ROI vs Awareness: Influencer Marketing’s Billion Dollar Question


Influencer Marketing trends have swept the global marketing and advertising budgets. A majority of experienced CMOs and brand marketers are exploring unique ways to connect with their customers. Working with influencers definitely figure among the top-5 ways to boost marketing ROI using unique content. Influencer content, in the form of blogs, videos, and podcasts are generating tremendous volumes of engagements across all digital marketing channels, including email and display advertising. As we’ve entered a brand-new decade of influencer marketing, things are changing. And rather swiftly at that.

Leading influencer marketing trends-watchers expect this market to cross $22 billion in revenues by the end of 2022 — a far more competitive figure compared to branded social media marketing.

With 63% of marketers intending to increase their influencer marketing budget within the next 12 months, there is more evidence to showcase just how impactful influencer campaigns really are. But because of this, brands are beginning to question exactly where they should be spending their money and how they’re going to measure its success.

The question on everybody’s lips is whether to opt for return on investment (ROI) or brand awareness?

Customer behaviors have evolved significantly in the last 8-10 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the fall of retail brands that never focused seriously on digital channels to promote and sell their products. With the COVID-19 severely impacting branded content creation and promotion, companies are leveraging the most creative arm of social media marketing using influencers club.

According to a report, more consumers prefer to shop for content online compared to pre-COVID-19 days. About half of them would never return to try and test their favorite brands in a retail shop or mall.

For example, Nike, a global brand that always stayed ahead in the race of branding by picking the best athletes to speak their mind using apparel and shoes, has reported a 38% drop YoY during Q42020. It could manage to sell  $6.3 billion worth of product; while Q1 2021, it managed to increase its revenue to $10.6 billion. The major reason behind this push — Mobile app-based shopping. Chinese users’ activity increased by 80% on Nike’s mobile app! Also, Nike’s Run Club app had over 1 million downloads globally for four months running.

Others who witnessed a similar trend in their mobile app-based sales include Under Armour and Lululemon. I am sure there are thousands of other global and local e-commerce retailers who are increasing their sales numbers by going native on their mobile apps and putting more content-specific budget to influencer marketing tactics.

Amelia Neate, Senior Manager at Influencer Matchmaker says “It’s safe to say that influencer marketing isn’t going anywhere, and now that it is so readily available to most brands and businesses, there are a number of ways to measure the success and the outcome of each campaign.

“It’s no longer as simple as how many likes a photo gets. It’s much more strategic than that now. And although different, both ROI and brand awareness are equal in terms of their benefits to a business.”

And although influencer marketing is fast becoming one of the most popular marketing strategies around the world, it can be difficult to measure solid return on investment.

This is what eMarketer shared in one of its latest influencer marketing reports.

What Types of Influencer Content Do US and UK Social Media Influencer Followers Want More of? (% of respondents, May 2020)
What Types of Influencer Content Do US and UK Social Media Influencer Followers Want More of? (% of respondents, May 2020)

The Challenges Brands Face

One of the challenges that many brands face, is clarifying their objective. It’s tricky to narrow it down to just one, as understandably, brands have a number of things that they’d like to achieve from an influencer marketing campaign.

“This is where brands tend to trip up, by focusing on more than one primary objective. It’s difficult to track results and success if the goal isn’t crystal clear to begin with,” Amelia says.

A brand’s budget, along with sourcing the right influencer could also prove to be a challenge, which is often when they would enlist the help of an influencer marketing agency.

Amelia explains, “Brands come to us with a budget and we find them an influencer that will suit both their budget and their campaign.”

Choosing the right tactic

Whether it’s creating awareness of your brand, consideration, conversion or production, your goal and objective should align with both your campaign and influencer marketing strategy, matching your brand KPIs.

With influencer marketing, return on investment isn’t solely based on revenue. At least not anymore.

If brands choose to focus on awareness, then they should know that this is a rather difficult goal to measure. However, that isn’t to say it isn’t worth it. In fact, creating awareness for a brand could be the most valuable goal of all.

Word of mouth is still the most trusted source of marketing, so putting your brand out there, in a way that is easily recognizable is a sure-fire way of achieving just that.

Focusing on other metrics such as conversions, sales, and actions are much easier to measure, demonstrating obvious levels of success, or lack of.

“Thanks to website analytics and social media insight tools, it is now easier than ever to keep track of online statistics, making it quick and effective to measure ROI in the case of metrics,” Amelia explains.

Influencer focused brands

Many brands have focused predominantly on influencer marketing, including HEAT. A brand created to fill a gap in the luxury fashion market, HEAT teamed up with packaging provider Delta Global to create innovative mystery boxes for consumers. By collaborating with well-known influencers, HEAT have increased and encouraged sales of their new product and service.

Other well-known brands such as Daniel Wellington and Gymshark became market leaders in their chosen industries thanks to focusing on their influencer marketing strategies.

Amelia says, “Although they may not have seen an increase in sales straight away, the brands were placed at the forefront of their target audiences and a huge buzz was created around their products.

Influencer Matchmaker recently worked with Disney+ on a campaign to celebrate the launch of Frozen 2.

Amelia and her team of experts partnered the brand with well-known parenting influencers, whose children were already fans of the first film, including Jacqueline Jossa. In doing so, the influencer marketing agency placed the campaign at the very forefront of its target audience.

ROI or awareness?

There really is no simple answer to this question, no matter how often it is asked.

Creating awareness of a brand is a lengthy and on-going process, and often, the results of this are working quietly in the background until further down the line. But making potential consumers aware of your brand is an invaluable process, although more difficult to measure and determine immediate success, or failure.

Amelia defines both ROI and awareness as an equal footing with both tactics proving beneficial to brands.

“ROI based on conversions and actions is a much more concrete process,” Amelia explains.

“But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the better route to follow. It all comes down to a brand’s personal objective and what they are aiming to achieve.”

This article first appeared in

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MarTech Series (MTS) is a business publication dedicated to helping marketers get more from marketing technology through in-depth journalism, expert author blogs and research reports. We publish high quality, relevant Marketing Technology Insights to help the business community advance martech knowledge and develop new martech skills. Our focus is on bringing marketers the latest business trends, products and practices affecting their marketing strategy.

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