We’ve probably over-done the conversation on this show lately about fake influencers — at least in the context of those who fraudulently buy followers and engagement to appear more influential than they really are. But there’s another kind of fake influencer out there that is potentially more frightening than the first.

In case you aren’t aware, there is an emerging niche within influencer marketing of literally fake influencers … avatars. CGI-manufactured versions of what appear to be people. I’m not talking deep-fakes, though I’m sure that will come into play soon, too. I’m talking about photo and video realistic, computer generated people. Who companies … mostly the graphics and CGI companies themselves … build social media accounts for. 

These fictional influencers, though, carry with them non-fictional influence. A survey from a company called Fullscreen in 2019 found that over half of those surveyed, in consumers ranging from 13 to 34, over half … had purchased a product, researched a product, attended an event or followed a brand on social media thanks to the recommendation and influence of what amounts to a modern day cartoon. 

CGI influencers are a thing. LilMiquela on Instagram is a computer avatar Photoshopped into seemingly real world adventures just like a real influencer would be placed. She has over 3 million followers. The company that created her is also responsible for LilMiquela’s pal … or rival … there’s apparently a storyline I didn’t have time to suss out … but Bermuda at @bermudaisbae has 291,000 followers. 

Brandon Brown is not a CGI influencer. He is the CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing platform Grin. He and I sat down recently to talk through the idea of CGI influencers. What are the risks, the fears, the dos and don’ts? Is there a place for them? Should they be considered a part of influencer marketing for strictly entertainment or branded content?

We also talked about several other things, including Brandon’s company. Grin is different from a lot of the other influencer marketing platforms in that it’s built for a direct-to-consumer business. They integrate with e-commerce partners to allow revenue attribution and ROI to be more easily mapped for influencer programs. Ironically enough, their e-commerce and D2C focus comes from a CEO whose philosophy is that influencer marketing is focused on building trust. 

We’ve talked before about the continuum of influencer marketing philosophies and how it runs from Transactional … e-commerce … to relational … more trust focused and relationship based. Grin seems to have a nice mix of both.

Lots of interesting conversation here, but the headline of this episode is going to be our fun banter back and forth. What in the world is up with CGI influencers?

This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Julius.

If you’ve read my book, you know I’ve depended on Julius for influencer discovery and campaign management for some time now. When I’m looking for the right influencer for my clients, Julius allows me to search across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and more. When I click into an influencer’s profile, I can see their audience demographics, what other networks they have reach through and quickly scan their recent posts to decide if they’re a right influencer for my brand. All the pieces of campaign management are there, too. Julius allows you to reach out, document contracts, share and approve influencer content and, of course, measure the ROI of each campaign, influencer or post. You owe it to your brand or agency to do a demo of Julius today. Go to jason.online/julius and request one. That’s jason.online/julius.

Winfluence Transcript – Brandon Brown – Grin

Jason Falls
Hello again friends thanks for listening to Winfluence – The Influence Marketing Podcast. We’ve probably overdone the conversation on this show lately about fake influencers, at least in the context of those who fraudulently buy followers and engagement to appear more influential than they really are. But there’s another kind of fake influencer out there that is potentially more frightening than the first. In case you aren’t aware there is an emerging niche within influencer marketing of literally fake influencers, avatars, CGI manufactured versions of what appear to be people. I’m not talking deep fakes, though, I’m sure that will come into play soon too. I’m talking about photo and video realistic computer generated people, who companies, mostly the graphics and CGI companies themselves for now, but who companies build social media accounts for. These fictional influencers, though, carry with them non fictional influence.

Jason Falls
A survey from a company called Fullscreen in 2019 found that over half of those asked within consumers ranging from 13 to 34 years old, over half, had purchased a product research to product, attended an event or followed a brand on social media thanks to the recommendation and influence of what amounts to be a modern day cartoon. CGI influencers are a thing. LilMiquela on Instagram is a computer avatar Photoshopped into seemingly real world adventures just like a real influencer would be placed. She has over 3 million followers. The company that created her is also responsible for LilMiquela’s pal … or rival … there’s apparently a storyline I didn’t have time to suss out … but Bermuda at @bermudaisbae has 291,000 followers.

Jason Falls
Brandon Brown is not a CGI influencer. He is the CEO and co-founder of influencer marketing platform Grin. He and I sat down recently to talk through the idea of CGI influencers. What are the risks, the fears, the dos and don’ts? Is there a place for them? Should they be considered a part of influencer marketing for strictly entertainment or branded content? We also talked about several other things, including Brandon’s company.Grin is different from a lot of the other influencer marketing platforms in that it’s built for a direct-to-consumer business. They integrate with e-commerce partners to allow revenue attribution and ROI to be more easily mapped for influencer programs. Ironically enough, their e-commerce and D2C focus comes from a CEO whose philosophy is that influencer marketing is focused on building trust. We’ve talked before about the continuum of influencer marketing philosophies and how it runs from Transactional … e-commerce … to relational … more trust focused and relationship based. Grin seems to have a nice mix of both. Lots of interesting conversation here, but the headline of this episode is going to be our fun banter back and forth. What in the world is up with CGI influencers?

Jason Falls
This episode of Winfluence, the podcast, is sponsored by Julius. If you’ve read my book, you know I’ve depended on Julius for influencer discovery and campaign management for some time now. When I’m looking for the right influencer for my clients, Julius allows me to search across Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter, Pinterest, Blogs and more. When I click into an influencer’s profile, I can see their audience demographics, what other networks they have reach through and quickly scan their recent posts to decide if they’re a right influencer for my brand. All the pieces of campaign management are there, too. Julius allows you to reach out, document contracts, share and approve influencer content and, of course, measure the ROI of each campaign, influencer or post. You owe it to your brand or agency to do a demo of Julius today. Go to jason.online/julius and request one. That’s jason.online/julius. Do you know whether or not the influencer you follow is real? I assure you I am. As Grin’s Brandon Brown. He’s next on Winfluence.

Jason Falls
So Brandon, you the CEO of Grin, which is a direct to consumer influencer marketing platform. tell people how that differs. How the DTC, influencer marketing platform might differ from what they might assume an influencer marketing platform is how are you guys different?

Brandon Brown
Great question. So really two, two dimensions. So when you think of influencer marketing, right? The the first wave of all the platforms were marketplaces and networks. So fundamentally what a marketplace in a network does is it aggregate supply, meaning, hopefully millions of influencers. And then they sell that supply to the demand to the brands, and they make their money on a transaction fee. And so when people think of influencer marketing platforms, they think of somebody trying to get all the influencers in the world and all the brands in the world and be like the eBay of influencer marketing. Our view has been, that doesn’t work for brands, because it’s too transactional. And influencer marketing is fundamentally about trust in order to deliver trust to the consumer, there needs to be a relationship. And so green first and foremost is a SaaS platform that enables brands to own their direct relationships with influencers with no middleman. That’s that’s kind of that’s number one on our differentiation. And the second piece on the DTC piece is we’re the first platform SaaS platform ever to integrate with the e commerce backends. So we integrate Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Salesforce commerce, cloud, all the big e commerce platforms. Those integrations provide a few, a few, you know, great benefits. There’s huge parts of the brand workflow that we can automate, due to those integrations, product fulfillment, all of the discount code management and tracking all of the revenue attribution because we get all the first party sales data. So we plug into all the e commerce back ends, and serve up all this value to the brands on the front end. So that’s fundamentally how we’re different, not a marketplace, think relationships matter. And we integrate into e commerce so we can provide a bunch of value.

Jason Falls
I think that’s kind of an interesting, not really a contradiction, but it’s an interesting, you know, balance of, you know, you’ve you look at it philosophically differently than that. It’s about trust, and it’s about relationship. And yet, you are one of the first that delivered the e commerce pay off the transactional piece of it. So you’ve got kind of the best of both worlds there.

Brandon Brown
Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think, right, like, there’s a couple, there’s a few things that we believe when we came into this space, like the first is that it is a revenue channel, it’s just hard to track the revenue. And the second is that trust in the content is actually the number one thing and when the content is more trusted by the audience that actually drives more revenue as our thesis. So you think that those two things would perhaps be like in conflict with one another. But they dovetail really nicely, like they work really well together. Because the more authentic and honest the content to the consumer, the more they trust it. And the higher the propensity for them to click through, visit the brand, develop some brand affinity on their own and purchase the product. And so it works really well together.

Jason Falls
So are there challenges for grin or for you in working with brands that maybe aren’t direct to consumer? Because I think obviously, the payoff for DTC brands is, hey, we can tie into e commerce, we can track revenue, it can be a beautiful, magical thing. But I wonder if there aren’t some consumer brands maybe out there that you know, don’t have the direct to consumer sales that are going through channels, or wholesalers or distributors or whatnot, that say, Hey, we want to tie that revenue model to our business, too. Are there distinct challenges there that you guys run into in working with brands that aren’t necessarily D to C? And how do you circumnavigate that?

Brandon Brown
Yeah, so great question. So my view is like, influencer marketing has been around for years, like my background is in consumer marketing at Red Bull down in Santa Monica, California. And in that role, I built one of the biggest opinion leader programs for Red Bull. This is before Instagram was a huge thing. Opinion leader programs for rebels. How do you drive outcome through athletes, musicians, tastemakers like scene insiders in these relevant scenes that matter? So influencer marketing and big brands has been around since before social media. It just used to be called athlete marketing, customer advocacy, Ambassador programs, PR and journalism to some degree, right. So all this marketing through people has been around for a long time. The disruption the fundamental disruption is that now all of those people have big social media audience audiences attached to them, they’re following them. So they have this big distribution, this big distribution network that they can reach, right? So when you think about brands that you can’t directly attribute the sale online. There’s there’s really like a varying level of sophistication with its its sophistication, its belief in influencer marketing. There’s still like there’s there’s a, there’s a big misunderstanding from the brand side about what this is like.

Brandon Brown
A few years ago, brands felt like it was a fad. Perhaps it was like a flash flash in the pan. It wasn’t going to have staying power. But what we see is that there’s an adoption curve, right. There’s people who adopted it early. innovators in the early majority than the late majority and the laggards. And I think what’s now undeniable is that influencer marketing as a way to reach the consumer, through social media, but also without social media is a core part of every brand’s marketing mix in the future. And it’s not a matter of if it’s going to happen, it’s a matter of when it’s going to happen for all the big brands. So some of the big brands a way that they think about the ROI, if you can’t attribute like, at the end of the bottom of the funnel, which is the purchase, they think about it in terms of what is the brand halo effect that’s being delivered. So when I’m when I’m perceived as top of mind on Instagram, tik tok, and all these social platforms where the consumers are, and I’m trusted in that, in that environment, I get this halo effect around my brand, where I get more organic branded search traffic that comes in on Google, my conversion rate on all my paid spends online, is more performant, I actually my my vote my sales velocity increases, because the time to convert is faster, because people already Trust me. So there’s a bunch of novel ways how people people think about measuring halo effect, right. But that’s really like the frame that you need to think about it. And if you’re not trying to actually drive bottom of funnel conversions.

Jason Falls
Very nice. I like that approach. And that obviously have had challenges myself over the years, sort of convincing the, you know, the brands that have distribution channels that are not direct to consumer, understanding the power, I mean, we we typically talk in terms of branding and awareness. And and I’m very, you know, granular on the front end of saying, Let’s zero in on a goal. And if we don’t have that direct attribution, then we can correlate revenue. But instead of focusing on that as our primary goal, let’s focus on awareness. Let’s focus on changing opinions or your perceptions of a brand. But I love that halo effect. And there’s there’s different ways I love the fact that you brought up some different ways to kind of measure that, that financial impact in an interesting way. I’m curious, how would you respond to this? Because as I’m thinking about direct to consumer brands, there’s obviously plenty of companies that have been doing e commerce for a long time, and they’ve been using other people third parties to drive traffic and or conversions to buy their products. I wonder how you would respond to this statement? affiliates were the original influencers.

Brandon Brown
Umm close to true but not totally true.

Jason Falls
Okay.

Brandon Brown
Affiliate is fun of so affiliate and influencer is merging. undeniable, those two marketing disciplines are merging. Affiliate fundamentally is about distribution and conversion. It’s like, it’s about reaching frequency, right? Like, what you’re really trying to do is drive, reach and frequency at scale and drive conversion. It’s like, it’s all that matters. influencer marketing, the way I think about it is fundamentally about trust. It’s about creating a deeper emotional connection between the brand and the consumer, because somebody that the consumer aspires to be like, introduces your product and brand to them, which creates a deeper emotional connection. Now, where they crossover is that they’re both revenue channels, they both drive performance, they both have a distribution and reach component. But what affiliate marketing I think traditionally doesn’t have is the trust and authenticity component. That’s just really not factored into the equation. It’s all about how many people can I work with, with the most audience and who drive the most ROI. And that still exists in influencer marketing. But again, when you think about like content engagement, halo effect, there’s all these other kind of net benefits around it. That is, to me more powerful than affiliate marketing. So I would almost say like, rather than affiliate marketing is the original influencer more like influencer, marketing has made affiliate marketing 10 times more powerful. It’s like a more accurate way to say I think,

Jason Falls
Yeah, so I guess you would agree then that, you know, the the best affiliate marketers are going to be influencers who have that trust with their audience and can say, you know, here are products and services that I trust, and that I use, however, they say that and then that can lead to better conversions, which makes them a better affiliate. Would that be something you aligned with?

Brandon Brown
Yeah, I think so. And that’s like one type of the best and other type of the best. Like, while I have a brand background, I also have a growth marketing background. Like, if you have a if you have a website that does tons of traffic, and it’s all highly targeted to some specific niche, like, outdoor adventures, you can probably sell, I don’t want to cuss and let’s just Kassar. If you’re, I don’t care, okay, you can sell a shitload of Yeti coolers. Right? But maybe you just like are great at SEO and you really understand how to get to number one in the SERPs with all your content. And maybe it’s like super trusted and great. But so I think one type of great affiliate is like an incredible influencer that has this amazing social content. It’s aspirational. Another good type of affiliate is just someone who really knows how to drive traffic, right? But you can’t be a good influencer, if all you know how to do is drive traffic because you can’t transfer the trust. And that’s where I think influencer marketing starts to veer off of some of these other original kind of people based marketing disciplines. Yes, that component. And that’s not everybody thinks that way. Like, that’s how I think. But that’s fundamentally why we didn’t build a marketplace, like, my view is like, well, it’s, it’s super lame to have a bunch of people promoting your brand and product if they’ve never used it, like, you got all these people pitching you like, hey, let me let me promote you on social media. It’s like, have you ever tried the product? Like, do you like it? And if that doesn’t exist, like, I don’t know, I just think it’s, I as a consumer, and as a marketer, I just, that just doesn’t feel good to me. But on the affiliate marketing side, I think that probably feels fine. Because I think of affiliate marketing, again, just as the distribution reach stuff.

Jason Falls
Very nice. Alright, let’s get into this topic that I I’ve almost intentionally avoided, because I just needed to wrap my head around the concept a little bit more fake influencers, or I might want to phrase that a little differently. So you know, we’re talking about, you know, CGI influencers, absolutely fictional people who represent themselves or fictional characters who are represented on social networks as real, you know, people that gather an audience, you know, that they can have an impact over and potentially have influence over. So is is, and I think there’s a differentiation here of what we’re talking about, I said, fake influencers, but I think fake influencers almost inverse, you know, influencers who, by their, by their followers and whatnot, I think this is fake influence, or one of the other, you know, mixes up there. It’s not necessarily the influencer, it’s the influence. That’s fake. And so I’m curious, you know, you came to me with this topic to talk about I’ve, I’ve, I’ve tried not to broach into this yet, because I just couldn’t get my head wrapped around it. So I want to start there. why in the hell would anyone follow a fictional character on social media that is reporting to be or representing themselves as real?

Brandon Brown
I think mean, you’re on the same page with this, like, that makes for a great podcast. I mean, what a wild phenomenon, man, like, super interesting, right? And part of me thinks like, Am I just getting old and I’m just out of touch with, like, how young people think like, this is like, because I like, I totally agree with you. I mean, I think so this is, this is how I would think of it like, super interesting, like, branded content. Interesting, like, creative, interesting, like 3D work that somebody is doing. Interesting, like, consumer reach, but like not aspirational, not a person not, we opened up with talking about trust, like, no way. Any human that I can see is going to aspire to be like a cartoon like, that just doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense to me. So I think like I would, I would, I would mean you I think are probably aligned on this topic around just like approach it with caution if you’re a brand super interesting phenomenon, like happy to try to unpack it with you and try to you know, kind of peel back the layers but I also think Yeah, hard hard to understand why people are really interested in it. But again, you know, there’s lots of things that are people are interested that are in this lane, like, I’m just thinking off the top my head, but like anime, right, like, people that’s like a huge, huge thing that creates like a lot of loyalty and passion and raving fans. And so I think there’s a lane for it. I just think the tough part is that you’re it’s pretending to be like a human. Like you’re lying. Like it’s not a human. I think if you if it’s anime is obviously not a human a cartoon is obviously not a human. So that creates like a different relationship. If you’re if you are, if you are trying to pretend like you’re actually human and not disclosing that, I think you’d get into this weird area that I honestly don’t really wouldn’t want to touch personally.

Jason Falls
Yeah, and I think for the audience’s sake, let’s differentiate because there there are, you know, sort of fictional characters cartoon characters that are animals for that matter that you know, have Instagram accounts and YouTube channels and all that and they’re whoever their owners are, or whoever created the art that is that particular caricature, you know, controls that and it’s really an effort in entertainment. Right? And so that’s where the creative comes in. That’s where the anime comes in. But then you have you know, influencers that appear real and whether it’s through using you know, deep fake videos or just really good you know, lifelike you know, Photoshop skills or imaging skills, imaging skills, so that these influencers appear real, whether they’re, it’s a model or a person that they’re using and some company or some business or some agencies controlling the content and just dropping this model into other pictures. That gets into the weirdness here. And it’s and I like what you said there, Brandon, you touched on it if you’re not disclosing it, that’s a big difference. Because I’m sitting here looking at an Instagram account from I don’t know how to pronounce this. I’m going to butcher the hell of it. maquila? I’m sure. It’s LilMiquela who has 3 million followers on Instagram. And her bio reads hashtag Black Lives Matter. Change seeking robot with the drip. So she’s it’s disclosing right there. She is a robot. This is not a real person. And when you look at the pictures, it looks like a real person. But if you look close enough, you can tell Oh, this is just really good CGI, this is really good computer animation. Because that doesn’t, you know, you can you can start to kind of see little things that make it appear as if this is not a real person. So this is someone who’s disclosing it. What do you think the problem level is out there? How bad do you or how ubiquitous Do you think the ones who are fake but aren’t disclosing it? Are? Do you have any feel for that?

Brandon Brown
Um, yeah, tough to know. You know, I mean, I think I’ve seen that account that you’re describing as well. High engagement, honestly? Good content, and it’s to your I love your phrasing, entertainment. It’s great entertainment, you know, but not aspirational, or what, in my view won’t deliver on trust, right? Like, because because the fact that it’s not not real, I think I don’t have data on how ubiquitous it is. It feels like the the actual The first thing that we’re not discussing, like the bought followers that have real profile accounts, and the fake engagement and all that is actually like much more prevalent than CGI, because I think the CGI thing, it’s really, I think you could still tell that it’s, it’s not a real person. Um, so I think those perhaps get spotted. But I don’t have data on how pervasive it is. And I would love to see some data around, like, are these things that scale on social media and people are being tricked and fooled? Because I think that’s a very interesting perspective, if that’s happening,

Jason Falls
Well, I’m looking at the way that I found little Michaela or whatever her name was, a was from a USA Today article from a couple of years actually a couple years old. But there was apparently a survey done by a company called fullscreen they surveyed more than 513 to 34 year olds, and they basically were trying to learn whether or not people who followed CGI influencers so you know, you know, CGI cartoons made to look like people, if they if people who followed them made purchasing decisions, because of them. And according to the results of this survey, from 2019 55% of people who followed CGI influencers had made a purchase based on something the influencer had said or done 55% had attended an event based on something the influencer said or did 53% follow the brand and 52% researched a brand product. And this is from a computer generated version of the human being. I don’t know that the any of these CGI folks were disclosing that they were robots or not, I have no nothing to validate that. But that kind of scares me in a lot of ways. What about you?

Brandon Brown
I think that the non disclosure scares me. I think that that, to me, seems very believable. And real. And this is where I think you get into the nuance of differentiating what you and I were discussing up front like what what influence what is influencer marketing, fundamentally like that, I think, is great. That’s like the way advertising works, right? Like, you put a bunch of advertisements in front of somebody, and eventually you influence behavior, right? So like, I think, in that this CGI cartoon is delivering on changing consumer behavior much in the way that advertising would it like, it can be entertaining, it’s engaging, it perhaps like interrupts their pattern in their day to help like imprint some information on them. But it won’t. It’s not aspirational, and it doesn’t deliver on trust, which is fundamentally what you’re doing with influencer marketing. And so I think it’s the same in the same way that like a cartoon ad won’t be aspirational. It’s not a real person. You don’t aspire to be like them. It’s fundamentally it’s entertainment. And so I mean, yeah, I think it’s that that makes sense to me. And I can see how it would work. But I also think like let’s agree to call it like branded content or agree to call it advertising. Let’s not call it influencer marketing, cuz you’re just gonna confuse people like influencer marketing is fundamentally about people. That’s not a person. And that’s, that’s my view.

Jason Falls
So the temptation … well, first of all, I need to go back because I think most of my friends would tell you that I aspire to be Yosemite Sam. But that’s a different story. So the temptation for brands here though the technology exists to create a seemingly real human esque avatar, on social media, to the point to where the individual that you’re watching and you’re following, and it can be people can be easily fooled to think that that’s a real person. So the temptation here is then for brands to say, Well, why don’t we create our own influencer, that is completely prescribed to be exactly like, we want our ideal influencer to be and the the the benefit for the brands, of course, is that they completely control that influencer and that influencers content, there’s no risk that that influencer is going to get in trouble or, you know, assault someone or get a DUI or anything like that. They’re not going to say anything inappropriate, because the brand pulls the strings. So if there are the CGI influencers out there, and they can fool people, and there’s plenty of brands out there, I’m sure that would take the opportunity to fool people if they could. At what point do we raise our hand and say, wait a minute, somebody’s got to govern this, because I don’t think we want to create a world where brands are basically out there, you know, astroturfing, the world with their fake influencers, to persuade people to buy products.

Brandon Brown
Yeah, yeah, I think governance is interesting, I think the consumer will get them right. Like the the best governance ever, especially in today’s world, like brands actually need to stand for something. And we all know that authentic brands that have a mission and stand for something that is aspirational, or more valuable and more performant. So actually, having integrity isn’t just like a feel good thing. It drives long term value. And so I think, if you believe that marketing through people, which is what influencer marketing is, is is fundamentally about delivering trust, right? word of mouth is trusted. And fundamentally, influencer marketing is about marketing through people to create trust between the brand and the consumer that’s hearing about the brand. And then you create a CGI, and you don’t disclose it, you are fundamentally what you’re doing is lying to the consumer. And so you’re sacrificing the core thing that you’re trying to deliver, which is trust. And so I think it’s it will backfire. Now, if you disclose it, and you say, Hi, my name is so and so I’m the CGI influencer that is with Nike. And I don’t know if Nike has any, like, that’s a super interesting fun thing to go test, like as a marketer, right? Okay, let’s test it. Let’s see, what is the engagement? Like? What is the traffic? Like, what is does it do people actually, like, want to try to see who this person is, like, address that person in real life or something that I think is different, but I think you’re gonna get into hot water as a brand. If you lie to your consumers Sanlitun as an influencer, like, if you’re lying about if you’re trying to lie about products you don’t use to try to make money. But you don’t like the product like that can work only up to a point like at some point, someone who watched your old video, your old stories, like, I know, you actually don’t use that Yeti cooler because you hate camping, because you told me six videos ago that you never get to go camping again. And so I think, honestly, if you’re a brand you’re doing that you’re out of touch with how to build trust with the consumer. Again, if you’re not disclosing it, that’s my view. And you probably need to do a little soul searching because you’re a little off track.

Jason Falls
Well, and you touched on something that’s interesting from the influencer perspective, because there’s been a lot of talk recently about the, you know, the fake influencers, who by their followers and whatnot, there’s an HBO documentary called Fake Famous, which we’ve talked about ad nauseum on this show the last couple of months, you know, where Dominique Druckmann has, you know, 90%, or more of her followers are fake, and yet she has the quote, unquote, influence. But I think to your point, you’re the people out there in the marketplace, that’s that kind of approach for influencers is only going to take you so far and lasts so long. Because eventually people are going to suss that out and realize there’s really not a whole lot of substance to this person’s content. They just bought a bunch of followers. And maybe I did follow them because it looked like I was, you know, fear of missing out and there’s a lot of people following this person, but eventually consumers are going to realize there’s no substance there, and they’re not going to follow those people I would think.

Brandon Brown
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I agree. And this is like herein lies like the big challenge for me as someone who operates in the influencer marketing world. There’s so much misinformation about what influencer marketing is fundamentally, like, I think if we had a panel on here and you had a bunch of like influencer, marketing experts like the idea that marketing through people is fundamentally about trust and authenticity is accepted by some but not others. Others like no, this is just a cheaper distribution channel. And I just don’t think that that is fundamentally what it is like I think, I think the way that the algorithms work on the big social platforms like it’s not advantageous for them to have cheaper distribution to reach the consumer versus advertising, like that’s their core to their whole business is how they make money on advertising. advertising is never going away. And paid reach like that is never going away, because it’s a core part of the marketing mix. But influencer marketing delivers on that, but it also delivers on this like trust piece. Yeah. So that said, I mean, I think that that cuts both ways, like the brand way and the influencer way where, like, you have to be honest, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get paid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay people. But you find that you have to be honest. And if you’re trying to do these, like sneaky things that trick the consumer or trick your audience. Yeah, you might as well just spend your time getting good at advertising, because you don’t have to deal with that. And it’s his skill set. Similarly, probably probably harder, maybe not as hard to creating great content. But the goal is different. And so I think that cuts for the influencers as well, like, you got to be honest. And you got to build trust with your audience and maintain that trust. Or if not, it’s like a friend. Like if your friend lies to you, maybe once you’re like, Hey, man, don’t like I don’t like you when you lie to me, and then they lie to you again, you’re like, maybe I’m probably gonna stop calling you as much because I like to hang out with people who don’t lie to me.

Jason Falls
It’s very true. You know, you mentioned something interesting, because let’s look at the CGI possibility a little differently to you mentioned, you know, Hi, I’m the, you know, the, the CGI influencer from Nike. And that opens up, you know, some creative possibilities there that are really interesting. I mean, as you said that in my brain, I thought, Man, KFC needs to create the kernel, right now, and and create just have the Colonel Sanders, not actors playing Colonel Sanders, but recreate a CGI version of him with his sayings and his witticisms and his personality, and make that their influence or they would crush with that.

Brandon Brown
Dude, that’s a great idea, like KFC, and then you like, so I used to work at Red Bull. There’s like the little red bull the commercials that have those. They’re so iconic, that everybody knows and they’re timeless, they cut across generations, but like, what if you like 3d rendered that and they added a social account? Like or though I was thinking about Wendy’s? Like, what if you? And then you could that See, that’s super fun and interesting. Where? And that’s, that’s interesting to look at, because, you know, like, Wow, it looks so realistic, but it’s obviously not because it’s the Wendy’s caricature, or it’s the KFC caricature. And that even starts to cut into like, I guess it’s interesting, but I wonder how young consumers like, it’s probably hard, very hard for them to identify with that, because it’s so branded. So then you could see like, how, perhaps some people yeah, could could identify with people who kind of look and behave like them. But I again, don’t think it’s really sustainable on the brand side as a replacement for influencer marketing long term, but I think it’s a potentially is sustainable on like, the creative execution and entertaining content side.

Jason Falls
Yeah, I was absolutely gonna say the same thing is like I would do that. And on top of influencer marketing, but it’s definitely an interesting, you know, entertainment Avenue, where you can engage consumers at a level that you may not have been able to do that before. Because, you know, you think about it prior to social media in order to do something like that you had to pay for a TV show, you know, you had to or you had to do a big commercial campaign. Now you can have an Instagram account or a YouTube account, or you’ve got kind of a CGI version where you’re, you know, writing a little episode, you know, every couple weeks and rolling something out there. That sounds like an interesting opportunity for a lot of different brands to practice. KFC was just the first one that came to my mind.

Brandon Brown
Yep. Yeah, I agree. And in that lane, like you could take it a step further, and then it’s not that you double back on our original discussion, but I think with with the proper disclosures, and a novel approach that maps well to the consumer, it’s probably an interesting and powerful channel. But where it starts to go awry, as we’ve touched on a few times is when there’s you’re trying to pretend that it’s something it’s not and you’re trying to trick the consumer that I think is what’s going to come back and bite you.

Jason Falls
Awesome. Brandon, where can people find you and where can they find Grin on the interwebs?

Brandon Brown
Yeah, so Grin as we opened up in the front in the initial kind of introductions grant is the category leading influencer marketing SaaS platform, we sell to direct to consumer e-commerce brands. So we have many of like the fast high growth, what I think are cool, you know, cool, fun brands. Using our product. Again, our approach is no middleman so you own your direct relationships. And we could because we integrate with e commerce we solve all the problems in e commerce brand has in a really elegant great way. You can learn more about us at www.grin.co You can find me on LinkedIn just Brandon Brown Grin you can find me on there and if you shoot me a message we’d love to connect exchange notes and if you want to see the product you know put you in touch with someone on the team. Awesome.

Jason Falls
Thanks so much for the time today man this is a fascinating discussion and I’m I’m immediately texting my creative team to see what craziness we can come up with now.

Brandon Brown
I love it. Yeah, I appreciate you having me on Jason. Thanks so much and I look forward to build the relationship with you over the coming years.

Jason Falls
Awesome.

Transcribed by otter.ai

The Winfluence theme music is “One More Look” featuring Jacquire King and Stephan Sharp by The K Club found on Facebook Sound Collection.


Winfluence - Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand

Order Winfluence now!

Winfluence – Reframing Influencer Marketing to Ignite Your Brand is available now in paperback, Kindle/eBook and audio book formats. Get it in the medium of your choice on Amazon or get a special discount on the paperback version of the book by clicking the button below, buying on the Entrepreneur Press bookstore and using the discount code FALLS20. That earns you 20% off the retail price. Read and learn why we’ve been backed into a corner to think influencer marketing means Instagram and YouTube and how reframing it to be “influence” marketing makes us smarter marketers.

Scroll to Top