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Just stop it: why influencer outreach is dumb in 2016

“I really like [Star Trek Online], and seeing it marketed in such an underhanded way just feels … icky.”

  • Kotaku commenter, DarthPumpkin

The content of this Kotaku article is a perfect example of Internet marketing gone wrong.

The article shares a “pitch” email from a marketer. In this case, the marketer has identified a list of authors / bloggers / vloggers / media outlets with large, active audiences (called influencers in marketing-speak) and has devised a process in which the influencers can (favorably) review his or her client’s product in exchange for $120.

As a marketer who, sadly, has both designed and executed virtually identical influencer outreach plans I have to say that being put on blast by Kotaku is probably my biggest nightmare.

Here’s why.

At the core of influencer outreach is the idea that influential people got that way by being manipulated by the industries they influence. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Influencers are passionate about their industries and can see right through your marketing bullshit. Keep in mind, they know WAY more about whatever you are trying to shill than you do. They probably know it sucks. Their fans probably know it sucks. $120 isn’t going to keep it from sucking.

So how do brands reach influencers?

Easy. Stop sucking.

The best way to get on an influencer’s radar is to build a product worthy of being there. I have trouble believing that this is a difficult concept to understand, yet I continually see influencer outreach attached to marketing plans of all levels and ambition.

So why is influencer outreach still a thing? I’ll answer that succinctly. Because it sells.

The line item influencer outreach is almost NEVER questioned by clients and marketing VPs. Simply put, it sounds good and is one of those things that everybody thinks is a great idea without proof of it ever being one.

So the moral of the story is, if you can’t be smart, sound smart.



Windows 10 phones are full-size PCs

This is a very good idea and could potentially be an Apple killer.

Windows 10 phones can function as full-size PCs when connected to a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Apple still has the “cool” factor but seriously, Apple wants you to buy an iPhone, an Apple Watch, an iPad, a MacBook, an iMac and an Apple TV. That’s 6 devices with so much redundancy between them. There’s nothing sexy or cool about redundancy – two of Apple’s core appeals.

Here’s why I love the idea of your phone doubling as your PC:

  • Less is more. Uncluttering your life is always better than complicating it.
  • One device to upgrade vs. six
  • One device for your life – work, home, play.
  • Store everything in the cloud, including backups. Lose your phone? Buy a new one, restore from the cloud.
  • Charging docks that double as USB, HDMI and Ethernet connection stations.
  • Your job pays for your phone.

Horsepower and heat are the only remaining issues. Battery life? Maybe. But if your phone is docked all day at work, maybe not.

UPDATE 02.23.16 – HP Elite X3 with dock creates portable Win10 computer

UPDATE 01.04.16 – USB-C display with included USB hub

UPDATE 10.29.17 – I was wrong.

Planned Failure

Perhaps the most overlooked success tactic is planned failure.

We seem to proceed with themes and projects as if they’ve already been embraced by our audience before our audience has ever seen the theme or project. Then, when our themes and projects underperform, we walk away because failure was not part of the plan.

When failure is part of the plan, you get this wonderful thing called iterative learning where audience feedback is applied to a theme or project and successful improvements are made.

It’s a wonderful thing and makes everyone feel talented and smart . And if there’s one thing talented and smart people need it’s constant reassurance. Without it, their skills atrophy, they leave for other opportunities or otherwise begin to suck. Then you have sucky people working on ill-planned projects and, well, you don’t have to plan to fail in that case because it’s almost a certainty.