We’ve never understood influencers to be honest. Absolutely nothing against them, just that we’re not sure how it all works and that bothers us.
So we took some time to find out exactly how this all works and how it can be done better by speaking to Evangeline Leong from Kobe Global Technologies.
Read Evangeline’s story here.
Her AI-driven platform helps define and identify real relevance in the influencer industry. Confused about how it all works? So were we, but after some time, we were able to understand how the technology works.
Evangeline is currently growing aggressively and is in a strong position to change how influencer marketing works. Her focus on tracking and being driven by real numbers versus impression (we see you Facebook), is a breath of fresh air.
Read more to find out how she does it all.
How do you define influence and maybe share an example or two of what that really is in this context?
In a business context, influence is the way of winning opinions of others. Influencer marketing service is no longer the same as before. It is not just about getting anyone to promote a brand’s product or service. A redefined influencer marketing service is about getting the right people to spread the right message. When you have won the opinions of others, they would have become your advocate, and help you win the market.
To accurately get the right people to spread the right message, Kobe adopts Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology which helps to analyse influencers’ profiles. By doing so, we can understand the influencers better and pair them up with the brands according to their image and personality.
Below are some examples of how Kobe assisted different brands to spread the right message using the right people, changing people’s opinions of the brands.
Examples of campaigns run by Kobe Global Technologies:
Types of influencers used:
- Coffee-lovers who are also interested in Art
- Art students
Influence Direction: Showing that drinking package coffee or coffee sachet can be cool, artistic and instagrammable just like cafe hopping.
By showing coffee art rather than just the normal product packaging, this introduces dimensions, as well as, brand personality. The coffee art shows that drinking Café 21 can also be cool and artistic. This makes the visuals of the product also worth sharing on social media, hence deeming it “instagrammable”.
Types of influencer used:
- People with cool and unique instagram feed
- Pepsi lover
- Bring out the cool and unique personality of Pepsi
- Only for people with personality and not for masses
Making use of Pepsi’s new product line, Pepsi Black, we wanted to project the image of Pepsi being a cool and unique product that is not consumed by the mass market. The monochrome branding and visuals helped to signal to consumers that drinking Pepsi is “breaking away from the Bore”.
For personal context, influence means making an impact in people’s lives. The first example brings me to my concept of leadership role, which is to provide support and bring out the best of my team. Some call this the servant leadership style.
I hire not the best, but the most relevant to what I need at that moment. Place the right people at the right spots and help the team see where they excel at, and help them to work on where they have rooms for improvement. I would help them to remove the roadblocks so it’s easier for them to achieve their goals; and guide them in the right direction without being overly spoon feeding.
It seems like I have impacted my team by giving them the experience and resources, helping them to achieve what they want to achieve. Actually, I am the one receiving the most at the end. I get a team of passionate and dedicated individuals, who would help to push the company to a greater height with me.
The second example I want to share is how chinese culture has influenced and impacted the way I make decisions. From the company name Kobe (口碑) you can tell how much I’m into Asian origins, chinese culture. My business philosophies are inspired from many chinese cultural books such as 孙子兵法 (Sun Tzu Bing Fa , Art of War) and 三國演義 (San Guo Yan Yi, Romance of the Three Kingdoms).
借力打力 (Jie Li Da Li) – This is about leveraging on the strengths of others. In business context, I think of it as the art of collaboration, borrowing of energy for combined forces. This is why I introduce Kobe Partner Program, where we will work with agencies and provide our technology to their existing clients.
疑人不用，用人不疑 (Yi Ren Bu Yong, Yong Ren Bu Yi) – This is my philosophy in leadership and management. It teaches me to recruit people that you have faith in – and giving them full ownership thereafter. Afterall, employees who feel valued in the workplace often work and play the hardest.
You’ve mentioned that ‘relevance’ in influencer marketing is much more important than numbers, can you explain that further?
From the influencers’ profile, numbers only tell us two things – number of followers and the engagement rate (number of likes and comments). It does not tell us who the influencers really are.
That’s where relevance plays a much important role in this industry if we want to find influencers who can truly represent the businesses. In Kobe, we believe that relevancy is the most important factor in selecting suitable influencers for businesses.
Relevancy of an influencer can come in various categories such as:
- Interests – what the influencers like to do (food, photography, café-hopping, parenting activities etc.)
- Demographic/Profile – which categories the influencers (expatriates, entrepreneurs, students, home cooks etc.)
- Brand sentiment – the brands that the influencers like or dislike
- Content strength – influencers’ focus on content creation (article writing, photo sharing, live streaming etc.)
- Stage of life – (e.g. just married, first-jobber, pregnant etc.)
- or even Medical condition (e.g. eczema skin, oily hair etc.)
In a nutshell, the more we understand our influencers – the better we can pair them relevantly with advertisers depending on their marketing objective and target audience.
To do this scientifically, objectively and at scale – A.I is the only answer.
Find out how AI companies like Kobe Global Technologies and Scry are changing their industries
There’s a stigma around the industry, especially with the mini-scandals driven by media outlets and online forums. How do you separate that and make sure your customers aren’t impacted?
I was completely aware of this when I decided to set up Kobe. The influencer marketing industry has a debatable reputation. There have been many sagas and scandals revolving around influencer marketing. Common misconceptions include influencers being fake or deceitful.
However, Kobe aims to change the perception people have of influencers. With Kobe’s PCT (Patent Cooperation Treaty) patent A.I system, the influencers who are chosen will be based on relevancy and authenticity, over the traditional selection method based on popularity or ‘style-fit’. This will help to improve the credibility of using influencers for marketing strategy.
In addition, Kobe has introduced #UNCUT program, an initiative that aims to promotes authenticity. Through #UNCUT, the influencers will be donating part of their money received from the campaigns to charity organizations. Through this initiative, we want to involve our influencers in helping the society together and at the same time, informing people that influencers are not just out there to make money.
We have since had an overwhelming response to the participation of #UNCUT, differentiating Kobe as the influencer platform with trusted influencers.
An interesting fact we heard about you was that your company was essentially bootstrapped, except for a small grant from the government I believe.
What challenges did you face from having to bootstrap a technology startup in a relatively new industry?
The first challenge is definitely the finance. When I started Kobe, i was using my own savings to keep the business going. The journey was tough initially. Everything that we spent on must be carefully thought out, every resources that we used must be utilised. But I am grateful to my team for pulling through this challenging period with me and stay with the company to push Kobe forward.
The second challenge is lacking of experience in this industry. I have 10 years experience in digital marketing industry, but not so much about influencer marketing industry. To compensate on that, I have found a co-founder, who understands influencers to the blood and bones and loves what she does.
Now, Kobe is self-sustaining. We have achieved substantial 7-digits in sales for the 1st year of operation. Currently, Kobe has worked with 163 brands and we have more than 4,000 influencers in our database. Furthermore, the company has accumulated more than 25 million outreach for all campaigns across Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia, allowing us to power an engagement on social media every 15 seconds.
Why do you believe more investors weren’t interested in Kobe? Or did you not even approach investors at all?
We received some requests from investors but did not actively pursue the conversations. At an early stage, resources and time were limited. I had 2 options to spend my time – pitch to investors; or create and prove value to customers. I was intrinsically more motivated to do the 2nd – and focused all the attention on customers, refining our solution and providing value.
Coming to AI, we’d love to find out a little bit more. Especially how it works.
How does your platform work? How does it use AI to find influencers and how do you define the audience these influencers have?
Kobe is a unique B2B2C company that utilises an international PCT patent AI technology system.
Through our A.I system, we connect advertisers to relevant everyday influencers, leveraging on their ability to broadcast messages to millions of users so that businesses can get represented in front of their target audience in a credible and authentic manner.
With the use of image recognition in A.I, we can get insights from the images influencers shared by understanding the content such as scenes, food, and objects.
Often, contextual content (captions) may not be sufficient to tell us about the content; whereas image recognition can generate a lot more data about the influencer.
We also make use of natural language understanding in AI to extract insight such keywords, categories and concepts from contextual content; even if not explicitly being mentioned.
For example, a millennial may not explicitly mention that he or she is a millennial but would express him/herself with words like “YOLO”, “Study Hard Play Hard” etc., and we will hence be able to learn the concepts of these to be likely a millennial.
Other than just studying the influencers’ profile, our system also helps to study their audiences profile. We would be able to see how many percent of their audiences are male or female, which countries are they from, and what kind of contents the influencers share would garner more conversation with the audiences.
A.I have helped us to pair influencers relevantly with advertisers, and as a result produce content that is authentic, engaging and impactful to advertisers.
We know the term is ‘sexy’, but do you believe AI and similar technology advancements is the future for your industry? Why?
I can’t say for sure if AI and similar technology is the future for this industry. Being the first to adopt AI in this industry, i would definitely say that AI has been helpful to us in identifying the right influencers for the advertisers. And I would believe that AI would continue to impact many industries in many years to come.
Technology is constantly evolving, and we would never catch up with it. For example, when people fully understand how to utilise AI one day, new technology would have already surfaced. But what we can do is to leverage on the current technologies to bring the most value to our clients and customers.
We are in a data-driven economy. We use technology to gather tons of data and facilitate the process of helping us to understand the data. It all depends on how the companies use the data to understand their audience and craft messages that are receptive by them. Technologies would not be effective if companies have all the datas gathered from the technologies but could not interpret it in the right way.
What advice would you give an entrepreneur looking to start their own business?
Goals without routines are wishes; routines without goals are aimless.
I would say set your eyes on the stars, and put your feet on the ground. Set a vision that excites you and have the discipline to work and achieve the vision. This cycle will go on. Review your vision, and have the discipline to put in the work. The process is never ending.
We have the answers, all the answers; it’s the questions we do not know.
If you have a business idea or you’re struggling to get your startup kickstarted – congratulations! You know an awful lot about your idea and your industry – and I know with enough grit, you’ll find the answers.
Just make sure you’re asking the right questions and working on the right ones! You will be able to find your way out.
— Tech Collective (@TechCollectiv3) June 28, 2018