Meet the brand turning influencer marketing into charitable donations

Kindred believes it is the antidote to brands’s growing concerns about influencer fraud, with the social platform looking to become the largest corporate donor to charities within two years.

When Aaron Simpson asked his gardener which lawnmower he should buy, he had no idea he was about to come up with an idea that could flip the influencer model on its head.

“If I had a pound for every time I recommended Hayward,” his gardener said, and a light bulb went off in Simpson’s head.

“I thought, that’s interesting, he’s got 40 or 50 clients that he’s recommended Hayward. So I said, ‘let’s trial this: put this lawnmower on your Instagram and say [to your followers] only like it if you would buy it’. It got 35 likes. He’s probably generated more income for Hayward than anyone else and they probably don’t know about it.”

From that idea, Kindred was born. It works as a platform that digitises word-of-mouth recommendations and turns them into direct sales, while also allowing brands and consumers to give back.

It works like this: Brands put their products, offers or services onto the Kindred marketplace, which can then be picked up by an ‘influencer’, which in Kindred’s eyes means anyone with a social following, whether that’s five or 50 million. With 65,000 influencers on board, Kindred claims to have 104 million eyeballs already.

We have to recognise that we live in a consumer-driven world but we can influence consumers to give back through their purchase.

Aaron Simpson, Kindred

That is then listed on their Kindred profile with a discount code for their followers. Influencers then have the option to donate a percentage of their commission to any of the 50,000 listed charities on the platform. This will appear on their profile and brands will also be able to see how much they have raised for charity.

“We have to recognise that we live in a consumer-driven world but ultimately what we can do is influence those consumers to give back through their purchase. Even if it’s 50p a purchase, it’s still 50p more than they were doing before,” says Simpson.

“There’s no reason Hayward shouldn’t be on the site and there’s no reason [my gardener] shouldn’t post Hayward on his Instagram because he likes them. That’s nirvana for us. It’s a perfect circle and everyone wins. Then he can decide to give his commission to the Royal Horticultural Society if he wants to.”

More than 400 brands, including Forever Unique and Pets at Home, have signed up to the platform, which moved out of beta testing at the beginning of November. A further 600 brands – including a number of ethical and sustainable businesses – are set to sign up this month.

“For a brand, it costs them nothing until they sell something, and they’re putting their advocates on, not just professionals but their best customers. That’s where the industry has to move to.”

Kindred comes at a time when influencer fraud is a growing concern for many brands. Recent research from YouGov shows 44% of Brits think influencers’ social media posts are ‘dishonest’, while last year Unilever pledged to never work with influencers who buy followers as part of plans to improve the integrity, transparency and measurement of influencer marketing.

Kindred believes its point of difference is that it fully tracks the sales process to the brand through social media and peer-to-peer sales, as opposed to just views and likes. This means the ROI sales data of each influencer’s performance is entirely transparent to brands.

“Footfall is great, but without sales you’ll just wear out your carpet,” Simpson says. “Influencers who actually influence because of their authentic posts drive actual engagement, and ultimately sales to brands and services.”

Kindred is aiming to become the largest corporate donor to charities in the world within two years, which would mean doing £50m worth of corporate donations every month.

It’s a big goal, but Simpson believes the platform will have 1 million users within the first six months through the “virality” of word-of-mouth. If that doesn’t go to plan, some “hard advertising” might be on the cards a bit further down the line.

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