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Is your marketing strategy under the influence?

“You don’t need a celebrity to promote your product, you need someone who has generated an authentic connection with their audience.”

Director of Communications at the world’s number one influencer marketing platform Klear, Lena Young discusses the unique value of influencer marketing and striking the balance between data-driven decisions, KPIs, and creativity.

Transcript:

Nathan Anibaba:

Lena Young is the Director of Communications at Klear and Influencer Marketing Platform. They help brands scale and measure influencer programs, with a database of millions of influencer profiles across the leading social platforms, including Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. Lena is currently living and working in Tel Aviv. She has held roles at Investing.com and SimilarWeb. Lena Young, welcome to ClientSide.

Lena Young:

Hi.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating speaking to you, thank you so much for being on the show. You get your BA in 2010 from the Sarah Lawrence college in America, in North America. How do you go from there to living and working in Israel?

Lena Young:

Well, I started my BA at Sarah Lawrence and after a year I decided that I wanted to take time off and maybe study abroad for a year in Israel. So I did a semester in Israel at a university and I really liked it, so I stayed. I’ve been here ever since. I finished my BA in Israel.

Nathan Anibaba:

That’s fascinating. We don’t get a chance to speak to many marketers, senior marketers, living and working out of Israel. What surprised you most about living and working in Tel Aviv that you didn’t expect before?

Lena Young:

Well, I mean, it’s been 10 years, so I feel like so many things has surprised.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Like on a macro level, the culture has just constantly surprises me. I remember one time I was on an interview and somebody asked me if I planned on having kids anytime soon. But they didn’t mean it in the same way. I mean, they probably meant it in a way that was not great, but it was an acceptable question in Israel for sure. But really, I think what’s been really surprising is the growth of the tech scene here. Because when I first moved here, it wasn’t really at the state it’s at now. You didn’t have these global companies with the swanked out offices and amazing jobs. In the heart of Tel Aviv it was kind of like a diamond in rough to find a good English speaking job here. That’s also kind of made me notice that the interview process has gotten super insane too. Yeah.

Nathan Anibaba:

In 2013 you became editorial assistant for Investing.com. What did you take away from that experience that you’ve later used in subsequent roles?

Lena Young:

Well, it was my first job so I think the main thing I got out of that was just what is work? What do you do when you go to work? Then I figured that out and it was also, it was at a company that was focused on financial markets. It was kind of like Yahoo Finance, but a global of that. So I learned about kind of commodities and stocks. What I took away from that was, I don’t really like that. But they let me do social media and I got very interested in that. So I transitioned from there to my next role, which was just social media. Because I did realize I liked that.

Nathan Anibaba:

Fast forward a few years when you become content manager for LikeAGlove an agency in Israel. There you were responsible for curating and maintaining the voice of all aspects of LikeAGlove’s online presence, both B2B and B2C clients. Tell us what that experience was like?

Lena Young:

I feel like the American answer would be, it was interesting but-

Nathan Anibaba:

Is that a euphemism for not the best experience?

Lena Young:

I think every job I’ve had has been interesting.

Nathan Anibaba:

Right.

Lena Young:

So take from that what you will.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

But I mean work was interesting. But this was extremely interesting. It was a fashion tech brand and they made these smart leggings that had Bluetooth sensors in them and they would take your measurements and send it via Bluetooth to your phone and-

Nathan Anibaba:

[crosstalk 00:04:07] That is interesting.

Lena Young:

Yeah. It would suggest the best jean for your shape. So the idea was interesting. It was really small and I joined before the product was launched. So it was me the two co-founders and one other person doing marketing. Then kind of a room full of seamstresses that we’re helping to sow the sensors into the leggings. It was just a really funny culture gap because I would say everybody, except for me was from Eastern Europe Soviet. So it was a culture gap inside of Israel. So it was already very funny.

Lena Young:

But the one thing that I found interesting was that it was a product that was geared for women that was created by men. It was 2015, so people weren’t really having the same types of social discourse that’s happening now. But I think that it really helped me understand that if you don’t understand your target audience, then some things are going to fall flat. Because the founders weren’t familiar with the different pain points are also different types of women that could exist, I think it just made me realize that if you don’t have certain people making decisions in your company, you’re never going to get it completely right.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating. You then become communications manager for SimilarWeb in 2017. After that role, you are now the director of communications for Klear, the number one influencer marketing platform in the world. I’m going to ask you to qualify that a little bit. There are many other influencer marketing tools out there in the marketplace. What makes you different, special, standout?

Lena Young:

Well, there’s a lot of things that make Klear special, but I think what I like Klear is what I really liked about SimilarWeb was that everything about Klear is data-driven, and technology is at the heart of what we do. So our data science team develops something that is sophisticated and smart and empowers clients to make the best decisions regarding their influencer strategy. It’s also an end-to-end tool and it supports all stages of the campaign from discovery to campaign analysis. So, number one is, I don’t know if you can really quantify that but it definitely sounds good in a Google Ad.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

But I think one of the things that does make us unique and has a value proposition more than anybody else is that we score influencers. So we have a machine-learning kind of capability that looks at influencers performance based on all these different factors, the content they create the type of users in their network, how many likes they get. It gets really macro and it can even see how many followers they have that have a real profile picture versus like a [crosstalk 00:07:03] profile picture. All of this stuff can help to understand how influential this user is. It creates a score, and certain scores are in different tiers of influencer type. I think it helps brands understand that there’s real data behind picking and working with influencers and that follower count, which was for a long time, the leading metric is not reliable. Our clients really rely on our influencer score. You really see that the quality of their campaigns are increased by using metrics like this.

Nathan Anibaba:

Let’s talk a little bit about the state of influence in marketing today. We’re getting towards the end of 2020. How would you describe what the current state of influencer marketing is today? Is there an opportunity, is there still an opportunity for brands to use influencers to get that brand messages in front of the right audience? Because it seems to me that the market seems pretty saturated at the moment, discuss.

Lena Young:

Well, I don’t think that there’s one marketing channel that isn’t saturated at the moment. Facebook Ads, YouTube Ads-

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Everything is just like, “Fa!” But I think that the idea of influencers, just what an influencer is has become super popular in the last couple of years. People are more aware that there are people called influencers, promoting products on Instagram and YouTube. Right? But I don’t think that that means that this awareness transfers to brands actually working with influencers all the time. I think it just means people know what’s going on. But yes, I think that there’s definitely room for brands to get involved in this.

Lena Young:

First of all, if you think about the price point and the ability to connect with an authentic audience, like it’s a really an unbeatable marketing channel. I can’t imagine, especially as budgets are kind of being shifted right now during the current climate, that brands are going to be able to optimize, the price points of some marketing channels versus influencer marketing, which is one reason I think that you’re going to see more people moving towards this. Also, you’re connecting with an audience that is so authentic and it’s so much easier than just kind of the needle in a haystack approach to kind of PPC or native ads.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

If you think about it, I mean, I follow… I love food and I also love wine. So I follow anybody on Instagram. That’s going to recommend good wine to me if I trust their taste, right?

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

They’re going to promote a wine brand and I already subscribed to their values, and I subscribe to their content. I’m going to believe that this is a good wine brand. So brands are partnering with people that followers already trust their word. Rather than just posting an ad on Facebook and A, hoping someone sees it B, hoping that they click on it and C, hoping they don’t report it.

Nathan Anibaba:

We’re really relying then on the influencer sort of staying true to their own values and their brand values. As we know, many of these influencers are young and impressionable, and young people make mistakes from time to time as I have done many times in my youth, and I’m still doing it actually deeply in my 30s. Give us an example of some of the brands that are getting this right, right now. Because there are a number of brands who have ventured into influencer marketing and haven’t really gotten the results that they’ve wanted. Talk about some of the brands that are getting this right from a consumer perspective that we may not have necessarily heard of, and that aren’t sort of mainstream front page headlines.

Lena Young:

Well, I can think of so many brands that have gotten it right. One of the brands that I think about it’s a client of ours actually. They’re Canadian they do tourism, they advertise and promote tourism to Quebec. They did a really interesting campaign during COVID and it was in French, but it was called For a Moment. It was people in Quebec would post pictures outside of their window to promote the natural beauty of Quebec, and to kind of promote once we can travel, this is what you can see. It and also gave people kind of like a feeling of traveling through someone’s window while we were all at home self isolating.

Lena Young:

So, I mean, that’s one way that influencer marketing is used that I don’t think people really think about and I really like that. We also have a really awesome client Smoking Free Children, and they do campaigns about the dangers of smoking. We have a lot of nonprofits and I think that’s great. I can get kind of more commercial too, if you want. The Tuft & Needle is a mattress company. They’re like a mattress in a box company, similar to Casper.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Lena Young:

They have this really cool campaign that they did called Wake Up Better. They had different influencers with different lifestyles. They had a dancer in New York, they had same-sex couples, single parents, older people, a dog. Just kind of promoting their mattresses and saying that, “If you have a Tuft & Needle mattress in your life, you’re going to sleep better and you’re going to wake up better to live your authentic version of your life, and live your best life.” I thought that was really cool. I know if you talk about a saturated market, there’s a lot of mattress in a box companies, Casper-

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

… they’re all over the subways in New York. I don’t know if you’ve been to New York recently?

Nathan Anibaba:

And London as well, they’re all over the place.

Lena Young:

Exactly.

Nathan Anibaba:

There’s a lot of them.

Lena Young:

So this brand was like, “All right, do we need another tube ad about a mattress? Probably not.” But influence [crosstalk 00:12:45].

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s still seen as a relatively undiscovered channel for certain niches, you would say? That I guess certain brands haven’t maximized the use of? Because influencer marketing has been around for a while now, it’s no longer a secret. There are still untapped segments of the market that brands are still getting a load of value from.

Lena Young:

Influencer marketing has been around since the dawn of time, right? Celebrities were influencing us to buy things in commercials, right?

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Those are the original, those are the OG of influencers. But I think the untapped market right now is micro-influencers, and nano-influencers. The idea that you don’t need a celebrity to promote your product. That you need somebody that just has generated an authentic connection with their audience and that when they promote your product, their audience is going to be more inclined to either make a purchase or have more recognition of your brand that celebrities maybe don’t need to be the people that do this.

Nathan Anibaba:

How do brands make sure that the influencers are actually authentically ambassadors for their products, and not just someone who treats them as a disposable commodity as we referred to a little bit earlier?

Lena Young:

Well, there’s a lot of different ways to see that your influencers authentic. There’s ways that Klear can totally help you with. We check audience authenticity, so we can kind of assess if influencers audience is real. There’s this thing called influencer pods, which some people participate in to get kind of to raise their engagement rate. We’re able to check if their engagements are authentic engagements, or if they’re coming from generated bots. You can also look at audience demographics, say, for example, Tuft & Needle, like we were talking about there a U.S. brand. Say they really want to tap that UK market. If they found influencers and they saw that the majority of their audience is based in the UK, then they’re understanding that their location aligns with their goals. So that’s one way.

Lena Young:

Also, you can look at an influencers past and see who they’re collaborating with. Like, if you are a family-friendly brand, for example, like Disney or something, I don’t know. Then you decide that you want to partner with a mommy blogger. Then her last campaign was to promote CBD oil, maybe it’s not the right fit.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

But maybe it is. Maybe for moms that can do it all.

Nathan Anibaba:

Maybe it is. Right.

Lena Young:

So, [inaudible 00:15:18] take a look at this. But I also think what’s really important is that brands shouldn’t rely on influencers to be their political spokesperson. Because if we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that people might surprise you and say some really crazy things online. You never really know what someone-

Nathan Anibaba:

[crosstalk 00:15:37] It’s been known to happen from time to time. Right.

Lena Young:

Definitely. So as a brand, you should make your affiliations or your values known. You should be very clear on where you stand on the specific issues. That way, if someone does something or comes out and says something, it’s very clear that this doesn’t align with your brand. You don’t have to make a press release and say, “We don’t condone racism because you’ve already made a statement that you don’t.” That you’ve made a point of having a diverse workplace, for example.

Nathan Anibaba:

Hmm. There’s still a lack of diversity and representation among influences. What can be done to ensure that brands have a more representative set of influences to represent the wider society and their customer base? Why is that so important, especially in 2020?

Lena Young:

Well, it’s important in 2020, because we know what’s been happening in 2020. But I think it’s just extremely important for influencer marketing because influencers are representing these products. Right? So it’s kind of like when you have a marketing campaign for beauty, and then there’s the most typically looking woman. So what are you saying about beauty? But I think for there to be more diversity, it’s simple brands just need to find more diverse influencers to partner with. They need to have diversity kind of at the forefront of their thought. They probably should be practicing what they preach in the workplace. I mean, every industry needs more diversity. I’m sure we can agree on, not just influencer marketing. People should just be making more decisions to hire more people that don’t look like you.

Nathan Anibaba:

Yeah. Couldn’t agree more. Let’s talk a little bit about your role at Klear. You joined as head of communications in March, 2019. You’ve been in the role just over a year now. How prepared did you feel for the role? What things were top of your agenda when you started?

Lena Young:

Well, I don’t think I’ll ever feel 100% prepared for a role. Definitely felt prepared to work at a smaller company. I was kind of over the… what was it? The office politics of a larger company.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Yeah. It’s not my jam. So I just wanted something a little bit more relaxed. My top priority was to really understand influencer marketing. Because at the time when I joined I thought all influencers were Kylie Jenner. I didn’t realize how dynamic it was.

Nathan Anibaba:

There’s more than Kylie Jenner?

Lena Young:

There’s more than Kylie [crosstalk 00:18:12]. It was Actually interesting. I have been speaking with some influencers. I had an interview with this girl in London and she only wears Victorian dresses and she lives… Not London, sorry. She lives out in the countryside. I think by Kent or something.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Is there a town called Kent?

Nathan Anibaba:

There is, and they all wear Victorian dresses there.

Lena Young:

She actually does this and she lives in a cottage. She’s very cool. She partners with a lot of alcohol brands because they want to show how she can make a gin and tonic in her garden. Yeah, I thought it was just so niche. she was really quirky, I was like, “I could get into this”.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really interesting. In the pre-interview I asked you what’s been the red thread throughout your career. You said something really interesting. You said, you make whatever you do not boring. Give us an example of what you mean by that.

Lena Young:

You’re going to be bored at work at some point.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

It’s an inevitable feeling that you’re going to experience.

Nathan Anibaba:

Yeah.

Lena Young:

So the way that I try to not get bored is to bring myself into what I’m doing. There’s things that I’m passionate about and there’re things that I care about. If I’m going to just spend my whole day writing, or talking, or researching things that I really don’t care about, then I’m going to get bored. So I always try to bring in my passion to my work. Then I think I’m more passionate about it. Like for example, I do a lot of work kind of helping to figure out how brands are creating successful influencer strategies, and how these strategies are being conveyed to their audience. So I always try to look at brands that I’m passionate about, or I find values that I care about that are promoted in the brands so that it’s for me more interesting. Also, I think has more impact on people.

Lena Young:

I really liked Dove. I think that they do great work for equality and for diverse representation. threadUP is a fashion brand, it’s an online consignment store. I don’t know if you’ve heard of them?

Nathan Anibaba:

I have.

Lena Young:

Yeah. So I think they do really great work with influencers. They partner specifically with environmentalist, fashion influencers, it’s a thing. It’s a really cool concept. They look for influencers that have already stated that they’re not going to buy fast fashion anymore. They only wherever usable fashion. They do really great work kind of promoting the idea that you can be eco-friendly and fashionable.

Nathan Anibaba:

You’ve had a very successful career in communications and marketing. Talk about some of the early experiences that have shaped the way that you think about marketing and the way you think about growing businesses online.

Lena Young:

I think when I started working, the idea of marketing was just such a different idea than it is now. People just didn’t really know what marketing meant when it came to digital marketing. Then the term kind of transitioned to MarCom.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

Then it became digital marketing-

Nathan Anibaba:

[crosstalk 00:21:06] Right.

Lena Young:

It’s all such a, inbound marketing that always is changing. I mean, I think-

Nathan Anibaba:

Content marketing.

Lena Young:

Exactly-

Nathan Anibaba:

[crosstalk 00:21:15] right?

Lena Young:

The integration of data into your work to really see what’s working and what’s not working has changed everything for me. Because everything was done before on a whim. You kind of just like hoped it worked. Now I think like that’s really been a real turning point for me.

Nathan Anibaba:

Huh? The ability to measure performance analytically?

Lena Young:

Yeah. The ability to measure anything, technically. If your blog is geared for SEO, or kind of to measure how many people are searching for a specific search term, or going to your blog for that search term. What’s the most read article? How many people are clicking on your subscribe for a demo link? Everything, just the ability to measure the impact of your work has really changed everything for me. Because before I knew what I was doing but I didn’t know if I was doing it right.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating. There has been a criticism of the over-reliance on data that marketers use to kind of validate and prove a business hypothesis before they actually press the button and invest in the campaign, or sort of convince a client. There is an argument to say that there are sort of not everything in marketing can be measured analytically. That there is an emotive sort of side to marketing and the behavioral science side of marketing. As we’ve seen from the work of Baylor, and Tversky, and all the behavioral economics people who have really sort of pushed back against this idea of sort of using data as the definitive way of measuring marketing performance. How much of marketing is data or based on the numbers, and how much of marketing is about the creative intuitive side of marketing? Is it all sort of rational left brain or is there some creative right brained mix in there as well?

Lena Young:

I definitely think it has to be a mix of both, because you’re not going to get somebody to click on your ad if it’s not creative.

Nathan Anibaba:

Sure.

Lena Young:

But at the same time, I think it really depends on what your KPI is. So it definitely makes sense with what you’re speaking about. I mean, if your KPI is really lead-generation, then I think it’s much easier to use data to measure the impact of your work. But for example, when I was at SimilarWeb, most of what we were quantifying our success was on the brand team, was brand exposure. There’s not really a KPI for, do people know who I am?

Nathan Anibaba:

Right.

Lena Young:

So we used the search term, SimilarWeb, and we just kind of measured if people are searching for SimilarWeb more. But that’s not really adequate. Right? if I know about brands, I’ve heard about brands, that doesn’t mean I’m going into Google and searching them. It’s a very specific type of person that would do that. So you’re kind of just like basing your results and your research on one specific persona. But what about the people that just can remember things and then they’re just going to kind of on a whim, make a purchase. You have no way to evaluate them.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really, really fascinating. Lena, I know I’ve only got you for a few more minutes, so let’s get into our favorite questions. This, this is our speed round. These are the questions that we ask all of the guests that come on the show. So I’m going to fire some questions at you. If you can fire some short, sharp answers back, that will be great. Let’s start with the first one, which CMO has the most difficult job in marketing right now?

Lena Young:

I think the CMO for Airbnb or any airline right now.

Nathan Anibaba:

Oh yeah?

Lena Young:

Or [crosstalk 00:24:53] I would say anybody at Conde’ Nast right now.

Nathan Anibaba:

Huh? Conde’ Nast, why?

Lena Young:

Well, I mean, everything that happened recently with the Black Lives Matter drama. I think also, they’ve been interestingly convincing themselves that people are buying magazines for a long time. When are they going to give up?

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s so it’s so fascinating because I walked past the supermarket shelves and every time I walked past them, there are new magazines there all the time. So in my head, I’m thinking, “Well, there must be a market for a magazine.” Even though I don’t buy them anymore. They still keep showing up time and time again so that someone must be buying them.

Lena Young:

I think [crosstalk 00:25:36] companies are paying the magazines to put the stars on the cover at this point.

Nathan Anibaba:

Really fascinating. Dying, a slow death.

Lena Young:

Yes.

Nathan Anibaba:

Talk a little bit about what you do for fun when you’re not the director of communications for Klear.

Lena Young:

I love yoga. So I’m doing a lot of yoga. I also live two minutes from the beach. So I’m always at the beach. I love wine so-

Nathan Anibaba:

Wine and food.

Lena Young:

Sometimes I [crosstalk 00:26:05] all of it together.

Nathan Anibaba:

What’s the most interesting thing that people don’t know about your background?

Lena Young:

I think what’s interesting is that I never in my head was like, “This is what I’m going to do with my life.” It kind of just organically fell into my lap because if you speak English in Israel, you are going to work in specific positions. I’m fortunate that it’s good work. But I think that’s really, what’s interesting. I never really imagined that this is what I would do and I really enjoy doing it.

Nathan Anibaba:

What excites you most about your current role and position?

Lena Young:

I liked that my job is really dynamic. It says, I’m the director of communications, but I work at a small company. At small startups, you wear eight different hats. So I like that I can kind of take on different projects in different roles. It’s nice.

Nathan Anibaba:

Aside from Israel, if you could live and work anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?

Lena Young:

I thought it was London and I don’t mean to disrespect you, but I was there-

Nathan Anibaba:

[crosstalk 00:27:04] Over rated.

Lena Young:

I was just there like as an adult this time, and bars are not fun.

Nathan Anibaba:

Bars?

Lena Young:

I know that it’s probably the worst thing to say to a British person and I apologize.

Nathan Anibaba:

It’s fair. There are far worse things that you could have said, but, I’ll take it.

Lena Young:

[crosstalk 00:27:22] part of town, it definitely was probably my bad.

Nathan Anibaba:

So if not London, where else would it have been?

Lena Young:

Oh, now my heart is set on Vienna right now.

Nathan Anibaba:

Ah beautiful city.

Lena Young:

Yeah.

Nathan Anibaba:

Absolutely beautiful city.

Lena Young:

It’s really nice people, really cool, really cheap.

Nathan Anibaba:

Yeah. Really agree with you. My final question, Lena, if a college graduate or a millennial comes to you and asks you for advice to get their career started in the marketing world, what advice do you give her?

Lena Young:

I would say marry rich and don’t go to work. I’m just playing.

Nathan Anibaba:

Great advice. Someone should have told me that.

Lena Young:

I would just say, be prepared that your first couple of jobs, maybe aren’t going to be what you expect, but eventually you’ll get there.

Nathan Anibaba:

Great place to end. Lena Young, thank you very much for being on ClientSide.

Lena Young:

Thank you. This is really great.

Nathan Anibaba:

If you’d like to share any comments on this episode or any episode of ClientSide, then find us online at fox.agency. If you’d like to appear as a guest on the show, please email milly@fox.agency. The people that make the show possible are Milly Bell and [inaudible 00:28:32] our booker/researcher. David Clare is our Head of Content. Ben Fox, our Executive Producer. I’m Nathan Anibaba. You’ve been listening to ClientSide on Fox Agency, and we’re done. Thank you so much.

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