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Rethinking Influence, Brands Beware of the Rise of the Fifth Estate

Charles Ifegwu, Manager Director, THE FIFTH

Brands must rethink how they utilize creators and the internet communities that support them.

Your brand needs to rethink influence. Your influencer marketing, social creative and social channels are saturated with hashtags, tags, posts, videos, challenges, comments, replies, reposts, duets, shoutouts, Tweets, Retweets and callouts - all in the pursuit of a view or engagement. It’s probably not working.

Social culture is constantly changing direction, and brands that aren’t equipping themselves to change with them trend towards irrelevance. There’s a force within society that has been shaping, informing and influencing culture while your brand has been chasing impressions. It’s called the Fifth Estate.

Rethinking Who has Influence. Introducing the Fifth Estate.

Historically, four main groups have wielded the power to influence society. Those were the church (religious institutions and leaders), the aristocracy (folks with money), governments (folks with power, elected by the people), and the media (mass communications). These four groups had the power to influence society, shift culture and create change.

A fifth change agent has arrived. The internet, and the consequential distribution of information and voices across social platforms, laid the seeds for new communities to spring out of digital disruption. According to Pew research, 72% of U.S. consumers follow creators on social media, and 53% of those followers have bought something creators have promoted. This new societal stakeholder is called the Fifth Estate, a network of internet communities and creators influencing entertainment, commerce and culture today.

And the Fifth Estate is powerful. This past year they’ve skyrocketed Game Stop stock, brought NFTs to the mainstream and freed Britany. Millions of people collectively gathering around different causes, stories and communities which have the power to shape culture and move markets. Unlike its counterparts, the Fifth Estate is decentralized, temperamental, and amorphous.

Influence can be content, a person, song, dance, image, collective speech, or story. The unifying factor is influence remains distinctly human. Brands need teams that have a propensity for human storytelling, cultural trends and business intelligence.

Rethinking the Why Behind Your Campaign. New Methods of Measurement.

Reach is not a measure of influence. Engagement does not mean brand consideration. Impressions do not equal sales.

Rethink the why behind partnering with creators. Are you doing it for mass reach? Are you simply counting engagements? Is your media mix model telling you that 20% of your marketing budget should go towards creators? That’s not good enough.


Reframe your marketing on what overlap your brand has with the diaspora of communities that exist within the Fifth Estate. We’ve categorized them into 9 distinct buckets that brands can measure influence against - The Artist, The Tastemaker, The Humorist, The Journalist, The Collective, The Creator, The Brand, The Expert and The Activist.

Thinking through who your brand can empower in the Fifth Estate will yield the ultimate success metric your brand is looking for – genuine connection to consumers, and ultimately sales.

Rethinking How You Create Content. The Three Cs:

Creativity. Culture. Community. The three Cs we worship here at THE FIFTH agency. These are the three principles that creators use when building communities around them.

Tap into the creativity of creators. Instead of a narrow, rigid brief, reimagine how you can provide a collaborative brief that creators can make their own. Our work with hundreds of creator driven campaigns has taught us that tapping the Fifth Estate demands flexibility. The overlap between brand and creator creativity is where the magic happens. Leave space for creators to do what they do best, creating something that their audiences will love.

Be honest about your culture. Self-awareness is key here. In order to shape culture, you need to provide an unvarnished and authentic window into your culture that consumers can understand. By being honest with where your brand is now and where it wants to go, you give yourself the ability to embed yourself in the cultural conversations that make the most sense. You don’t need to be everywhere. You need to be where you belong. Now how do you deliver content that resonates in the moments that matter?

Focus on building community. Interact before you transact. Bring something positive to a group of people before asking them for their hard-earned money. Champion their small stories. Support their endeavors. Provide community members a platform. There’s a community for everyone in the Fifth Estate. Which ones can your brand bring the most value to?

These three Cs; creativity, culture and community drive movements that create influence. The same principles can apply to your brand. Rethink influence. Rethink the way your brand can participate. Dive headfirst into the Fifth Estate.


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About Charles Ifegwu

Charles Ifegwu (Managing Director, US, THE FIFTH) heads THE FIFTH’s US operation, overseeing the company's commitment of empowering leading brands to execute at the intersection of creators, creative, and culture. He has 17+ years of experience leading marketing, creative, entertainment, and agency operations for leading organizations in those fields, overseeing front-end strategy, campaign execution, measurement, and client partnerships for leading brands across a variety of different verticals. Prior to joining THE FIFTH, Charles led Client Partnerships for MOCEAN, a leading global production, design, social, and entertainment marketing agency.


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