Episode 36 of the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast where Jeanette Okwu founder and CEO of BEYONDinfluence talks  global influencer marketing


The Influencer Marketing Lab podcast is sponsored by Tagger the data-driven influencer marketing platform and social listening tool.

Show notes

Welcome to episode 36 of the Influencer Marketing Lab - a weekly podcast tracking the growth spurts and growing pains of influencer marketing.

This week I'm in conversation with Jeanette Okwu, the founder and CEO of Berlin-headquartered BEYONDinfluence, an influence & brand ambassador marketing agency.

Podcast episode highlights

In this episode we discuss:

  • Global strategies needing to be sufficiently rigid to produce consistent results whilst flexible enough to accommodate local nuances.
  • Jeanette Okwu's role as member advisor to the American Influencer Council.
  • Re-emergence of virtual influencers
  • The Importance of the contracting phase of the influencer marketing workflow
  • Jeanette Okwu's go-to sources for influencer marketing information

Jeanette Okwu biography

Jeanette Okwu is the founder and CEO of BEYONDinfluence, an influence & brand ambassador marketing agency helping clients to ride the next wave of marketing.

She is keen to unite her clients with influencers and ambassadors in a meaningful way to achieve revenue, performance, and transparency.

Jeanette is a champion and an independent thought leader on social and emerging technologies, with a track record of building and implementing effective integrated marketing and communication initiatives by putting data and storytelling front and centre.

A journalist by training with ears on the ground and a sharp eye, she has a deep understanding and infectious passion for, all things digital and social and has tapped emerging social technologies for small, medium and fortune 500 companies within the entertainment, automotive, luxury, and consumer product industries globally. She spent 20 years in the United States and extensive time in China and now resides in Europe gaining knowledge and expertise of emerging trends in the social media space.

Jeanette Okwu has held several senior management positions at various brands, agencies, and internet start-ups. Her key areas of expertise include not only first-hand knowledge in trending media, digital marketing, and social technologies but also strong best-in-class strategy and business development.

She is fascinated by how consumers think, how they behave and how they interact with brands in our always-on world. Her personal goal is to devise strategies for brands, which give the consumer something valuable in return for their attention. To create work that someone seeks out, not tries to hide from.

As a pioneer in the influence/content creator marketing space she holds numerous board positions and is an Advisor Member of the American Influencer Council (AIC) and Member of the Steering Committee of the Branded Content Marketing Association (BCMA) in Great Britain.

Jeanette was voted a TOP 50 Global Influencer Marketing Professional in 2020 by trade organisation Talking Influence.

Useful links

Subscribe to the Influencer Marketing Lab podcast

Want to get notified of new episodes directly on your phone? Subscribe to the Influencer Marketing Lab on your favourite app!

Listen on

Google Podcast

Scott Guthrie  02:25

Thank you very much for joining me this morning. I'm speaking with you overlooking the Peckham Pioneer Centre in South London. Where are you today?

Jeanette Okwu  02:37

I am in Berlin.

Scott Guthrie  02:39

Well, it's cold in London. Just how cold is it in Berlin today?

Jeanette Okwu  02:44

It is so cold that the snow that has been falling for the past two days is actually sticking and it looks beautiful. I rather have it that way. Then it turning into smoosh and smush. All those those nasty things that make you slip and slide in the subway.

Scott Guthrie  03:03

So it's so pretty, but cold. But sadly this year, there are no Christmas markets. Is that true?

Jeanette Okwu  03:10

Yeah. It depends from state to state but most of the Christmas markets are non existent this year. So you have to do you create your own little Christmas Market at home I guess.

Scott Guthrie  03:25

So you have worked I know in Berlin and also in New York. But were you born in Berlin?

Jeanette Okwu  03:32

No, I'm not born in Berlin. Although I was born in behind the iron curtain in the north of the country, very rural. So no Berlin nightlife, even in old times, when the East German wall was still up. So I'm a northern child, they attribute them that they don't talk a lot. So I proved that wrong. The Berlin choice came for professional reasons after spending 20 years in the United States. So there's to me, at least and to my family. There was no comparison to go to any other city but Berlin.

Scott Guthrie  04:13

We'll come on to New York in a little bit. But sadly, you weren't around on the ninth of November 1989. He didn't actually see the wall come down.

Jeanette Okwu  04:20

No, I didn't because I was sleeping.

Scott Guthrie  04:24

Fair enough. I'm sure you're You're far too young to be cognizant in '89 the greatest sadness I suppose you've missed out on David Hasselhoff rendition of 'Looking for Freedom' on New Year's Eve.  So you trained as a journalist, that's your beginning of your career. Is that correct?

Jeanette Okwu  04:47

I was trained as a journalist. So going back to East Germany, I always wanted to become a journalist. I loved writing I loved researching, but back then that was not possible for various reasons. And then when the the wall came down I basically put that into action and fulfilled my professional dream and became a journalist, radio and TV mainly and continued that until I moved to New York.

Scott Guthrie  05:15

Magazine-type programmes, and so more broadcast and print but any specialisms?

Jeanette Okwu  05:21

Yes. So I was first in local news, basically, worked myself up the ranks there. And then I was executive producing a primetime lifestyle show that is still in existence today. So you can see already a pattern there with a whole lifestyle up top.

Scott Guthrie  05:40

So you exited Germany, you went to New York, how comes?

Jeanette Okwu  05:46

There was a man. And that man was my ticket. I was lucky to meet my husband of over 20 years and brought him back to Berlin

Scott Guthrie  06:01

before Halloween. We were you in New York for we were

Jeanette Okwu  06:05

in New York or I was in New York, my husband, obviously, has been living there for almost all its entire life. Eight years before we move to the west coast to Los Angeles.

Scott Guthrie  06:16

And so in total, how long were you in the US for?

Jeanette Okwu  06:19

 20 years?

Scott Guthrie  06:21

And did you manage to carry on your career as a journalist?

Jeanette Okwu  06:25

No. Yeah, this like the meandering of life. When I arrived in New York, an opportunity came up to fulfil a lifelong dream. And that was opening up my own boutique in Soho. So that was pivoting a lot. But a lot of these things that, that I learned in journalism, I applied for my own business and was able to get myself into 18 magazines. Within a very short period of time, you think a little over a year. So because I knew what journalists wanted to hear having been on the other side, and then also, the networking came very easy to me. So that all helped. And, and there I was, until 911 hit, which basically destroyed the business.

Scott Guthrie  07:18

And when did you move back to Germany?

Jeanette Okwu  07:21

Five years ago now? Yeah.

Scott Guthrie  07:24

Now you're the founder and CEO of BEYONDinfluence. Tell me a little bit more about that. How big is the team? Do you work virtually? Are you all in an office together?

Jeanette Okwu  07:34

I've always worked virtually, having lived in Los Angeles, working there with the in-house agency for Jaguar Land Rover, I oversaw 24 markets. So working virtually is very familiar to me for a number of years for over 15 years. With BEYONDinfluence, the team is also virtual. We have a core team of four people that are distributed over Germany, and Denmark and Portugal. And then we also have a small office here in Berlin, where we are six people.

Scott Guthrie  08:12

COVID has been terrible in for many reasons for many people. But in terms of your business, you're already set up as a virtual enterprise. So it's kind of business as usual, from that point of view.

Jeanette Okwu  08:24

Yes, absolutely. And I think it's, it's important for our business to be very fluid in terms of your working hours and working habits. That was in terms of COVID. There wasn't a big difference of how we work. It just continued as is it's just was that the counterparts, brands, etc, also now moved on to the virtual realm of the working environment.

Scott Guthrie  08:51

Yeah, I think it's, well, I started for an MBA almost 20 years ago. And that's where all the textbooks were telling us that the future would be, but it took a pandemic and two decades for sort of the world to catch up, didn't it, then I think, as employers, we just have to be sensible and mature enough to realise that we should be measuring our team members on what they producing not whether they turn up at nine o'clock or five past nine and what time they leave.

Jeanette Okwu  09:18

Absolut, I actually think that the pandemic sort of forced employers to give up control because this, this nine to five construct to me is a measure of having control because you can't, you know, just because somebody is sitting nine to five in an office doesn't mean that they're also productive. Whereas there are studies that if you are working remotely or are self deciding how you work, it's way more productive.

Scott Guthrie  09:45

Yeah. Is that presenteeism, isn't it? You're sitting at your desk, but you're not actually working.

We flicked over something interesting and I want to scroll back to it. That's your connection with Land Rover and you being in charge of 24 markets that is very exciting. And I want to delve into that a little bit. And I want to understand how you put together an influencer marketing policy, which I suppose is was rigid enough to get global expectations but fluid enough for the different markets to be able to shine independently? How did you go about setting the strategy and giving the local teams enough independence whilst also having a sort of a global strategy?

Jeanette Okwu  10:29

Yeah, exactly that. So at the time, when we developed the global influencer marketing strategy, I was in Los Angeles and worked with a colleague of mine from there, creating a strategy that has the global overview eye on everything. And we did this from LA because the US at the time was very, very far advanced when it came to influencer marketing, influencer marketing activities and also, and also campaigns. So these learnings that we gathered there, we compiled a strategy, and that allows local market to adapt to local nuances. Right? So if you have a central strategy, that doesn't mean that everything is usable in specific areas, or specific countries, like for example, the Middle East or South Africa. So we always took the took the approach of freedom within the framework. There were some guidelines, they were also attached to social media guidelines. So these were worked hand in hand. But it left the markets with some freedom without hurting the overarching strategy and brand.

Scott Guthrie  11:54

I was talking recently with Jason falls. I know you've also been a guest on his podcast. I was talking about this awful contraction of words, Glocal, which was global, and local. It's a terrible contraction of words, but it it does have a value; to benefit from global economies of scope and economies of scale you have to understand the local differences, the patchwork of different customs and social nuances in order for a global brand to have success.  You are an advisor to or with the American influencer Council. What does that role entail?

Jeanette Okwu  12:41

I joined the American influencer council from an advisory point of view fairly early on, and I just spoke to Qianna yesterday, actually, and we were talking about where we are right now within the industry. It is a role to provide knowledge when it's needed to the influencers. So the American influencer Council serves serves the content creators, right. And the advisers themselves even though they are industry experts, they are there to support the content creators, to master the storms of influencer marketing to further them,  help them learn the trade, but also help them as business owners, as small business owners, and you know, weather the muddy waters of having your own business, especially now in the digital realm,

Scott Guthrie  13:48

How long have you been an advisor?

Jeanette Okwu  13:50

I think, a year and a half now. Yeah, it's been almost since the beginning. I think it took maybe three or four months because the process for getting accepted as an advisor by at the American influencer Council is a rigid one. So I actually appreciate that. Everybody who's accepted really wants to contribute to the class.

Scott Guthrie  14:14

Qianna has agreed to be a feature guest on the Influencer Marketing Lab. We're just trying to arrange dates. That'll be sometime in the early New Year. So I'm excited about that.

Time now to look over the brow of the hill. To do a bit of crystal ball gazing. What are the next themes that we should be thinking about in terms of influencer marketing? Not just next year, that's only a few weeks away, but just in the next three years, perhaps?

Jeanette Okwu  16:48

I'm really fascinated right now with the whole emergence of the Creator economy. I know it sort of becomes a little bit like a buzzword but I think there's something there because we see now proliferation of an entire entirely new business discipline that seeps into the into the economy, inferences themselves turn into into businesses, they can be small businesses, but they can also become bigger businesses and to see how this is right now emerging with services and other companies around them making possible so they can do their business well, financial products or productivity products is very, very interesting to me. And I think that we're we're seeing a shift in how much influencers or content creators can contribute to the financial well being of a nation or of a country that for example, the younger generation who are now starting to decide what they want to become in life, it may not be the firefighter or the astronaut again, it may be a content creator, especially in the realm of where blockchain and NF T's are going that the income possibilities for content creators are many fold and are getting bigger and bigger every day.

Scott Guthrie  18:17

Do you think that is an evolution or a threat to influencer marketing as creators build up their own brands? Does that work in concert with organisations or against organisations?

Jeanette Okwu  18:32

I think it depends, it depends how brands themselves are adjusting. You know, we do we have seen that some brands have collaborated with influencers or content creators and creating bespoke collections or product lines etc. If that continues to be profitable, then maybe these are programmes that brands want to you know build out in terms of being a threat to brands, when influencers create their own products, there could be people that are not influencers who create these products. Now, the influencers themselves have already a built in following so the success of a brand that is being created by an influencer may be the curve may be steeper than under regular circumstances. I also see though that those brands may not become legacy brands they may be more short lived. So there's there's a difference potentially.

Scott Guthrie  19:37

Yeah, that's a great take creators are great storytellers. They know what their audience wants and what their audience doesn't care for. Their fans will often be keen to try out the new products, their favourite influencer producers, in short influencers supply both the distribution and the marketing firepower. Get the proposition right and you've got an opportunity for recurring revenue.  For longevity, however, in the space the product was going to be good community will get you so fast community will drive consumers to try out that product, but it's the quality of the products which will entice that community back to rebuy.

Jeanette Okwu  20:17

Absolutely. I agree.

Scott Guthrie  20:23

Creator economy, there's a big uplift next year, what else are the other themes we should be looking at?

Jeanette Okwu  20:32

The whole NFT section is really interesting. Creators can monetize even further beyond the social networks themselves. You have talked about this numerous times already. I think the the topic of the CGI virtual influencers are very interesting, if they are used smartly. And also of course, correctly, I think this topic will get picked up again.

Scott Guthrie  21:02

I think so. First of all, expand on the word correctly. How do you mean CGI influencers I think is correctly

Jeanette Okwu  21:09

one needs to be very clear that there's no one virtual influencer type there are different ones, right? So there's the the brand owned, which is created by a brand themselves so they're, you know, they're basically live in breathes a brand and are declared as such, and then there are the ones that are created by agencies. So whenever a brand uses those they are basically rented, that are should be stated clearly on on each video on each post on each story, wherever they're being posted or played out at and then there are also CGIs that may be maybe just customer service people with a specific attitude, that attitude that speaks to a customer. And if done right, you can assign a specific virtual customer relationship manager with an attitude that speaks to the person who wants to interact with a brand.

Scott Guthrie  22:15

Yeah, 100%. So in Australia and New Zealand, the ANZ Bank has been trialling an avatar called Jamie who does exactly that the bank has identified the top 40 most frequently asked questions. And rather than you tapping in those questions, Jamie answers those questions. I think there are two things that are going to drive in the short term as in this drive towards re engaging with CGI, it's the way we interact with the Internet.

We're going to move away from interacting purely through the keyboard and more of it is going to be voice activated, and also the metaverse. We've heard so much about the metaverse in the last three months because of because of Zuck rebranding, but that is going to I think reignite where virtual influencers sit and are they going to be brand owned? Where do they sit with social media as we know today, and social media or the metaverse of tomorrow? Web3 of tomorrow?  

I caught a little bit of your talk at the Influencer Marketing Show.

Jeanette Okwu  23:20

Well, you saw that? That's interesting, because you were so busy hosting.

Scott Guthrie  23:26

I was chairing another stage but I saw you on catch-up on the video vault later.

Jeanette Okwu  23:32

Okay, great. I thought how was he doing this these two places at the same time? Is that virtual?

Yeah, that was interesting to me. I was afraid because we had the big stage that nobody would be interested in the topic, which was basically the legality of the influencer marketing industry: contracts, licencing, etc. And then, to my surprise, the room was packed. And not just from industry people, but also creators themselves came up to us later with some specific questions, which indicates to me that the topic of contracts, legalities, etc, is a burning one. it's a burning topic for everybody. And it was very interesting to see with my fellow panellists who were really top notch people in the industry from consulting point but also agency owners. It was we we were sitting in the beginning in the room in the in the room where all the moderators and panellists sit, and we could have talked for hours about about legal stuff. So the interesting part is to me that everybody agreed on that you have to have some sort of a legal binding piece of paper or be it virtual or in real life. So a contract is a must these days to protect yourself from an IP point of view?

Scott Guthrie  25:08

I've heard that about 35% of activations in the space, certainly in the UK, are done without a contract.

Jeanette Okwu  25:20

I can't even fathom that, actually.

Scott Guthrie  25:23

This is anecdotal, but from a large, large agency, so one can only assume that actually 35% was on the low side in the reality of where we are, but I interrupted you.

Jeanette Okwu  25:32

Actually, thank you for telling me that because I find this I find this interesting. And I'm sure that this comes from the hiring party, right. The influencer potentially does not insist on not signing an agreement. It comes from the other side, which we're in lies the issue, as a brand, you should or as a as an agency, you should definitely have an agreement, because what could happen in the end, is that you then declare, oh, influencer marketing doesn't work. And that stains the entire industry. So those legal contracts are there for a reason that you protect yourself. But also protect the Creator, right?

Scott Guthrie  26:20

100%. Because you go into a relationship only wanting the best hope for the best, but also plan for the worst case scenario as well. You raise an interesting point, it's easy to dismiss influencer marketing as a failure. But if you haven't set out what your goals are, and how you're going to measure it, and what the KPIs are, and if you don't, if you don't know where you're going, how do you get to know when you've arrived? And you need to do more than just tickling your tummy and say, Oh, I you know, I don't think influencer marketing for me because it didn't work last time. It may not have worked because you didn't set up your object clearly enough. And from those objectives, find the most suitable influencers to work with.

Jeanette Okwu  27:01

Exactly that that is in those things need to make clear from the beginning. If you are a marketer, you just don't really do your vertical strategy without an objective. Influencer marketing is the same thing. Start out with an objective, what do you want to get out of it, and they should always tie back to the overarching business goals. So I think that influencer marketing has been for the longest time, treated as a separate thing, somewhere between PR and marketing, where in fact, it is a very serious marketing discipline, which should adhere to the same principles, like any other marketing strategy, with a goal with a set of KPIs, with monitoring throughout having a strategy, attach storytelling to it. And then also come up with an understandable reporting system. You don't have to do death by data by collecting every single little thing. But the things that are important, and the things that you can benchmark over time are, to me, the 101 of influencer marketing

Scott Guthrie  28:16

100% We're seeing the Creator Economy. We talked a little bit about NFT's and how they can provide another revenue stream for creators. We've touched on CGI influencers. We touched on a little bit about the legalities and especially around contracts. Anything else? That's a lot but everything else?

Jeanette Okwu  28:37

Around the world in 30 minutes.

Scott Guthrie  28:41

What are your go-to resources for keeping up to speed with influencer marketing developments and news?

Jeanette Okwu  28:47

I am an avid listener, I have to say to podcasts, I love podcasts. I do have a bunch of subscriptions as well. So just to name the highlights, obviously, also your podcast. I'm very honoured to be on it. It's a wealth of information and you have the most interesting partners. In your conversations there. Jason Fall's obviously a good one, a great one. He's like a production machine. I don't know how he does this coming out every week with a new podcast. So he also has written a great book. Then there is a subscription service, which I really appreciate, which is called The Information. So anybody who's interested in the digital sphere, and specifically in the Creator Economy. That's very, very informative. 

And then there is a wonderful podcast about the Creator Economy, which is called Means of Creation by Li Jin. She's an investor, a venture capitalist in the space and Nathan Baschez. I think they both used to work at Andreessen.

Scott Guthrie  30:25

Yes they were both junior partners there. They've got their own shops now.

Jeanette Okwu  30:31

They're fantastic. Very thoughtful, smart, smart, young people. I can learn from everyday. 

Scott Guthrie  30:38

Any newsletters?

Jeanette Okwu  30:39

Yours. And The Fifth's.

Scott Guthrie  30:53

Well, Jeanette, okay. I could speak with you all day, but Jeanette Okwu, founder and CEO of BEYONDinfluence. Thank you very much for your time and for your insights today. 

Scott Guthrie is a professional adviser within the influencer marketing industry. He is an event speaker, university guest lecturer, media commentator on influencer marketing and active blogger. He works with brands, agencies and platforms to achieve meaningful results from influencer marketing. That tells you something about him but it's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}