Celebrity endorsements have been a staple in our society for decades. Fabio will always be attached to I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Jessica Simpson is basically synonymous with Proactiv, and George Foreman will probably have a grill engraved somewhere on his headstone. But now… the social media age has spawned the little sibling of celebrity endorsements: Lo and behold, influencer marketing.
Celebrity Endorsements Versus Influencer Marketing
Is there a difference between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing? While there is definitely a lot of overlap and a handful of gray areas with influencer marketing, there are definitely some key distinctions between the two. Unlike celebrities that became famous from traditional forms of media, such as TV shows, movies, music, etc., influencers gained their fame as a result of the internet (usually through some form of social media). Both influencers and celebrities are well-known and have large followings. However, influencers are valuable to marketers because of their expertise on a certain subject or industry, whereas celebrities are valuable for the exposure they can provide. When an ad comes from an influencer, consumers are more likely to view it as more familiar and credible. In fact, 70% of millennials value influencer opinions over those of “traditional” celebrities.
The Good, The Bad, and The Future of Influencer Marketing
For the past few years the clothing brand Revolve has been hosting their high-profile Hampton’s house event where they invite influencers to stay throughout the month of July. Revolve takes care of attendee’s travel and accommodations, gifts each of them clothing credit, and to top it off pays them an appearance fee (as if everything else isn’t convincing enough). Requirements for influencer attendees? Simply post on their social media using the designated hashtag, #RevolveintheHamptons, twice per day. This hashtag mandate was clearly not difficult to achieve as there are currently over 8K posts and counting on Instagram featuring the tag. Their use of influencers allows consumers to be exposed to their advertisements and clothing through more organic means. With a combined social following of over 2.6 million, they’re certainly doing something right.
Oh, and influencers are not limited to human beings either. Even animals have a role to play in influencer marketing. Just this May, fans lined up at the Scotch-Brite lint roller promotional event, for the opportunity to take a selfie with their favorite influencer pups. These pups included a spaniel named Toast, with 379K Instagram followers, a golden retriever named Louboutina, with 168K followers, and more. Another great example is @tunameltsmyheart, featuring Tuna, the chiweenie (chihuahua + weiner dog) with an exaggerated overbite, that has won the hearts of nearly 2 million Instagram followers. Tuna is just one of the countless “petstagrams” that can be just as influential at promoting products as their human counterparts, if not more.
Perhaps the most legendary influencer marketing fail of all, was Fyre Festival in April of 2017. It was marketed as a boutique music event promising henna tattoos, water trampolines, and a treasure hunt hiding $1,000,000 worth of jewels and watches. Four hundred influencers, ranging from models to DJs to pro athletes, flew to the Bahamas for photo shoots to use in promotional social media content. Their influencer strategy proved to be an overwhelming success, and general admission tickets sold out before the lineup was even announced. When the awaited day finally arrived and eager kids touched down in chartered planes, the mood quickly shifted as they realized the event planning was nothing short of chaos. Luggage was AWOL, staff was minimal, “luxury accommodations” were tents, “gourmet” food turned out to be cheese-and-bread sandwiches, and to top it off the event was postponed entirely. Since then, almost none of the influencers acknowledged that their posts were a paid promotion – even Kendall Jenner, despite being paid $250,000 for her endorsement.
Fyre shows us both sides of the coin: the tremendous impact of influencer marketing as well as the astronomical pitfalls. Marketers need to make sure the claims they are making for brands and products are legitimate (or at the very least, real products and brands). Otherwise, all that cherished brand loyalty will quickly wash down the drain.
Influencer marketing doesn’t have to be so terrifying. Use your authenticity, damage control, thorough research, and common sense and your numbers will boost swimmingly. Whether you like it or not, influencers can generate a ton of awareness for your brand, so you’d better get on board. And if all else fails, just relish in knowing that your influencer marketing strategies won’t result in an infamous, and highly publicized, fail (let’s hope).
By: Christina Gineris and Catherine Sinow