Influencers and Celebrities: Their Role in Marketing
Written By Elizabeth Cameron, Account Executive
In today’s world of marketing, which includes public relations and advertising, brands focus on creating a strong connection with their target audience. Social media and technology help them do this in two ways: celebrities and influencers. Everyone has at least one celebrity they admire and trust, making this method a staple for marketers. Influencers, however, are a more recent addition to the marketing industry.
Organizations often spend a large amount of their marketing budget on celebrity endorsements. Even if an individual is not familiar with an organization, product, or service, they are more likely to spend their money on it if they see it next to a celebrity they know and admire. Partnerships and endorsements are planned out by the company’s marketing team using specific strategies and tactics to reach a goal, which is usually to increase sales. Partnering with a celebrity the public loves is a great way for an organization to stand out amongst its competitors. According to an article written by Steve Olenski, people are exposed to about 3,000 advertisements each day, potentially leading to overexposure. Celebrity endorsements of a company and its products help grab people’s attention. Furthermore, “according to Ad Age, a brand that inks an endorsement contract with a celebrity or an athlete can see their stock rise to .25 as soon as the news is made public.” (Olenski, 2016) A celebrity name backing an organization builds its credibility and reputation, motivating consumers to buy a product.
Professionals may select a celebrity that aligns with their vision. Sometimes, they play into the celebrity’s personal branding in the endorsement to evoke emotion from their fans. Seeing a celebrity’s face next to a brand’s logo is enough for some individuals to make and remember the connection. When Coke partnered with Taylor Swift, they played into her unique trademark, red lipstick. This emphasizes their red logo and packaging, leaving a lasting impression on Taylor Swift's fans, who might continue to make the connection to Taylor Swift whenever they see Coke products.
While companies have success with celebrity endorsements, partnering with influencers allows them to develop a more personal connection with their target public. Instagram influencers have benefited marketing teams since the introduction of social media in the 2010’s. These individuals are experts within a specific community and have worked to build their personal brand on social media. Influencers build a following of people who enjoy their content and either agree with their views on certain topics or benefit from learning about what they have to offer. Marketing professionals value influencers because they recommend products and services, and based on the trust they have with their followers allows a brand to increase their sales.
According to Gary Henderson in his article, “92% of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations above all other forms of advertising.” (Henderson, 2017). Even though he wrote this article in 2017 and social media influencers have evolved since then, it still shows how people trust their peers and those they consider friends to recommend products and services. The five different levels of influencers impact the relationship brands have with each potential customer. These include Nano, Micro, Mid-Tier, Premium, and Mega. Here is how they are divided:
Nano Influencers: 1,000 to 10,000 followers
Micro Influencers: 10,000 to 50,000
Mid-Tier: 50,000 to 500,000
Premium/Macro: 500,000 to 1,000,000
Mega: More than 1,000,000
There are pros and cons to each level. Generally speaking, smaller following counts are less expensive for brands to endorse, and they can have a more personal connection with their followers. Influencers who have a high following tend to be more expensive to work with, and may lose the personalized, authentic connection that their followers feel. However, they are able to reach a much larger range of individuals. There is no perfect answer for which type of influencer an organization should work with, and rather depends on its needs, budget, and personal brand. What sets them apart from celebrities is that people see them as “real” individuals who they can relate to. Of course celebrities are real people, but fame and money, including seeing them all over magazines, gives off the impression to some that they are of higher status, making them wary of how credible and trustworthy they are.
More recently, Tiktok’s growing popularity has added to this concept. With Tiktok’s algorithm, a large audience cna see posts by users who don’t have a large following. This enables products to advertise themselves. One example of this is Bissel’s Little Green Machine. Although it has been around since the ‘70’s, according to a New York Times article, in the last 18 months, “its sales have more than doubled as hundreds of videos featuring the device have spread across TikTok.” (Herrman, 2021). A benefit of this is that the company does not have to do much; the product and the social media users can speak for themselves. However, they do not have much control over the process. There is no way to know which products will become viral next or how the public will react, which can become tricky for marketers.
TikTok has added another level of influencer marketing: those who do not receive benefits from companies but are still connecting with others on social media to share their product and service experiences. This provides an increased sense of authenticity, making consumers feel comfortable and connected. TikTok models that the future of influencer marketing could look like average people with different lives influencing each other and simultaneously helping companies build strong customer relationships.
As we have seen, companies often need to rely on paid media like celebrity endorsements and influencer advertisements in order to build positive, long-lasting relationships with their target public and existing customers. Depending on their needs and constraints, a company decides whether they need influencers, celebrities, or both to improve interest, awareness, and reputation. Their main goal is always the same: to increase profit.