Today’s marketing environment is evolving at lightning-fast speed. It sometimes seems impossible to stay true to a marketing strategy because of how quickly ideas, tastes, and even marketing mediums are growing these days.
Celebrity endorsements have always been an effective method of piquing public interest in a product or service. But since the advent of social media marketing and advertising, influencer marketing has also emerged as a viable way to build a brand’s reputation.
It is possible to build a massive following on social media such as Facebook or Instagram, with the right content delivered at the right time. An individual can quickly become a superstar with an engaged fan base and significant clout with millions of people around the globe. And because of this, our definitions of ‘celebrity’ are changing.
So, who comes out on top; the new social media influencer, or a traditional celebrity, i.e., a sports personality or a Hollywood hottie?
Marketing experts may not have a consensus on that answer, but one thing’s for sure: influencer marketing and celebrity endorsements are two very different options for brands that are looking for ways to expand their marketing campaigns. These options have very different functions and generate very different results.
How do these two strategies overlap?
Here is a surface-level explanation of the two terms:
Celebrity endorsements use the fame of a celebrity to get people excited about a brand or a product. When this fame is attached to something, people who idolize these celebrities and want to associate with them, go out to buy this product.
Influencer marketing creates buzz around a brand or product using word-of-mouth. By using a product, or even just displaying it causally in their videos or pictures, they showcase their trust in it. Their followers usually follow up with a purchase, even if it is just to see why their favorite people include it as a part of their image.
Both strategies seem similar in the fact that these use well-known people to influence your target market. But that’s where the similarities end.
Social media influencers:
- are self-built social media experts who have built their brands around their reliability and credibility
- are specialists in creating and delivering an authentic message to their audience
- are not going to make blatant advertisements for your product
- usually, initiate and conduct passionate dialogue within their communities
- can drive sales
- become famous via old-style channels
- can provide valuable exposure to your brand
- might not even have their own social media pages
- often don’t have much of a relationship with their followers
Now that we’ve established the difference between the two ideas let’s figure out how your brand will benefit the most from one or both.
Influencer marketing vs. Celebrity endorsements: which is right for your brand?
Brands are always on the lookout for new and more engaging ways of putting their offerings front and center for their consumers. A personal testimonial from someone with a lot of followers is an excellent way of doing just that. Actors, musicians, athletes, and pop culture figures are the celebrities who’ve always been great at endorsing products.
But now there is a whole new wave of influencers who have the power to sell. These Instagram models, Facebook influencers, and Snapchat experts know how to talk about your offerings for maximum benefit.
Celebrities and Endorsements
It cannot be denied that celebrities have more followers; however, the trouble is that people have figured out that just because their favorite star talked about some latest perfume, it doesn’t mean that it was a genuine endorsement for them. Everyone’s sure they got paid for it.
But brands continue to throw money at these celebrities, hoping some of their fame will rub off on them. Sometimes it backfires. Take for example the case of the Fyre Festival; it wanted to be the Burning Man, it burned down the organizers instead. These guys paid models such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner upwards of $250,000 for endorsing the event publicly. Unfortunately, they failed to disclose that these were paid endorsements and posts, and the Federal Trade Commission took action against them, citing the fact that “Social Media ‘influencers’ made no effort to disclose to consumers that they were being compensated for endorsing the Fyre Festival. Instead, these influencers gave the impression that the guest list was full of the Social Elite and similar celebrities.”
Celebrity endorsements have been a time-tested and efficient method of generating interest in your product or service. However, as social media marketing is becoming more cutthroat, the restrictive regulatory environment may shorten its reach.
Another issue is that this celebrity-endorsed content often comes across as forced and unauthentic. That’s why brands must work with celebrities to create a reliable and believable voice for the endorsement. Let them deliver the message in their own words, and rest assured that their audience will naturally engage with the ad as a result.
Celebrity endorsements: advantages & disadvantages
Power – The cult of celebrity has been influential since the days of the Pharaohs, who were celebrities in their own right. Their physical beauty, mental dexterity, and other skills have transported these people to the highest ends of the social structure. They yield an unnatural amount of power that can propel your brand to similar success as well.
Wide Appeal – Their face, names and even lookalikes have millions of people following them blindly. This love isn’t just local, stars like Ian Somerhalder have a global appeal, and they can be global marketing agents for your brand.
Versatility– Influencer marketing will only continue to grow. This fact has the potential to expand the reach of celebrity endorsements to mediums other than TV, radio, and print. Celebrities are taking over digital media as well.
Celebrities Are Expensive– The fact is that a one-off celebrity endorsement costs the yearly marketing budget of smaller brands, and that’s why not everyone can afford to work with them. And it’s not them; you’ll probably be paying lawyers, agents, and their entire styling team.
High risk– These days celebrity endorsements have become a bit of a gamble. Brands aren’t just afraid of picking up the wrong celeb, but also have to worry about their scandals, misbehaviors and how these issues would reflect on their brand.
Influencers and bloggers
Two types of influencers are taking over marketing communications online.
Macro and micro.
Macro influencers have a bona fide celebrity status but without the celebrity title. Think the Kardashian-Jenner clan. They have huge audiences, i.e., upwards of millions of followers on Instagram, SnapChat, and the likes. And working with them comes with a hefty price tag. If you are looking for a high reach, and don’t care much for engagement, then macro influencers can help you get your message across spectacularly.
Micro influencers represent the emerging markets. They have a smaller following, but one that hangs on to their every word and loves communicating with them. YouTubers such as Jeffree Star are emerging as powerful micro influencers. If you want your brand’s message not only to be heard but also acted upon, working with micro influencers is a great idea for your marketing.
Overall, the audience is more engaged with influencers than they are with celebrities. They create their content, that’s how they know what works for their audience and they should get a say in how the marketing message is crafted. Work with them to create tailor-made messaging and also incorporate the same voice and tonality across your e-commerce store so their audience can identify their message with your brand strongly.
Influencer marketing: advantages & disadvantages
Targeted Posts– Influencer marketing can target a particular audience. Fashion, travel, fitness, lifestyle, etc. are very e-commerce rich categories with plenty of Instagrammers and other influencers doing some outstanding work in these areas. You can further break down their audiences by location and demographics, making sure that your targeted buyers get the message loud and clear. Make sure the social media influencers you hire know how to talk to their audience.
Creators – Influencers are more than just their online personas, they are creative people. And they know exactly what your buyers want to hear and see. They can be an integral part of the campaign creation and execution processes.
Where celebrities want brands to do all the conceptualization and production, influencers love to pitch into these processes as well. This factor often leads to influencer marketing campaigns that are highly personalized and cohesive.
New Industry – No one has much of an idea how any of this is supposed to work. The workflows are still experimental, and the processes are far from optimized. But marketers have seen tremendous results working with influencers, and that’s why we continue the struggle, fine-tuning our strategies as we go along.
Search for The Perfect Influencer – Influencers can have anywhere between 5000 to 90000 followers on social media. They might be right for Instagram and not be so active at Snapchat or vice versa. Finding the right influencer can be scary, because you may not even know they exist. They can have a massive following of precisely the kind of people you want to appeal to and live right outside of your brand’s peripheral vision.
In this day & age, popular doesn’t always mean influential!
From Julia Roberts’ iconic endorsement for Lancôme Cosmetics to Jessica Simpson’s public proclamations of love for Proactiv Skincare, endorsements are nothing new. These campaigns are so memorable because people can relate to them on a fundamental level.
Similarly, whether you choose to work with an influencer or a celebrity, make sure that you pick the right person. They should be able to align their voice with your vision for your brand and promote your objectives in as sincere a manner as possible. Get this right, and your campaign’s a natural winner!
Now when it comes to working with influencers, you can get a good exposure without paying crazy money that celebrities usually demand. For example, if you are selling hair color, instead of having a star endorse your product, you can have a hair colorist speak about your product at length. Yes, these Instagram-based celebrity hair colorists only need to put up one post about hair color or styling product, and it starts flying off the shelves in the store.
Online specialists have spent quite a lot of time and energy building up their expertise and convincing their followers of their specialization. They have fostered genuine relationships with your consumers. Use them wisely.
Should e-commerce businesses invest in celebrity endorsements or influencer marketing?
The correct answer, of course, depends on the marketing goals and budget of a business. If your company must be heard and seen ‘everywhere’ and you have the money to do it, an endorsement from a celebrity is the right way of going about it.
On the other hand, if yours is a more modern business with a highly targeted customer base, employing a cross-platform approach to social media marketing, influencer marketing is perfect for achieving important KPIs.
But having said all that, it is also important to understand here that the boundary between traditional celebrities and media influencers is blurring fast. These two marketing tactics are becoming a part of a singular unified model that is increasingly being employed by marketers and brands that mean business.
Consumers are spending quite a lot of time on social media. And conventional marketing wisdom tells us that it’s always a good idea to be present where your prospective buyers are. Brands can best stay true to this by working via traditional celebrity endorsements and social influencers.
Customer engagement is perhaps the most crucial part of the marketing equation. As long as they have authentic followers and inspire genuine conversations in the blogosphere and social media circles, these are useful marketing exercises that lead to engagement and ultimately sales. And that’s what e-commerce businesses are all about!