Last month saw the fallout from a misjudged social media post by celebrity fitness trainer Andrew Papadopoulos. He announced his engagement to former Miss Universe Australia, Renae Ayris on Instagram – with a very obvious plug for a hot drink.
“Reflecting on our engagement this morning with a very needed cup of NESCAFE Gold in bed!” said the post, under a perfectly posed picture. “So many precious memories to cherish and so many more coffees to enjoy together at home”.
Ouch. How did they get it so wrong?
Be relevant and real
It has a lot to do with context. Andrew Papadopoulos is an elite athlete, focused on health and wellbeing. Why then, would he be chosen to promote distinctly un-nutritious instant coffee? And that shoehorning of it into his engagement announcement was just all shades of awkward.
The world has got savvy to shameless plugs – especially when there’s such an obvious disconnect. There’s also been a seismic cultural shift over the last few years, and consumers demand authenticity in all things. Millennials and Gen Z’ers have come of age in a world of social media, sharing and peer reviews, so there’s no hiding place for brands. Consumers expect transparency, accessibility and honesty.
Enter then, the social influencers…
Social influencers are the new big marketing ticket, in possession of a loyal fan base who hang on their every word, image and opinion. Which means brands can tap into their expertise, and leverage it to their advantage. Where celebrity endorsement is designed to appeal to the maximum number of consumers, influencer marketing is by nature niche. Instead of getting your products in front of as many people as possible, brands can now get them in front of the right people.
Micro, macro and mega
The first level of influencers are the ‘micro’. They’ve usually got between 500 and 1,000 followers, through having passion or expertise for something specific like fitness, travel, fashion, business, beauty, parenting, tech or sport. Micro influencers have a profound connection with their followers, and get around 25% to 50% engagement per post.* The right influencer can mean instant credibility, authenticity and value for a brand – as they’re more likely to be personally invested in the product or service they’re promoting. They also cost a fair bit less than big celebs.
Interestingly, research has shown that once a social media influencer reaches a critical mass of followers, audience engagement starts to tumble. Which is borne out with the next stage of influencer: ‘macro’. With between 10,000 and a million followers, they get just around 5% to 25% engagement per post*. Although of course, they can reach ten times more people than micro influencers.
Finally, there are the mega influencers, like Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Shaanxo or a celebrity with a social media account. With more than a million followers, they only get around 2% to 5% engagement per post*. Because of their mass appeal, it’s more difficult to attain the Holy Grail of credibility and authenticity – so they’re actually less valuable to brands than you might think.
A big benefit of getting influencers to front your brand, is that they’re already content creators. They create blogs and posts to inform and inspire their followers already, and have a distinctive style which their followers buy into. So whereas celebrity campaigns are mostly created by agencies (the celeb just has to show up), influencers can talk about a brand in their own tone of voice, create a story and frame their content around it.
Who’s doing it well?
Some brands are doing influencer marketing brilliantly. Last year, Adidas’ Glitch campaign used football influencers to drive sales of their new boot. 260 influencers produced content, and gave their followers unique codes to access the shoes. This no-ad, no-big name and no-traditional media approach drew more than 50,000 downloads of the app, and a 75% sales conversion rate.
Airbnb cracked it too, in their collaboration with US music festival Coachella. They provided free accommodation for influencer attendees – and in exchange got lots of coverage across social media. Then Triangl, a swimwear brand starting out with no marketing budget, took the organic route and sent samples of their neoprene bikinis to mega Insta influencers – transforming likes into sales.
Matalan… mixing it up
So, celebrities… influencers… what happens if you mix them up? Matalan’s recent successful collaboration with ITV, that’s what. Denise Van Outen provided the star power, and was joined on her chat show by fashion insiders, style bloggers and other micro influencers, giving hints and tips on current trends, and promoting the Matalan brand.
20-second ads ran during shows like Corrie and X Factor, directing viewers to watch the content online. Matalan’s sales figures improved during the show’s 12 month run – but the real goal was to change perceptions of the brand, and engage new audiences.
The (older) elephant in the room
Ok, so the age thing. Gen X and baby boomers are on social at least as much as Millennials and Gen Z-ers, but are they as susceptible to the charms of influencers? It’s certainly seen more as a model focusing on younger consumers – but that doesn’t mean it can never work for older people. The channel used most by those over 35 is Facebook, and if brands can pinpoint their demographic, find a micro influencer who’s popular and trusted by their target market, it can still be a cost-effective way to reach these spending-powerhouse generations.
Influencers Vs Celebs
Over the past year, brands have spent more than £800million on Instagram influencers** – and 23% of marketers plan to increase their influencer spending by 30-50% over the next year**. Influencers certainly give good bang for your buck, with lower costs and more credibility than some celebrity endorsements.
We think there’s still a place for celebs in marketing though – but the connection either has to be relevant (like Ronaldo and Nike), based on an insight (like Walker’s Crisps poking fun at Gary Lineker’s ‘nice guy’ reputation, or Snickers playing on Joan Collins’ diva status) or just harnessing sheer star wattage (looking at you, Clooney with Nespresso, Charlize Theron with Dior, and David Beckham with almost anything).
Celebrity or influencer… the moral of the story is to be transparent; never try and pretend it’s anything but a promotion for a brand, product or service – as fans, followers and everyday consumers will see right through it. In today’s world, authenticity is everything.
*Source: We Are Anthology