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The Influencers

How Brands Should Harness Talent and Influence: Start with the ‘Why’

INFLUENCER: ITB’s Antonia Thompson Weisman evaluates how popular culture can effectively turn the traditional marketing funnel on its head

How Brands Should Harness Talent and Influence: Start with the ‘Why’

In 2017, UK lingerie brand Freya featured in iTunes’ top podcast list in the UK with ‘Life Gives You Melons’, a podcast aimed at busy young women, hosted by Maya Jama and featuring relevant weekly chats with celebrity guests. Given Freya’s target demographic of 25-34-year-olds accounts for 40% of the UK's podcast audience, the format provided a unique opportunity to produce original content that could seamlessly integrate into their target customers’ everyday lives in an organic way, which was in fact the original aim. Soaring to #17 in the UK podcast charts proved to be an incredibly successful by-product of delving deep into their brand, deciphering their purpose and deciding they wanted to harness celebrities, influencers and popular culture to enable these conversations for young women.


Freya started with ‘why’ they wanted to do this as a brand. They identified what their ultimate goal was before deploying their campaign strategy and hiring the talent to do it. Whilst it’s not new to evaluate a brand’s purpose at the core before embarking on a campaign, what they did do was identify whether popular culture played a role in their ultimate goal. They did this before looking at how they would enable these conversations (who would be involved and what they would do) and what the resulting communications would be (what media format this would take). 

Most will recognise this marketing approach from the well-known strategy catalysed by Simon Sinek during one of his TED talks – Starting with ‘Why’ and The Golden Circle. Recently, ITB have increasingly looked at entertainment marketing through this lens in order to take our clients to the next level and deliver opportunities that would shift the needle for them as brands. Employed successfully, it can be incredibly impactful – not just at the ‘awareness’ and ‘interest’ stages of the marketing funnel, but skipping straight to the ‘action’ part. 

In the past, marketers have been quick to employ celebrities or brand ambassadors to help increase awareness and reach. This can still be an effective practice, but as a strategic entertainment marketing partner our job is to challenge ‘why’ that is. Oftentimes it may be that the answer lies in a much more streamlined and effective approach to engaging with talent – whether by seeding product, launching a social influencer campaign, creating branded content, or otherwise. There are myriad ways to ‘skin the cat’, so to speak, and we’ve seen more and more brands moving away from a ‘guns for hire’ approach when it comes to working with talent in order to ensure the authenticity and integrity their customers have come to expect from them, particularly in an age of social media accountability. 

To really make an impact we need to ask, ‘what do you truly want to achieve as a brand and does popular culture play a role in activating that?’ Then, and only then, we can ask ‘how can you effectively integrate popular culture to achieve your goals?’


For example, in the summer, The Body Shop embarked on an ambitious campaign against animal testing worldwide. The brand’s ultimate aim was to get eight million petition signatures to bring the case to the UN. As such, we focussed our attention on how to harness the power of influence to help inspire action and pioneer change, whilst reaching the audience needed to fulfil this goal. Well-known animal rights supporters, both celebrities and influencers, were enlisted in the #ForeverAgainstAnimalTesting social campaign, which has thus far resulted in an impressive four million signatures, and counting... 

By engaging people and audiences who really care about this cause, The Body Shop not only had the reach they needed but the ability to drive change in behaviour with a specific call to action amongst an impassioned set of followers. 

Whether your aim is to reach a targeted and engaged audience, shift public perception, challenge the status quo, inspire action, create cultural milestones, or simply to create game-changing, memorable work, starting with the ‘why’ can be the difference between a good campaign and a great one.



Antonia Thompson is Group Head of Strategy at ITB Worldwide

Genre: Strategy/Insight