Jo Cronk spent 17 years working with media agencies but began experiencing frustration with how stories were being told in the media. Shortly after, she became familiar with Whalar, a company that focuses on liberating the creative voice and democratizing advertising and the creative process, and began working with them.
“Whalar enables creators, brands, and the world’s leading social platforms to work better together to drive business growth for all. I loved it from the second I got here and never turned back. It’s interesting, it’s gritty, [and] it’s steeped in culture.””
What is Whalar?
Whalar is a creator-commerce company focused on powering the creator. They combine talent and creative social strategy to match brands and creators to make authentic, natural, and creative content.
“We source ideas and content directly from the communities people most want to engage and reach with. We power voices, regardless of what you look like, sound like, what school you went to, the color of your skin… it’s about liberating creativity everywhere.“
Whalar measures their KPIs based on their clients’ specific needs, which may vary from campaign to campaign, even for the same client. One KPI Whalar routinely looks at is a full-funnel measurement, which includes media and sales metrics.
Finding the Right Influencers
So, how does Whalar find the right influencer for the right campaign and brand?
“It’s a balance of what data and design. Everything we do, especially casting the creators that we work with for brand campaigns, is led by data and strategy.”
Whalar starts by using their platform, Echo, which gives them significant access to data on different social media platforms. They begin by analyzing which influencers will reach the right audiences for the brand campaign. Then, they look to see what the campaign will look like and pick creators based on their skills, style, and storytelling abilities.
Whalar uses both artificial intelligence and human intelligence to choose the right creators. Using a blend of data and science combined with human elements, like creators that fit the right profile and can bring the story to life best, helps them choose the ideal influencers for projects.
Some of Whalar’s proudest innovations are their creator houses which are innovative ongoing initiatives rather than single campaigns. In partnership with DIRECTV, Whalar created the first Black and Hispanic creator houses in Los Angeles.
Whalar created the first black creator house in Los Angeles, and they recently started a Latin and Hispanic creator house in Los Angeles.
These creator houses have been hugely successful in liberating the creative process and allowing creators who may be overlooked otherwise to be in the spotlight and thrive.
“They both really bring to life what liberating the creative voice means at its core. It’s about creating opportunities to underserved communities and creators who historically, haven’t been paid equally, and they haven’t had the same brand opportunities either.”
To Jo and Whalar, this is one of the biggest successes they’ve pulled off to date because of the greater impact it’s having on the creators’ lives. All of the creators involved have been picked up by the press and had significant increases in followers and engagement.
Before being part of the creator house, none of the creators knew each other, and they’ve blended together beautifully as they expand their careers. So, Jo is confident that even after the creators have moved on and moved out of the creator houses, they’ll have made long-lasting relationships and connections.
The Impact of Influencer Marketing on the Brain
In 2019, Whalar began studying how influencer marketing affects the human brain, making them one of the first companies to look scientifically at this interaction. Last year, they completed a specific study on the science of TikTok.
Their main takeaway? Influencer marketing is more memorable than TV ads or traditional YouTube or Facebook ads due to audiences’ emotional connection with influencers.
The Rise of TikTok
Unsurprisingly, the science of TikTok study found that TikTok sells significantly more products than other platforms and TV.
So, what does this mean? Selling to Gen X, and many other demographics, should always be heavily focused on creator content, especially through TikTok.
“Who saw that TikTok could reinvigorate Barnes and Noble? Sell out Feta cheese across the United States? And sell out eye cream within days? And I think there’s going to be more of that, that’s we’re going to see as well as more brands start becoming more comfortable with TikTok, which is a big part of what we do … to help them get comfortable.”
One TikTok hashtag campaign that Whalar ran had over six billion views, which Jo largely attributes to the custom sounds included in the challenge.
Jo’s Insights on Brand and Influencer Campaigns
“The magic about creator marketing and influencer marketing is having a brand story told through someone else’s lens. And I think that’s what the creators do exceptionally well because they would take a brand’s story, a brand’s narrative, and they are not inhibited in any way. We have a lot of phenomenal pieces of content that surprise the brands.”
Jo often finds that the influencer content far outperforms the brand’s content with engagement and performance. She notes that the brands that have the best success with influencer marketing are the brands that allow the creators to have power over the content they produce for them. Of course, Whalar monitors the creator content to ensure that it stays on brand and is appropriate. However, genuinely exceptional content comes from creators that are allowed creative freedom when making brand content.
If you’re a brand, give influencers some creative control. Allow influencers to do what they do best and don’t keep them in a box. Let influencers tell the story in their own way and voice. Additionally, influencer marketing is far more effective than traditional advertising, so consider shifting your marketing budget to prioritize influencer marketing, especially if you have a young target audience.
If you’re an influencer, work to stay on brand with the brand’s mission, but don’t be afraid to tell the brand’s story in your words and voice. This will come across as authentic and far more natural to your audience, who are following you to hear your unique take. Also, don’t underestimate the power of unique music and sounds when creating content, especially for platforms like TikTok.