Celebrity endorsements have been around forever. In fact, we just published an article about a famous celebrity and her influence on advertising last week.
But what if you could get endorsements from celebrities that, for the most part, are seen by the general public as regular, everyday people? Welcome to influencer marketing.
What Is It?
Certainly you’ve seen YouTube stars who post homemade videos about everything from video-gaming (Markiplier, Smosh Games) to beauty vlogs (Yuya, Wayne Goss) to comedy sketches (Ryan Higa, Julian Smith,) and many other video categories across the internet. Regardless of the content type, these internet sensations have now become popular on other platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and many were once popular on Vine (R.I.P.) Some of them have found their way onto podcasts (YouTube stars Rhett and Link started a podcast called Ear Biscuits in the last couple of years that appears to be gaining popularity.)
These “online video stars” are what we would call online influencers. And in 2018, they’ve entered the world of advertising. The New York Times recently reported that online video performers’ sponsorships are estimated to reach $10 billion in 2020. Also, Ad Exchanger reported this week that podcasts look like they are resurgent and will soon be “the future of advertising.” Earlier this year, we shared predictions that influencer marketing would gain traction in 2018 and it appears it is beginning to.
Frankly people see these stars as people they can trust. As we pointed out in a recent article, trust is central to the marketability of any brand. The same is true for celebrity endorsements. This is why celebrities have historically been so popular in the world of advertising; people like certain celebrities and will listen to their endorsements of one product over another.
Online influencers have the propensity to leverage this trust in incredible proportions. This revolves around the perception of online influencers. Because of the viral way online influencers rise to popularity, and also the sometimes low-production style of recorded content they produce, the general public’s perception of online influencers tends to infer that they are seen as regular people who happen to have a lot of followers. Influencers are not sees as products of studios but rather self-made creators. Naturally, any product they endorse would have the potential of being influential in the marketplace. This frontier of advertising promises to only grow as the follower count of these influencers grows.
The danger in trusting these influencers with your brand is they have very little accountability. As The New York Times points out, some of these internet stars gain a following because of their edgy content. “They want deals that allow them to keep their style. But when those creators go too far, companies that work with them risk being guilty by association.”
So any partnership with an online influencer would necessitate a contractual obligation to confine their content within the bounds of the company’s standards as well. For example, if you as a brand advertise through a video gaming influencer, you wouldn’t want them spouting profanity immediately after promoting your ad. This would lead to concerns regarding your brand image; therefore it’s a good idea to take preventative steps to ensure your brand name is protected. Considering all of this, the question a lot of companies are asking themselves in 2018 is “Is it worth it?”
As influencer marketing grows and matures, we will see changes begin to develop. But influencer marketing is only going to become more relevant as 2018 quickly turns into 2019. Bottom line, this is as good a reason as any to stay up-to-date on all the changes in advertising this year and next–and the year after that.
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