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The Influencers

Expect the Unexpected: Why Unconventional Talent is on the Rise

INFLUENCER: ITB’s Emma Gregson explores how the rise of unconventional talent is adding a new layer to brand campaigns

Expect the Unexpected: Why Unconventional Talent is on the Rise

This summer, GAP launched its global #MeetMeInTheGAP campaign which encourages people to explore their similarities rather than their differences by bringing together traditional celebrity talent – including pop icon Cher and rapper Future – with a number of more unconventional stars, including a yodeller, a beatboxer and an auctioneer. 

GAP has always been a brand that champions diversity but for this campaign we helped them take it to a new creative level with diverse types of talent that they’d never used before. By bringing these unconventional people with unique skillsets to the table, GAP created something totally new that demonstrates that you can come together and make a difference when you join forces.

And it isn’t just GAP that is targeting unconventional talent as a way to forge a unique brand narrative. There’s a real movement towards diversity as brands are looking for something that’s going to go against the traditional grain of what people expect from them. Casting has become so much more important for brands because the casting that we now do now becomes their over-arching story.

Whilst your typical social influencer is likely to be someone who looks beautiful, possesses a strong social following and maintains a credible existing profile, unconventional talent is, by and large, untapped. It’s anyone that the consumer isn’t familiar with seeing and the significant difference between the two is that unconventional talent has almost certainly never had their social profiles utilised in a commercial way. 

Despite this, they have their own stories to tell and brands looking for advocacy should look to weave unconventional talent into their marketing strategies. As a brand, what are you looking to achieve? If it’s about telling a brand story, then a one-post moment isn’t going to cut it. You need to harness the right influencers who can tell their organic tales over the course of a campaign. 

There’s a definite rise in unconventional talent being used in brand campaigns, simply because it adds a new layer of difference. Consumers are being inundated with the norm on social channels, so everyone’s looking for another way of standing out. Different is fresh and that’s what people are hungry for. It sets brands apart from others because they’re introducing a new concept – by adding voice to a niche talent, they’re benefitting from showing something completely different.

Clients are looking for newness; a fresh angle or tone that hasn’t been done before. When we talk about unconventional talent, we are now talking about people who are very niche in their content creation fields or in their artistic discipline or sporting discipline. 

Take Jack Wills’ recent SPORTxLIFE campaign, for example. It brought together a broad range of athletes and influencers to illustrate the AW17 range’s dichotomy in the most authentic way possible, including boxer and actor Dudley O’Shaughnessy, model Emma Louise Connolly, GB athletes James Cook and Jodie Williams, personal trainer and health coach Max Lowery and contemporary dancer Renee Stewart, alongside other key lifestyle talent.

Jack Wills SPORT x LIFE Campaign

In an upcoming campaign for an electronics brand, for example, we’ve cast a number of key opinion leaders that can tell a great story because they use the technology in question in an authentic way. We’ve cast real people, not models, actors or influencers, and despite their niche field they give the brand credibility by telling authentic, believable stories in a way that celebrity talent couldn’t.

For us, a key challenge when it comes to sourcing and securing unconventional talent is that there isn’t a huge pool that exist on databases and are represented by agents. That’s the point - unconventional is unexpected. It’s takes constant research from the team; fingers always on the pulse as we try to discover these incredible people and stories. We remain ahead of the game, often discovering these individuals when they don’t have agents - and two seasons later they’re signed up to an agency. We’re legitimately finding newness; discovering amazing people that we can marry with the right brand to generate incredible campaigns that cut through the noise.

Of course, there is a possibility that the more you try and push something, the more it becomes the norm. There’s a risk that brand campaigns will become so oversaturated with unconventional talent that it then becomes conventional. But we’re nowhere near that point yet. The use of unconventional talent is still on the rise and we’re going to see this continue to grow.

In the same way that everyone at school would be wearing the same style of Adidas trainers (because buying into a specific brand was just the done thing to do at that age), we’re now buying into a cultural moment. Consumers aren’t as loyal to brands anymore; they’re loyal to what culture is saying and that shifts everything. What are you watching? What are you listening to? What are you eating? Consumers have a much more holistic view of their lifestyles, rather than just being defined by a brand. Therefore, brands must be working with talent that can show different elements of people’s lifestyle. 

It’s no longer all about one person and one moment in time. Celebrities are still the champions of culture and can cut through the noise, but they do so on a more mainstream level. By building this additional, unconventional layer into your marketing strategy you can use talent as a channel to target niche audiences and specific communities.

Allowing individuals to tell stories for a brand democratises campaigns, bringing the consumer closer to the brand as a result. With the right direction from the brand, it can control its message but communicate in an emotionally engaging way that is both aspirational and inspirational. And that is why we should continue to expect the unexpected.