Influencer marketing is not only a great way to grow your business if you have a brand, but it is also an entire industry in and of itself. To get a better understanding of this business and how it’s changing every day, I spoke to Ted Raad, the founder of Trend, a company that manages influencers and also oversees influencer marketing campaigns with its sister company, Trend Social. Trend prides itself on turning away millions of dollars each year in brand partnerships (last year they declined over $6 million dollars in potential brand deals), in my conversation with Ted, I find out why this can actually be key in growing your business in an industry that prides itself on authenticity and core connections.
Gary Drenik: Your background prior to starting an influencer marketing and management agency was working in the IT mergers and acquisitions space. Tell us about your career pivot and what inspired you to start Trend?
Ted Raad: I decided to take the plunge and start Trend in January 2019 after realizing that the influencer management space had a major gap. A year earlier, my wife, fashion blogger Dede Raad, grew quickly on Instagram and needed guidance on her incoming opportunities. Without management, she was blind to her value, alone in an ever-changing industry and unable to focus on the creativity behind her content. When she signed on with a management company, she felt pressured to accept campaigns that were inauthentic to her and quickly felt the need for a change. After talking to other influencers, I noticed that this was consistent for the industry. At Trend, we are a home for influencers who know they can trust us to fight for them and to give them best opportunities that are authentic to their audience. With the backing of Trend Management, we see with the data that our influencers have 200% more brand opportunities year-over-year after signing with us, proving that signing with Trend brings the influencer more revenue and more time to continue to do what they do best- creating engaging content.
Over the course of the year, brands began to reach out because they wanted to work with influencers in an authentic way but had no idea where to begin. In 2020, I launched Trend Social, which works with brands to identify the right kind of talent to amplify their message. Trend is ever-growing with the next part of our agency, Trend Ventures, coming at the end of this year. At Trend, we have created, and will continue to create a variety of opportunities for our influencers to flourish.
According to a recent survey from Prosper Insights & Analytics, 31.7% of Adults are influenced by digital media for clothing & apparel. At Trend, we know that number will only continue to grow as more social media companies enter the market and more Millennials and Gen-Z users become more dominant in the market.
Drenik: At Trend, you work with brands at all different levels to run successful influencer campaigns. Tell us about some of the success that you have had with some of those established brands as well as how you have run campaigns that have helped establish start-up brands.
Raad: We have worked on influencer campaigns with big brands like Walmart Fashion, Amazon, and more. One of our first successful influencer campaigns was with the Steve Madden brand in 2019. A few of our influencers collaborated with the Steve Madden team to design two shoes. The shoes went live on preorder and the influencers had discount codes for their audience. The campaign led to over 20,000 units sold.
We work with a lot of emerging brands too. One of the brands that we saw tremendous success for was Wander + Ivy, the premium single serve wine brand. We worked with them on an influencer campaign that contributed to an over 400% year over year sales growth.
Drenik: If a brand is just starting up with a limited budget, what are some ways that they can work with influencers at a low or no cost way to them?
Raad: A great way to start working with influencers on a budget is to go grassroots. You can work with influencers that do not necessarily have a lot of followers and may want to test out their ability to partner with brands too. Nano-influencers are defined as Instagram influencers that have a following between 1,000-10,000. This segment is a great way to dip your toe into working with influencers.
According to a recent survey from Prosper Insights & Analytics, 12.3% of US adults are influenced by non-celebrity bloggers and influencers to buy beauty products. At Trend, we have seen some outstanding results with beauty brand partnerships, and I know we will continue to see some great data around these types of brand deals as this is a growing market.
Drenik: Much has been said about marketing to Gen Z over the last few years, what platforms do you see them on, and have you seen any surprising data or had any case studies of your own showing how brands can win this segment over?
Raad: We definitely see Gen-Z on TikTok. We know that they are more likely to buy something in-app like purchasing while in IG. We have seen products sell out in minutes after an influencer post. Gen-Z and many Millennials are no longer reading magazines or other traditional media. They spend a lot of their time on their phones and consume their content through social media, like TikTok or Instagram. When a campaign runs with multiple influencers on a certain day within a certain niche, we have seen that is really when a campaign is effective. Some brands have not adapted to this way of marketing yet, but this a huge pain point that some of these bigger brands will need to remedy as the consumer changes the way that they shop.
Drenik: There has been quite a bit of buzz about fraud in the influencer space (fake followings and engagements) that has caused some of the bigger brands to pause briefly with influencer campaigns. How do you safeguard around that on both the influencer marketing and the management side?
Raad: We work with talent that have mostly built their followings thoughtfully and consciously. We have data with numbers on the back end that shows their audience and their reach. We also work closely with our brand partners to give feedback of who can perform well and who does not. Most importantly, it is about how well these influencers connect with their audience and how much their audience TRUSTS them. We love to see the impact that someone may have with a loyal following. It helps with both the influencer and the marketing side to really see the impact these influencers make.
Drenik: Thank you, Ted, for your insights on influencer marketing.