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The Interview: Jenny Tsai, CEO and Founder of Wearisma

Tom Bottomley
12 August 2021

Founded in 2015, Wearisma is a comprehensive software as a service (SaaS) platform that helps brands, including New Look, H&M, Coty and Ann Summers identify and optimise influencer and, increasingly, customer advocate-led growth.

With user-friendly software, actionable insights, and intelligent reporting, Wearisma enables brands to leverage the influence of their community, from everyday consumers to mega-influencers, and everyone in between. Founder and CEO, Jenny Tsai, tells us all about it.

How would you best describe Wearisma?

It’s an influencer marketing insights platform. We enable brands to build and grow their influence through technology. I used to work in media as a Marketing Director at Hearst where I saw the massive explosion of social media. We also saw a huge shift from the kind of push advertising model – brands showing their ads to a lot of people – to more of a pull model of advertising, based more on what we call earned recommendation. Consumers are getting so savvy that they don’t want ads just shoved down their throat. They don’t appreciate that, so the customer relies more on friends, family, influencers and people they trust on social media to provide them with recommendations. That’s how they learn about brands and that’s then how they end up buying something. That’s what we term brand advocacy.

How do you view traditional influencer marketing in today’s marketplace?

Traditional influencer marketing has focused on brands working with influencers based on hyper-visibility and their ability to generate engaging content, but all of that is changing. With trust, accessibility and community becoming increasingly important to brands and their audiences, brand advocacy is on the rise, and will be the future of influencer marketing.

Brand advocacy is action taken by people who love a brand and continuously support it by promoting products and services to new customers and prospects. Brand advocacy can be led by influencers, consumers and employees, with consumer advocacy now growing in focus. Brand advocates don’t just create content, they create valuable conversations surrounding products and services that support overall brand narrative, while fostering the creation of a loyal customer base.

Wearisma’s own research with partner Dectech revealed that most people (71%) trust content from people they know compared to content from brands (36%). Similarly, ​​74% of people stated that more recommendations from people they know would encourage them to purchase from brands.

Is organic content the way forward for brands then?

Organic content generates 20 times media value compared to paid content, and considerably more in the fashion sector, and brand advocacy hashtags generate a higher engagement rate than brand hashtags. It’s clear that a new type of influencer is poised to dominate the digital realm. A perfect mixture of influencer marketing and customer-to-customer (C2C) marketing, brand advocacy has the capacity to build brand awareness, increase engagement and impact the bottom line.

However, not all brand advocates are made equally. Some people may not be the right fit for brands because of low engagement rates, previous brand allegiances or advocacy that does not translate into sales. It’s imperative that brands have intelligent discovery tools to help them identify even the most niche brand advocate whose followers align with the target audience. They also need access to reliable metrics to help them benchmark the performance of their chosen advocates, as well as access to an advocate’s historical data to avoid brand reputation risk.

What does your new Wearisma Consumer Advocacy Hub do and when did it launch?

Launched in Q1, 2021, the new hub enables you to identify advocates who are already passionate about your brand, you can even see this split by influencer and consumer. Once you’ve identified these people you can see who your target audience is most engaged with and what time of content is resonating the most. We provide brands with the software, data and insights to make informed decisions on how they grow their brand love.

The hub will support programmes with chosen advocates including gifting, events and campaigns, allowing brands to make data driven, informed decisions on gifting strategies. The hub includes tools to help our clients benchmark the performance of brand advocates, together with solid tracking and reporting to make brand advocacy more effective.

For example, ​​our client Ann Summers were looking to nurture their relationship with their online community by asking them to create content including how they wear the product with a specific hashtag. So, through that they engage with their community and through that they selected their brand ambassadors to work with who have become part of their VIP programme. What’s really interesting is, they selected 25 women who are their actual customers, and who all have different body types – celebrating the different body types that their customers relate to. They actually included them as part of their last Halloween campaign, and through that their number one brand ambassador was in fact a customer, not an influencer. There’s nothing more effective than a customer just recommending things to other customers.

Is the Wearisma Consumer Advocacy Hub something you were being asked to create by brands?

Yes, we’ve been requested by so many of our brands who see it as big thing. Effectively, if brands want to build word of mouth and brand advocacy – a community of people recommending their products – they realise it’s not just through influencers. It’s through customers, employees and anyone who is actually a fan of their brand. They are very important to identify and then nurture a relationship with. The brands need to find out how to engage with them and track progress – fostering greater brand love with a stronger community. We launched it so brands can really look for ways to build and nurture relationships.

How do you prove that organic content generates 20 times media value compared to paid content?

Our technology and data means we can take a brand and measure all related conversations, and also separate those that are paid for by the brand versus the ones that are positively talking about the brand through recommendations from people who liked something and participated, and people who just wanted to give a good word to friends and family. By doing so, we were then able to understand the engagement that they generate, and we can see that a lot of the viewers were within the brand’s community, and they can tell genuine feedback apart from what’s been paid for. It makes it more something they can relate to and are more likely to engage in. We have the data to prove that.

Are brands realising the importance of trust and authenticity more now?

Brands are realising, particularly through the pandemic, that people really don’t like to see things that they think are fake. Customers are increasingly engaging when they can sense that the recommendations and the content that’s been posted is actually from an authentic standpoint – from another customer or an employee. The Ann Summers example is just one where they could see that the impact of their customers’ word of mouth was much stronger than an influencer who they simply just pay through sponsorship. And we are seeing that over and over again from our clients. That’s the reason why we really believe this is an evolution and this is the future. Something else that is really worth thinking about from a brand’s perspective is finding people who naturally represent you. It goes back to being authentic or being fake. When brands choose influencers, sometimes they just don’t come out quite right and that can be damaging for the brands.

So, is it potentially the death of the traditional influencer because people have grown tired of knowing they are being paid to do it?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the death of influencers, because I do think they do play a role in making people aware of certain brands, trends or new services – just because of the sheer size of their audiences. But, what we are saying is large audiences are not the be all and end all. In fact, it is often not helpful, and the concept of building a community of people who are supportive of the brands regardless of the size of the audience is more important. It’s very relatable and it’s a model that brands should pay attention to, rather than just shifting their advertising budget and shoving it to a lot of sponsorship.

Does that effectively mean anyone can be in influencer in some way?

You could argue that there are 4 billion people on social media and each person could actually be a good ambassador for a particular brand. Anyone who is in their 20’s probably easily has a thousand followers or more. They are not influencers necessarily, but they can actually credibly recommend something that is well within their experience as customers. That can be powerful for a brand because it’s so much more targeted towards like-minded people.

What would you advise brands to do to capture that and what is the incentive for people to talk about them?

They can structure a brand advocacy programme whereby they say to people that when they’ve talked about the brand a few times, and generated a certain amount of engagements, maybe they get 10% off a purchase. It’s like, you buy nine coffees and you get the tenth for free. And brands could scale that to a stronger and stronger reward programme and actually engage with their community in that way. In fact, our research found that ​​​​76% of people would be encouraged to purchase if they were first provided with gifts/freebies suggesting that reciprocity should be a key feature in brand advocacy programmes.

So, there’s still an element of reward in it for customers to be involved?

I think so, because why would a customer talk about a brand without the brand’s encouragement to start with? The customers do it because they actually believe in what the brand is doing or they believe in the quality or impact. That’s why they recommend something to friends, because they actually trust that the brand does what it says, and does it well. I don’t mean that brands should reward someone for talking about them every time, but over time they can just show gratitude by providing an experience more to a group of people who already love their brand. The key is not to force people to have to say something positive, because that would not be right, clearly. It’s all voluntary. It’s not about telling them to say something and they will get something in return. That would not be a pull type of advertising. A pull is basically people voluntarily suggesting something because they actually believe in it.

What other plans do you have to grow the Wearisma business going forward?

It’s about concentrating on the evolution of this type of new pull model. It’s just the beginning, and we’ve started to see more and more brands looking at how they can develop earned marketing through recommendation. The rest of this year will be about focusing on how customer advocacy can be relevant to people in a lot more sectors, not just fashion. And how we can help brands really grow the level of advocacy they get.

Does your price structure depend on what is being required by the brands?

There are different levels of services. It depends on what the client is interested in, whether it’s information about different geographies, different influencer types and so on. Depending on that, we provide different tiers of licensing costs.

In June, you partnered with social media monitoring company Digimind, how will that benefit brands?

It will help brands flourish with data-driven influence-building campaigns and it’s in response to the growing need of brands to align influencer marketing return on investment (ROI) with social media monitoring. The partnership gives brands and marketers easy access to influencer marketing insights alongside ‘earned’, ‘owned’ and ‘paid’ social media marketing tools. As a certified partner, Digimind’s global client base now benefits from a direct channel to Wearisma’s industry-leading influencer marketing insights as a third-party solution.

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