Seeding creators’ videos could raise some eyebrows.
Now, a quick disclaimer: It’s not that it’s ineffective. Seeding marketing campaigns, in some cases, have been very successful.
But, at what cost? At your brand’s credibility and resources.
There’s something else in the way that most marketers seem to ignore: It could be quite harmful to their brands because there’s an apparent empathy problem behind the scenes, and the masses can tell. Creators included.
In today’s article, we’ll cover the basics to understand what seeding marketing is, how it works, and why your brand should avoid these types of practices to keep its reputation clean.
What is seeding?
Seeding content, marketing, or partnerships are strategies in which a brand ‘plants’ a product in a creator’s regular content across all platforms, allowing them to benefit from their engagement, reach, and audience… But also from the trust their fanbase has in them.
In other words, Hubspot says that seeding marketing is when “brands will give out products or services to creators in the hopes that they will share favorable reviews or promote the product to their audience. This is referred to as seeding. Like content seeding, utilizing creators that align with the interests of your target audience will yield the best results.”
At first, it could seem harmless — it’s just creatively putting a product in front of an audience in a creative way. Yet, there’s some issues with that.
Empathy. Common courtesy. Or just the simple principle of reciprocity. This is where it all begins.
Let’s use a story to set the tone:
Tommy is a content creator. His favorite platform is YouTube, but he’s kinda all over the map. Instagram. Twitter. TikTok. Everywhere.
He’s been pulling the strings to get to where he is through hard work. Long, sleepless nights coming up with strategies to increase his brand awareness, drive growth to his channels and get valuable partnerships with conscious, ethical brands.
It took him years to become that ‘mini content company’ he perceives he is — and his audience recognizes that. They even trust Tommy’s advice and recommendations more than their friends and family.
Now that Tommy has made his way to creator relevancy, brands have started to notice. They want to do collaborations with him. Some even approach him directly and ask for his address to send him a “gift”.
Quote marks, as a gift, imply not having to give anything back — and that’s the catch.
Seeding marketing approaches content creators with freebies in hopes of them giving promotion back for free. Not very fair from an objective point of view.
Sure, it could drive growth to a certain extent. It could also drive sales, buyers, and collaborations. And it could be a good starting point for a silent brand awareness campaign.
But… Creators know what this is all about, and they don’t have fond thoughts of brands approaching them that way. Something to think about.
Why do brands use seeding?
Seeding makes sense for a wide range of brands because it’s perceived as cost-effective in the short term.
According to the Nuremberg Institute for Market Decisions, there are some broader effects of using seeded strategies as the primary focus for brand awareness:
“In our research, we demonstrate that such a narrow focus would be a mistake. Consumer conversations on products related to but different from a focal product are also likely affected. In other words, seeding a product can result in various spillovers. For example, seeding Chanel lipstick may lead to more or fewer conversations about other Chanel products or lipsticks marketed by other brands. Moreover, a focal product among consumers in one segment could affect product-related or brand-related conversations among consumers in other segments. For example, while Chanel is likely to choose seeds that are expert cosmetics users, [word of mouth] generated by consumers in this segment may also affect how much folks talk about it in other consumer segments, such as more novice cosmetics users.”
And these are what marketers call ‘spillovers’.
This happens when, in a nutshell, the seeding effect brings collateral conversations around products from their competitors’ brands. To which benefit? Nobody knows. It could go anywhere, essentially.
Let’s say you send a creator a pair of sneakers. They try them on, give their review, and your competitor’s brand pops up during the conversation from a focal point.
This leads to a comparison…
And, as an ‘unbiased’ opinion from the creator, they won’t likely step up to defend your brand from criticism. This makes seeding, in essence, somehow unpredictable.
And something unpredictable isn’t always the most reliable or cost-effective way to drive engagement, buyers, and consumers to your funnel.
Where is seeding commonly used?
Seeding could be found anywhere. That’s part of marketing’s magic.But, it’s most commonly used by brands on visual platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
Why? Simple: It’s video and image-based content that drives more attention for seeding.
Showcasing a product in a video review will always be more effective than just writing a blog about how ‘casually’ a brand gave a creator something as a gift and how awesome it is.
YouTube and Instagram are the platforms that make more sense for these kinds of strategies if you want to give a non-transactional vibe and make it look natural.
Let’s use an example here too:
Tammy is a YouTube content creator. A makeup artist, to be precise.
She often reviews products and how to apply them, and her videos are very interactive and catchy. Her audience loves her, and they trust her advice on which beauty products are best for each occasion.
She has grown to become one of the most reliable content creators in this industry.
So, because of that, Next-Gen Beauty (example brand) approach her to give her their newest highlighter.
She was indeed flattered. A colossal brand noticed her. That’s worth a celebration.
She accepted. Then, she used the highlighter and gave a review that drove direct sales up by 25%… Not even mentioning the indirect sales that keep coming up day after day.
All because of one of her YouTube videos.
But what else did she get in return besides some highlighters and a nice box? Pretty much nothing else.
What are the cons of seeding?
Seeding has clear adverse effects, same as positive ones from a brand’s standpoint.
Some of the negatives are…
- Seeding is more challenging to measure than more traditional partnership campaigns
- Seeding is tougher to pass as natural
- Seeding increases launch time for campaigns to get off the ground
- Seeding could also increase costs without guaranteeing a return on investment
- Seeding makes it harder for a brand to provide creative direction for content, given that, again, this is essentially non-transactional
Now, let’s break each of these down in specific:
We say that seeding is harder to measure because of potential spillovers. Yeah, a seeding campaign from valuable content from a reputed creator would drive sales — but how could you measure it correctly? It’s almost like guessing.
In terms of flow and naturality, it’s also hard to make this type of content appear non-transactional, as masses and audiences have grown aware of these techniques.
Also, given the logistics of sending hundreds of free products to hundreds of influencers, costs might rise — without a guarantee of seeing a return anytime soon. It’s like playing roulette.
And nonetheless, creative direction for content is crucial, especially for reuse purposes on your brand’s behalf — and seeding almost obliterates that possibility.
How do creators feel about seeding?
Let’s ask one: Emma Chamberlain, YouTube creative star, recently opened up about this topic over a podcast interview.
“I got to such a dark place in this hamster wheel of being a YouTuber that I just said, you know what, I can’t do this. I need to step back completely. I need to step back and heal from the years and years of burnout.”
Very dense comment in times when mental health is finally taken seriously worldwide… And it’s no wonder why.
Creators, same as brands, work really hard to build their authority and pave the way for their success through hard work and passion for video content. And they deserve to be recognized for that as well.
Again, seeding is a great way to drive revenue and has been used widely for major brands and massive launches.
But, perhaps, it’s time to stop and think about how creators feel about this practice… If not used wisely, it could be perceived as manipulative and drive content creators away from your brand.
And we want to help you and other brands to protect their reputation.
So, food for thought. Let’s all do better!
Are there any alternatives to seeding?
Yes — there’s an alternative that equals the playing field for both brands and creators, and we have the answer:
Paying creators through Curastory’s platform.
Here’s how it goes:
- Performance-based payment: Your brand will only pay based on video performance, enabling you to reap the benefits of a high-performing creator ad while reducing costs in the long run. Flat fees just fall flat here.
- Discounted product codes: Your brand can submit discounted codes for product purchases so that you can track product purchases when the creator films ad reads in their videos.
- Creative direction at its finest: Your brand will be in safe hands. By submitting preparation instructions, scripts, ad placement, and even words to avoid, you’ll know exactly what to expect while securing future video repurposing for your own creative campaigns.
And we’re here to help, always.
At Curastory, we love brands and creators equally. They both serve the digital world we adore to become better each day.
That’s why we’re always at your disposal for any question or doubt you might have. Just reach out to us, and we’ll do our best to get back to you ASAP.
See you next time.
– The Curastory Team