Celebrity marketing has been around as long as celebrities themselves. In the late 19th and early 20th century, author Mark Twain’s association with the Conklin pen company, and baseballer’s Ty Cobb’s branded tobacco were arguably the first well-known examples of what would now be called endorsement marketing. However, it was the 1990s and 2000s which saw the real explosion of mutually beneficial marketing deals between celebs and businesses. Meanwhile, in the present day, the rise of social media has ushered in a new era of influencer marketing.
Businesses are now choosing to partner with internet stars over more traditional celebrities for consumer outreach, with 86% of marketers and advertising agencies involving influencers in their campaigns. This is largely because they make less of a dent in their wider marketing budget. For instance, Mariah Carey was reportedly paid £9 million for her Christmas advert for Walkers crisps, whereas an Instagram influencer typically costs around £767 per 100,000 followers.
That said, influencers are now so prevalent that they’re seemingly blurring the lines when it comes to what makes a real celebrity, to the extent that some have dubbed Instagram stars as ‘the new celebrity’ while others even believe influencers have replaced them in the modern age altogether. Regardless of how they’re defined, it’s apparent that influencers can be a powerful marketing tool, if harnessed in the right way.
The advantages of influencer marketing
Quite simply, influencer marketing has proven to be an extremely viable marketing strategy. Research from Celebrity Intelligence found that for every £1 spent on beauty influencers, brands get an ROI of £8.81, around 11 times more than with banner ads. With 71% of consumers more likely to make a purchase as a result of a social media referral, it makes sense that users would respond to recommendations from those they idolise.
You can target your audience more effectively
Joining forces with celebrity influencers within your company’s niche can make it easier to target the right audience. Their fans are likely to be receptive to your products or services and buy them to imitate their idols. This is why skincare brands tend to work with beauty influencers, food companies often team up with food influencers, and so forth. Take football megastar Cristiano Ronaldo, who often runs sponsored Instagram adverts for sports and fitness brands like Nike and Six Pad Europe.
Influencers build trust
Research shows that 63% of people put more trust in influencers’ messages about a business than the company’s own advertising efforts. This is because celebrity influencers have built up their own dedicated legion of followers who implicitly trust and value their recommendations. A good influencer will only recommend something they truly like, and their prestige and status also creates an assumption that they wouldn’t align themselves with something bad. Therefore, a content influencer’s post about your brand will often have instant credibility in the eyes of their followers, in a way that more traditional advertising will not.
The disadvantages of influencers
Working with the wrong influencers can be detrimental
Choosing the wrong influencer can actually cause significant damage to your company’s reputation. Take Volvo, who received significant backlash after partnering with lifestyle and fashion blogger Chriselle Lim on Instagram. Many of her followers were bemused by her first sponsored posts for the company, which were vastly different in tone from her usual content, putting across an eco-friendly message which seemed at odds with her extravagant lifestyle. This made the campaign seem unauthentic, causing both Lim and Volvo to go down in her fan’s estimations.
61% of brands have admitted to finding it challenging to identify the right names for their campaigns, making it clear that celebrity influencers aren’t always an easy route to marketing success. This risk of negative backlash may explain why more celebrities are working with PR agencies to try and keep their image as pristine as possible, with the celebrity PR experts at MN2S describing positive press coverage as “the cornerstone of any successful celebrity PR strategy.” As such, it’s very much in the minds of influencers that any branding partnerships they enter into should benefit their reputation.
Influencer mistakes can be costly
Mistakes can easily be made when using influencer marketing, which leads campaigns to end up doing more harm than good. One error is not clearly disclosing when a social media post is sponsored, by burying the legally mandated “#ad” or “#sponsored” tags among a cluster of other other hashtags, or forgetting to use them at all. This is something which can damage trust and even lead to legal issues, as Lord & Taylor found out. The fashion brand was charged by the US Federal Trade Commission for deceiving customers by failing to disclose that they had used influencers to promote their products. However, the influencers themselves may also make costly errors. Take reality TV star Scott Disick, for instance, who copied and pasted health brand Bootea’s entire instructions for advertising copy, and posted them on Instagram, instead of just the suggested caption. This looked sloppy and unprofessional, embarrassing both brand and influencer.
It takes significant time and effort
The relative affordability of influencers may be offset by the time and effort that this type of marketing requires. Not only will you need to find an influencer suitable for your brand, but you will also have to draw up terms and conditions for the collaboration, prepare the content involved, and then measure the efficacy of the results, which has proven to be difficult.
Should you adopt influencer marketing methods?
The true value of influencer marketing will ultimately depend on whether your budget can afford you an appropriate influencer in your niche, and how much time you’re willing to spend searching for, and negotiating with, the right one. Considering that marketers spent around 40% of their budgets on influencers in 2019, and just as many cite time constraints as a significant barrier to influencer marketing success, the decision to go down this path isn’t one to take lightly. However, with 4 out of 5 marketers believing that influencer marketing is an effective strategy overall, this approach can clearly pay dividends when done right.