Affiliate marketing has long been praised as one of the most effective marketing tactics for brands everywhere. However, over the last few years, merchants have started to adopt a new strategy as a key component of their marketing mix: influencers.

With the surge of consumers opting to shop and browse via social media, influencer marketing has become one of brands’ most important advertising tools. While some companies have started to implement more influencer marketing campaigns, many have also decided to lessen their spend on affiliate campaigns.

Below, we’re going to explore how brands are benefiting from influencer marketing, and why they are opting to use influencers instead of affiliates.   

Image: Instagram

How are brands benefiting from using influencers?


One of the biggest benefits of using influencers is that there is more transparency. It’s very easy for brands to see how an influencer is promoting their product, which allows them to have better control over their marketing campaigns.

As opposed to influencers, affiliate marketers are not known for being transparent with their campaigns. Affiliates end up using more deceptive methods in order to convert consumers, and in turn, this results in them acquiring lower value customers.

Moreover, because affiliates are typically paid on a CPA (cost per action) payment model, it’s in their best interest to deceive the customer to get the sale. Unfortunately, the merchant is the one responsible with mending the consequences of negative brand representation.

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Targeted advertising

While influencers primarily use social media to connect with their audiences, affiliate marketers use a multitude of different advertising mediums, including social media, native, and search engine.

Affiliates usually serve their ads to a broad audience, whereas influencers solely promote brands’ products to their followers, on less platforms. Because influencers’ content tends to be centred around a niche (fashion, lifestyle, travel, food, etc) their followers regard them as experts on the subject. This means that followers are more apt to be persuaded into buying products that are recommended by their favourite influencers.

In essence, brands benefit more from the traffic driven by influencers than that of affiliates. Merchants can expect higher order value and customer lifetime value by implementing influencer marketing in their marketing strategy.

Image: Instagram

Influencers are public figures

For influencers, public image is everything. However, just because they’re idolized by their loyal followers, it doesn’t mean they aren’t subject to criticism. Therefore, influencers are extremely careful about what brand collaborations they choose to do. Influencers tend to promote products from reputable brands that they use themselves, which are relevant to their fan-base.

Unlike influencers, affiliates are usually (not always) anonymous characters. The audiences that see their campaigns typically don’t know who they are. Hence, affiliates don’t have the same kind of accountability to market legitimate products.

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Brands know who influencers are

Finally, the fame that comes with being an influencer also means that brands know who the influencers are too. Since influencers are very open about their identities, brands have more opportunities to get to know them and develop great working relationships with them.

Unlike their relationship with influencers, brands don’t usually know who the affiliates they work with really are. In turn, this makes it more difficult to form strong working relationships between brands and affiliates.

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The upside of using affiliates

Despite the fact that most brands are starting to favour influencer marketing over affiliate marketing, it’s worth noting that there are still great benefits to using affiliates.

Firstly, affiliate marketing campaigns can often generate more sales than influencer campaigns. It’s not uncommon for affiliates to launch campaigns that have millions of impressions, whereas most influencers don’t have anywhere near the same number of followers.

In addition, influencers generate sales in spurts, which depends on when and how often they post about a product. Unlike influencer marketing campaigns, affiliates can create steady and long-lasting campaigns.

Finally, affiliates and influencers are generally paid using different payment models. While influencers tend to be paid on a per-post basis, affiliate payouts follow a CPC (cost per click) or CPA (cost per action) model.

In terms of payouts, it’s riskier for brands to partner up with influencers than affiliates. If an influencer’s campaign is not successful and they are paid on a per-post basis, the brand loses the money they’ve spent on the post. When brands use affiliates, the only pay for the sales that are made, so there is less risk involved.

We predict more influencers will adapt to the CPA model rather than being paid up front in the near future.

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The take away

Although affiliate marketing is an effective marketing strategy, it can sometimes result in unfavourable consequences related to brand-image. Influencer marketing helps brands to effectively market their products to their target consumers, while also avoiding potentially devastating issues that often come from affiliates promoting their products using deception.

Ultimately, brands have a desire for transparency and control when it comes to their marketing campaigns. By collaborating with influencers to advertise their products, they have better control over who they are targeting and how their brand is being presented to the public.

Author: Daniella K.

Daniella is a marketing professional who specializes in business development and advertising sales. She has helped with the growth of several companies by curating original content, leading brand development initiatives, and driving business objectives.