Changing the game: how Covid-19 reshaped influencer marketing forever

Dave Murray, Managing Director EMEA, LTK on what the new age of influencer marketing means for brands.

Dave Murray, LTK

Managing Director EMEA


Rewind to March last year. Some predicted Covid-19 would be an existential threat to influencer marketing.

With shops, restaurants, pubs and gyms shut, how could influencers continue serving followers with the content they love?

Yet that’s not what happened at all. Quite the opposite.

Throughout the pandemic, influencer marketing has become an essential and resilient marketing channel for brands.

63% of businesses are set to increase spend on creators in 2021, according to the Influencer Marketing Hub. At LTK, we’ve seen a 90% increase in brands approaching us for always-on performance-led influencer marketing.

Covid-19 has had a lasting, transformational impact on influencer marketing. The sector will continue to prosper as our society and economy reopens. Here’s why.

The human touch

Personal interactions have been difficult over the last year due to successive national lockdowns. The impact on physical retail has been devastating.

In-store shopping and trying on outfits has been impossible for much of the last year. So brands have had to look elsewhere to build personal and meaningful connections with audiences.

This has led to a new focus on influencers. Marketers have recognised that creators can show consumers the fit, function and styling of the brand’s product in a relatable, personal, and authentic way. This humanises the products, driving conversation, appeal and demand.

This has been particularly powerful during the pandemic, with consumers – unable to physically view, touch and feel products - needing guidance from trusted and relatable digital sources.

The use of creator partnerships will only become more common, even as physical retail reopens and we head towards a sense of normality.

New technology and live shopping experiences, such as “shoppertainment”, are starting to make inroads into Europe from China. 70% of European shoppers are interested in experimenting with live streaming as a way of enhancing their ecommerce experience, according to a recent study.

These new digital experiences make it possible for consumers to ask questions and get advice from influencers in real-time, which isn’t possible within static content.

These new video formats are likely to make creator partnerships even more appealing as an alternative to real-life shopping, even as high street footfall returns.

Creating branded content under restrictions

Lockdown had a heavy impact on brands, agencies and photographers. They were unable to run photoshoots for advertising campaigns and had to cancel events. The experiential sector was particularly hard hit by Covid-driven budget cuts, according to the IPA Bellwether report.

This was another factor in marketers turning towards influencers. Creators could fill this gap by producing branded content, creating customised, on-spec, branded imagery quickly and cost-effectively on their own at home.

This helped sustain and strengthen connections with audiences and provided consumers with the content they required to make informed purchasing decisions.

Despite the removal of many Covid restrictions, brands still face budget cuts to product campaign shoots. So, influencers will remain an efficient and highly effective channel for marketers and consumers.

Cultivating long-term strategic relationships

The benefits of influencer marketing have been recognised across the industry for some time now.

They have loyal, long-term followings with audiences that intimately know and trust them. That brings numerous advantages to marketers who want to deliver authentic, resonant campaigns.

But marketers have sometimes fallen into the trap of seeing creator collaborations as one-off, transactional collaborations.

This has affected the quality of output. If an influencer isn’t brought in at the beginning of the campaign and isn’t aware of the overall strategic objectives, their content is unlikely to deliver the desired impact. 

But the last year – with the emphasis on personality and human connection during Covid-19 – has led to lasting cultural change.

Leading brands are cultivating long-term, strategic relationships with influencers, who are now seen as a critical part of media budgets and as a dedicated long-term channel where full-funnel performance can be measured and tracked.

We’ve seen this ourselves at LTK, where many of the UK’s leading lifestyle brands have committed to multi-million-pound always-on influencer collaborations with LTK after seeing ROI of at least 6x during the pandemic.

The new age of influencer marketing post-Covid

Online retail is soaring. Even with shops open, consumers are unlikely to revert to their purchasing behaviour before the pandemic.

In this new digital climate, more and more brands are recognising the power of influencer marketing. Not just to deepen brand resonance and authenticity, but to become virtual storefronts for retailers.

While some may have expected the global shutdown to be the end of influencer marketing, it was ultimately a catalyst for the industry’s best year yet.

 What brands should know about influencer marketing:

1.     Influencers will continue to diversify content and drive sales across new channels. By tapping into existing and future sales trends led by influencers, marketers will have greater insight into key areas to address as part of an optimised cross-channel influencer strategy.

2.     Influencers are the most agile, cost-effective sales channel. They can adapt quickly to trends, ensuring brand partners are shown in the right context.

3.     A long-term approach to influencer marketing allows time for brand alignment and the chance to leverage what performed well in terms of content type, platform and product resonance. Consumers also view consistent endorsement as legitimate advocacy.

4.              The more brands understand performance data and cast campaigns based upon historical sales and proven conversion, the better the outcomes will be whether the goal is ROAS or ROI.

Guest Author

Dave Murray, LTK

Managing Director EMEA,


Dave Murray is the founding leader of LTK London. With over 14 years’ worth of experience in Performance Marketing specialising in Fashion & Lifestyle, Dave joined the company in 2012 to lead international growth, with a belief that global content creators would significantly grow their influence in the future. From a start-up blog monetisation tool, Dave has driven LTK’s international expansion over the last 9 years, redefining the influencer channel for European brands and now leading innovation in cross-channel mobile social shopping.

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