make-your-product-the-showA promotional video for the game, Don’t Starve, has been viewed over 1.2 million times. The video isn’t a viral TV spot. It isn’t a polished 30-second ad. In fact, it isn’t even made by Klei Entertainment, the developers of the game. Instead, it’s a YouTube video of two guys playing the game for 29 minutes straight. Sounds boring? So, why all the views? As it turns out, the two guys in the video happen to be Markiplier and Muyskerm, gaming influencers who have a fanbase of 10.4 million YouTube subscribers between them.

Klei Entertainment sponsored Markiplier and Muyskerm’s video for a reason: people don’t listen to ads. People listen to people, and 92% of consumers trust recommendations from strangers over branded content. Markiplier is no stranger to the follower base of 10 million which hangs on his every word. As a result, Markiplier is a tremendous source of word of mouth, and his endorsement will very likely lead tens of thousands of people to buy the game.

Whether thrown over a website or slapped onto a video, advertisements interrupt your target audience’s media experience. Alternatively, whether displayed on Instagram or shown on YouTube, influencer marketing makes your product the subject of your target audience’s media experience. As a result, influencer marketing secures audience attention and generates powerful word of mouth, which according to a McKinsey study is more than twice as effective as paid advertising.

The rule of influencer marketing is this:

Don’t interrupt the show with your product — make your product the show.

What does it mean to influence someone? In the field of marketing, to influence someone is to guide their decisions, whether liking a page or buying a product. Creating influence from scratch is a difficult and expensive process. Even the most well-thought-out marketing campaign may fall short of winning over its target audience. There are no guarantees in traditional marketing, especially because what resonates with one person may not resonate with another. Influencer marketing, on the other hand, involves tapping into sources of pre-established influence. In this way, influencer marketing comes with its own set of guarantees.

Influencers are online figures with crowds of followers who are already tuned into their message. If a gaming influencer tells his 2 million followers to like a game company’s page, many wills. If a yoga influencer tells her 500 thousand followers to buy a new type of yoga strap, many wills. Getting tens of thousands of followers on a platform like YouTube is a harsh struggle and only those who consistently resonate with an audience survive as influencers. But the amount of influence these winners can wield is massive. For example, a recent survey by Variety found that YouTube stars are far more popular among U.S. teens than Hollywood celebrities are. Influencer marketing involves leveraging these battle-tested sources of influence, delivering promotional messages through influencers whose follower bases represent your target audience.

Here’s an example of influencer marketing in action. Say we need to sell a new kind of hamburger to Mark, a college student in his early 20s. What does it take to influence Mark’s purchasing decisions? Note that it’s incredibly difficult to get an ad to stick with Mark. Average Americans are exposed to 5,000 advertisements a day, and only 14% of people can remember the last ad they saw. There are also technological barriers to getting an ad in front of Mark — he streams his shows online, meaning we can’t reach him with a television ad, and he uses an ad blocker, meaning that we also can’t reach him with a web ad.

So how do we reach Mark?

Instead of trying to reach Mark through an ad, smart marketers are reaching him through the content he consumes. It turns out there’s another show Mark watches. It’s not sponsored by a major television company. It’s not aired on a major cable network. Instead, it’s hosted on YouTube and produced by David, a college student giving out dating advice with a wry sense of humor. The combination has proven to be addictive: Mark is one of David’s 30 thousand followers. David is an influencer, and he presents a golden opportunity to leverage influencer marketing. If we work with David on a deal to casually eat our new burger and review its taste in a short 3-minute video, it won’t be long before Mark—along with David’s 30 thousand other followers—will visit his local fast food joint to try the burger out himself. We successfully reach Mark not by bombarding him with ads, but by communicating through David’s YouTube channel, a key source of influence in Mark’s daily life.

The time to invest in influencer marketing is now. Platforms like NeoReach have been developed to help businesses and influencers connect and drive productive partnerships. Social media has given rise to a massive number of influencers, but marketers are only starting to capitalize on the opportunities they present. Supply is much higher than demand, meaning the current cost of influencer marketing is incredibly low for the value it delivers — $6.50 of revenue for every $1.00 spent. Of course, as marketers continue to enter the influencer marketing space, ROI will inevitably drop in response to rising demand. But the lesson is already clear:

Don’t interrupt the show with your product.

Make your product the show!