The celebrity endorsement is a marketing classic. We’ve grown up with it, we see it on TV, on billboards, in magazines, and more. Sometimes these endorsements are laughable; sometimes they’re inspiring. Most importantly, they work. And while the ‘Celebrity Holding [Insert Product Here] With a Big Thumbs Up’ may not be the most sustainable of tactics in the present day, it’s certainly still happening. It’s just…different.
For those of you who aren’t from Cleveland and/or haven’t been paying attention, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Finals and made sports history on June 19th. As I basked in the glow of the Cavs win all last week, I couldn’t help but notice the aura of Nike that followed Lebron James wherever he went. At the championship parade in downtown Cleveland, he had on a Nike t-shirt. Posters were being handed out, which stated the mantra ‘Always Believe’ along with a Nike Swoosh. Or, how about the larger-than-life poster in downtown that reads “We Are All Witnesses” with a triumphant Lebron throwing his arms back and—of course—a Nike Swoosh. And don’t get me started on his Instagram filled with casual shots of Nike shoes.
The thing is, though, it doesn’t feel forced or insincere. In fact, Lebron is a great example of the intermingling of old and new influencer marketing. He just signed a lifetime deal with Nike–the largest in its long history of celebrity partnerships. Nevertheless, it’s different than the celebrity endorsements of yore. Lebron doesn’t hold up a Nike shoe and talk about how great it is — he just is great, and thus Nike is by association.
This is a far cry from Muhammad Ali endorsing roach traps.
Instead, the Lebron James brand and the Nike brand have met in a mutual territory to create and capitalize on an intangible feeling of greatness—but also of determination, grit, and rising above adversity—that will stick with both of their fans for the foreseeable future.
The reason this is an intersection of ‘old’ influencer marketing and ‘new’ influencer marketing is that it takes a bit from both—it focuses on a massive celebrity and that celebrity’s treatment of their products, but it does so in a subtle and, ultimately, more effective way. And while celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing aren’t exactly the same concept, they have the same basic underpinnings–using another person’s clout to gain recognition and trust with a target audience.
What Has Changed About Influencer Marketing?
Because older versions of influencer marketing focused more around major celebrity endorsements, there used to be a pretty limited pot of influencers to choose from in. Now, the possibilities are endless. The floodgates have been opened by the accessibility of social platforms and content management systems. Anyone can be a social media star or popular blogger and, thus, can build an audience. While YouTube is often considered the platform with the highest concentration of influencers, the list of possible platforms for influencers to build a personal brand is growing every day.
Rather than being reserved for major celebrities, the status of influencer now can include anything from self-made celebrities to bloggers and social media gurus to YouTube stars, and more. What’s powerful about this is not just the number of influencers out there, but also the fact that they all have their own unique angle and, therefore, unique audience.
Social media and content platforms allow celebrities and niche influencers alike to create their own brands. Influencer marketing is, at its core, simply bringing personal these brands together with corporate brands.
Much like content production itself, influencer marketing has become democratized and more scalable. Platforms are being developed to ease the burden of sifting through and contacting the overwhelming plethora of influencers. Though they’re not completely credible due to both questionable quality and intentions, it still stands that the space of influencer marketing is seeing a boom in terms of both innovation in the space and in usage of the tactic.
The Growing Wave of Influencer Marketing
According to Mediakix, 84% of marketers will utilize an influencer marketing campaign within the next year. This is no surprise given the wealth of data that supports the possibilities of success associated with influencer marketing. Namely—brands saw an average ROI of $6.85 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing, 22% of customers are acquired through influencer marketing, and 92% of people trust word-of-mouth recommendations over ads. (Mediakix)
This ripe opportunity area comes not only from the fact that influencer marketing is more accessible than ever, it’s also due to the general distaste for advertisements that have left audiences disillusioned and marketers confounded. Influencer marketing allows two brands with similar messages or power points to come together and share audiences in a way that is more relatable–and therefore more trustworthy—than standard advertisements and even old fashioned celebrity endorsements.
Those who are successfully partaking in influencer marketing, though, are those who realize that the practice is less about the sheer quantity of brand mentions—or corresponding sales—and more about creating an ongoing dialogue with both your audience and with the influencers they choose to interact with. In many ways, it’s similar to native advertising. Rather than interrupting your audience’s lives with messages from an influencer, you’re weaving your brand into their conversations in a way they will hopefully enjoy.
And while marketers should certainly fairly compensate the influencers they want to work with, influencer marketing works best when it’s approached as an earned media tactic, not a paid media tactic. By building relationships with the right influencers, connecting on common goals of engaging an audience, and letting the influencers take the control over the messages sent, the result will be an authentic brand loyalty built amongst your target audience that reaps positive results.
The unprecedented level of accessibility in influencer marketing makes it essential for every marketer to at least explore the option. No longer is this type of marketing only feasible for large, B2C companies. Whatever market you’re in or audience you’re trying to speak to, there’s like an influencer out there that would be more than willing to collaborate, so long as you both have the same end goal—to make your audience’s lives better.
Did you like this post? Let us know why (or why not) in the comments. In the meantime, check out our blog Blurred Lines: The De-Silo-Ing of Marketing to discover why breaking down organizational silos is key to staying agile and ahead of your competition.