“We earn a commission for products purchased through links in this article”. This is the disclaimer that is increasingly popping up at the top of online magazine articles. You may not have noticed it – the font tends to be more subtle and smaller than that used in the article itself – but affiliate marketing has become a ubiquitous part of modern journalism.
With sales of hardcopy magazines and newspapers in steady decline, media houses have had to diversify their income streams, turning to their digital publications to drive revenue. Affiliate marketing is a very simple proposition: a company or individual earns money every time its promotion of a product online directly leads to a sale. It is simple, effective, and trackable – the marketing Holy Grail. Which is why publications as diverse as the Daily Telegraph, the Independent, Wired and Women’s Health are all getting in on the action, as it represents a multi-million-pound source of income. New job titles are springing up at media houses such as Digital Writer E-Commerce, which reflects the trend towards this hybridisation between editorial, advertorial, and online sales.
While pure editorial opportunities still play an integral part of the PR mix, it is important that brands also understand how affiliate marketing can get them a larger slice of the content pie, and drive sales too. It used to be the case that magazines would only feature a product if it was available in multiple retailers nationwide. Now, a listing on the internet’s largest retailer Amazon – the OG of affiliate marketing – can seal the deal editorially, as the publication will likely get a financial kick-back for any link placed. Some journalists for online publications are adamant that their editorial isn’t dictated by brands that are on affiliate networks, others are bullish in their admissions that they will only feature brands they can earn from. It is changing the face of PR product placement.
It is not just digital publications that have embraced the money-making potential of affiliate marketing; social media influencers are cashing in too. Whether via direct relationships with brands or through affiliate marketing platforms, it has become a real money spinner, especially on Instagram Stories because of the swipe up link facility. It is a real win win for all parties: brands benefit from increased sales thanks to the exposure and recommendation from influencers, and the influencers earn money in a relatively passive manner. The appeal for brands is easy to see.
For brands, affiliate marketing represents a highly targeted tactic, which is low risk and yet offers a compelling return on investment. However, despite its obvious appeal, it isn’t effective for all brands. Firstly (and obviously) a product or service must be available to purchase online as affiliate marketing lives and breathes digitally. Secondly, as affiliates earn their commission from sales (typically 8-12%), they are unlikely to promote a low value product – a packet of crisps retailing at 40p for example isn’t going to deliver much of a commission and consumers are highly unlikely to purchase single, low-cost products online. Alcohol, luxury goods, electrical appliances and high value beauty products are some of the more popular affiliate products.
There are myriad brands that can take advantage of this form of marketing though and if you think yours fits the bill, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know how we can help you realise the power of affiliate marketing.