein, rather than having a gun-safety expert or gun-advocacy public figure, Generation Lockdown featured an 11-year-old girl. Her eerily detailed instructions in leading a workplace of adults through the steps one should take when a shooting takes place calls attention to the abnormal nature of guns in the United States today. The reality of today’s students became the voices and stories that created a wave of urgency for more effective gun reform. 

Marketers should ensure they’re creating content in conjunction with input from their target audience and key influencers. Better yet, inspire a trend where user-generated content is posted by your audience, like Wendy’s did when Twitch streamers started creating their own fridge-destroying video content. Whether it’s a livestream on Twitch, an Instagram post, or a video meant to be shared on YouTube, make sure that the story and message you convey will be interpreted as genuine by native users of any given platform.

3. The Power of Influencer Marketing for Social Good

Caring about social good isn’t just a millennial stereotype these days; it’s an advertising strategy that is both effective and good for the overall environment that brands are spreading a message in. Do you know where your ads are displayed? Sleeping Giants called attention to brands and advertisers placing ads alongside extremist, racist, and/or hateful content, like Breitbart. This movement also called attention to the ongoing issues around paid media transparency and calls for more parameters in place to guarantee brand safety. #GenerationLockdown tackled another serious issue by sharing the stories of children who have grown up preparing for the worst, a school shooting. This campaign was amplified by the influential leaders of the March for Our Lives Movement, and it not only earned mainstream media coverage but commitments from politicians for a real solution to school shootings. Black Lives Matter and gender equality are also heavy topics in today’s cultural dialogue, but Nike takes on the challenge by aligning with Colin Kaepernick to speak about Black Lives Matter, and Serena Williams and Billie Jean King for gender equality.

Marketers: this is where marketing gets personal. Try to work with causes that you are passionate about yourself. Exercise social responsibility when speaking about current issues that plague our world today. Speak to people who are directly affected or experiencing these cultural issues, and make sure that their voices, their stories, and their words are the ones amplified in any campaigns you may run. Advertising can be harnessed for social good, but it must be done correctly, especially in the context of influencer marketing campaigns. If brands don’t do their research about a cause that they’re speaking on behalf of, it comes across as disingenuous at best, and heinous at worst. 

4. Celebrities Still Drive Attention and Influence

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ and ‘Dream Crazier’ featured stories from celebrity athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Serena William. When the campaigns were first released, they were prominently featured on the social platforms of the respective athletes mentioned. These campaigns were able to quickly generate wide-spread attention in part because other celebrities and well-known public figures were sharing the campaign and voicing their support. #GenerationLockdown was also shared on Twitter by prominent political figures such as U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, U.S Senator Murphy, Congresswoman Giffords, and Rachel Maddow.

While not all campaigns will feature a celebrity or have the budget to do so, marketers should tag any relevant celebrities on public social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram. If a celebrity is known for speaking about a certain cause that your content pertains to or if they are known for enjoying a medium that your brand is using, such as street art, build engagement around your post and tag them. You never know who may take notice. 

5. Big Ideas – Not Big Influencers – Create Lasting Brand Influence 

All Grand Prix & Gold Social & Influencer Lions winners were focused on cultural moments bigger than the influencers themselves. Worthy causes, social movements, and pop culture were all celebrated by this year’s awardees. Marketers should adjust their brand influencer marketing strategy accordingly, and create campaigns that are both mutually beneficial for brands, content creators, and society as a whole. Campaigns should leave an impression on a target audience, whether it makes them laugh or search for new ways to support a cause. Make sure you also check out this piece on 6 steps to achieving successful ambassadorships for more guidelines every marketing strategy should include.