Examples of brands making use of celebrity endorsements date back to the 1760s when Josiah Wedgwood used royal endorsements to build brand value in his pottery and chinaware company Wedgwood.
We have since seen endorsement deals become a vital part of many brands marketing strategies, culminating in Michael Jordan’s monstrous deal with Nike that sees him still earning upwards of $60m per year despite retiring from Basketball in 2003. Whilst sportswear brands continue to grow and thrive through endorsement deals (see the incredible trajectory of Under Armour), other industries struggle to find a good fit for their products (James Bond drinking Heineken anyone?)
Even more recently, the surge in popularity of social media marketing on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have opened up a whole new array of opportunities for celebrities to align themselves with brands, often for truly outrageous sums of money. Kim Kardashian reportedly earns around $1m per brand endorsement, whilst a single tweet from Snoop Dogg will set you back the princely sum of $8,000.
The reality is that for most businesses, spending £20,000 on getting the Olsen twins to tweet about haemorrhoid cream just isn’t viable. Not only is it outrageously expensive, but apart from a few creepy dads, it’s completely the wrong audience. This left the door open for a new wave of ‘celebrities’ to plug a gap that saw brands wanting to reach a digital savvy audience in an authentic, but inexpensive manner and resulted in a form of advertising that is now known as influencer marketing.
Social media influencers have been able to build large and often highly engaged audiences who are desperate to own the same products their idols are vlogging (video blogging) about each week. Over the last few years this seen a surge in popularity of influencer digital marketing strategies. The Google Trends chart below shows just how quickly interest in influencer marketing has grown.
We now live in a world where a 26 year old beauty blogger from Brighton named Zoella has more fans on Instagram than Coca Cola, Ford, Microsoft, McDonald’s, American Express, Budweiser, Samsung, Hewlett Packard and Walmart COMBINED! The problem however, is that the huge growth of the likes of Zoella and Pewdiepie has resulted in the same problems brands experienced with celebrity endorsements – their audience is too big to segment, but at the same time, these influencers now expect a couple of extra zeros on the end of their cheques.
Whilst the biggest social influencers have effectively entered the sphere of celebrity endorsement-esque deals, there are still plenty of opportunities for brands to make use of influencer marketing. The problem is that many businesses are too quick to throw products at any dick with a man bun and polaroid camera rather than actually planning an effective and sustainable strategy. Frankly, nobody is going to give a shit if your hashtag trended for three hours unless it actually resulted in tangible results.
Although most businesses are still getting influencer marketing completely wrong, there are some out there who are absolutely nailing it. Take Aussie swimwear brand Budgy Smuggler for example who have been sending out posing trunks to lesser known sports stars and having them post pictures on Instagram in an organic, natural looking way. This has led to them building something of a cult following across social media which they can now look to turn into sales.
Although not a planned campaign, the recent video of Candace Payne unboxing a Chewbacca mask became the most watched live video on Facebook ever, and saw Kohl’s sell out of the toy. Kohl’s reacted perfectly by gifting Payne and her family with a raft of related products. Although entirely unplanned, the video shows the potential power of social influencers when the brand and the audience align perfectly.
Another issue that we must face when it comes to influencer marketing is that of disclosure. Under ASA rules, any paid content must be disclosed in full and can often take away from the authenticity of certain posts. This makes it even more vital that such endorsement deals are properly planned out.
So how should you go about planning and implementing an influencer marketing campaign?
- Start by clearly defining the goals of the campaign – are you looking to gain new followers? Drive sales? Or just increase brand awareness?
- Once you have identified the campaign goal, set about drawing up a shortlist of influencers who best allow you to meet your goals. If your campaign goals aren’t too specific then you may want an influencer with a huge following, however if you’re looking to focus on sales then you may want to work with smaller influencers who have a more engaged audience. At this stage, you also need to make sure that there is a clear connection between your business and the influencers you are targeting.
- Once you have identified the influencers you want to target, set about reaching out to them personally. Make the approach specific to them and be willing to have an open discussion about what both parties can get out of the campaign. It is at this stage you will want to discuss payments, etc and who will own material such as photographs once the campaign has finished.
- Once you have an agreement in place, give the influencer(s) complete creative control of the process. They know their audience better than you do, and if you can’t trust them to product the content by themselves then you probably shouldn’t be working with them. It is absolutely vital that any content looks organic as audiences are becoming increasingly savvy to overly promotional content. You must however ensure that you include proper disclosure should the promotion be paid for in any way.