If you ask somebody what they do, and they reply with, ‘oh, I work in marketing’, your first port of call is to imagine some modern-looking office. A room splattered with a bright colour palette, exposed brick and wood, and inhabited by lots of quietly astute people with their heads stuffed into computer screens, analysing graphics and graphs you have no hope of understanding. Today, however, that’s simply not (always) the case – although, I must admit, I’ve just painted a pretty vivid picture of the ICS office.
Here at ICS, we specialise in mainly B2C (business to consumer) marketing, publishing content that has to reflect external brands in a positive way. Although, as a business we have to keep on top of cultivating our own brand, this is usually more on a B2B (business to business) basis. However, when publishing content, we are responsible for the upkeep of the brands we are writing for, so we always have to keep in mind their company ethics, aesthetics, public image, and so on. This is not dissimilar from the way in which social marketing works, having to constantly maintain awareness of a variation of brands, cultural factors, and demographics to cultivate an individual image that reflects a multitude of different resources.
Marketing, in the variety of forms it takes today, exists in many different realms. The industry, and the word itself, inherently appears as some abstract concept, open to all sorts of interpretations. However, it really is one of the most accessible forms of personal and professional communication tools everyone, believe or not, has in their arsenal.
In the era of social media influencers and ‘personal brands’, we all, in fact ‘work in marketing’. Arguably, the upkeep of your own social profile is work in itself. Over the years, we have all garnered our own individual repertoires and toolbelts when it comes to advertising ourselves, and our lives. Today, the lines between professional and personal marketing are being blurred, with the likes of Kylie Jenner being just one example; fuelled by her Instagram empire, she became the richest businesswoman in the world in 2019. Could we learn a thing or two from these online marketing moguls and their brand deals?
The answer, in short, is yes, and we’d be naïve not to take notice and acknowledge the powerful strides made by these individuals, and the visceral platform that social media provides. Wrongly so, this online universe of seemingly uninterpretable millennial and gen-z memes and motifs, manifests itself as some inaccessible netherworld, to anyone over the age of 35. All hopes of being heard and respected as a businessperson, let alone an individual, are brushed off as pipe dreams, only handed out to those tech-savvy enough to decipher algorithms, and popular trends.
We can relate this idea of the ‘brand deal’ – which farms the majority of influencer wealth, to the deals which any marketing company or agency strike with their clients. ‘Brand deal’ in itself is just an outwardly facing term for a business contract, often as strict and professionally tying as the contracts we sign with the companies we have relationships with here at ICS. We have to adhere to individual brand guidelines, follow content requirements, and produce work that corresponds with what the client has requested from us.
If you see an Instagram influencer or YouTuber posting photos and videos of their new favourite brand of coffee, then they have most likely signed a detailed business contract. This details to them what they have to do, say, even the keywords they use in their posts and videos, how to hold the product, how long to talk about it, when to use CTAs, and so on. This marketing technique, not at all dissimilar to how link building articles are constructed, relies on clicks, consumer persuasion, and interaction. Sound familiar?
As you can see, the world of marketing and business is shifting along with this social movement. ‘Influencer’ marketing resides there as a toolbox, ready to be cracked open by anyone, as a manual; always open at the right page for you to read from. Everyone who owns a social media account utilises this knowledge, consciously or not, from people with 5 followers, to 5 million. Besides the clean and rosy feeds of millionaire influencers and celebrities, everyone, even regular folk like you and me, has become adept at marketing their own individual ‘brand’.
We create and curate our social media feeds, providing our followers with only ‘the best’. We commit to certain filters over our images, ensuring our feed is presentable, and communicate issues we feel are important to ‘preserving’ what we stand for, as a brand. We even provide our social media selves with a catchy name and front-of-house image.
We even wear certain clothes to ensure we fit in with our business identity or aesthetic, similar to how a ‘traditional’ business would require its workers to wear a suit to convey professionalism. Or, in some cases, casual workwear to convey a modern, creative face. Either way – it is a business uniform, personal or professional.
From defining brand images and aesthetics, curating a unique business identity, practising consistency, and effective B2B and B2C communication – the online world of the influencer has everything perfected to the last particle. Practically identical, in this way, to ‘traditional’ marketing, this sector of the industry is nothing to turn your nose up at. However distant it may feel, it is running the exact same race – and is, perhaps, one step ahead.
Many people would argue that modern marketing is volatile, the caffeine-powered little brother of broadsheets and broadcasting, jumping from one thing to the next, impossible to learn from. So, can we pull all of this into practise; all these seemingly jumbled skills we’ve collected as individuals, to become ‘marketing experts’? I think you could argue that everyone now has the basics down, as we as people have acclimated to this inherently volatile environment. It is what you do with these skills that defines where you stand, in terms of being ready to adapt to this shape-shifting industry.