Whether or not you’re a fan of the celebrity driven media world we live in, we can’t deny that our society is dominated by the presence of celebrities.

We also can’t deny the increasing influence that celebrity personalities have over our purchase decisions.

What’s the difference between celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing?

Celebrity endorsement sets out to leverage the fame of the celebrity to the brand. With celebrity endorsement, you are borrowing the equity and fame of the celebrity for the benefit of your brand, so people notice and consider buying your brand.

Influencer marketing is similar, however it strives to create word-of-mouth advertising using people (not always celebrities) that are trusted in certain circles. So, influential people are establishing your image in the minds of their followers.

Both strategies tend to use well-known people to influence your target market, yet differ in the way they are executed and how they influence your target market.

How do influencers engage their communities?

Influencers are specialists and are not always celebrities in the traditional sense. At their core, they’ve built communities around themselves in a niche space. So when a brand, for example, sends well being bloggers their supplements to review as part of an influencer campaign, the goal isn’t straight awareness but the generation of trusted recommendations within the targeted community.

Celebrity endorsements on the other hand are outbound focused – in that they are meant to be seen and heard, but not necessarily interacted with. Communication is from the brand and celebrity as a single message leveraged on channels, like TV to reach as many people as possible.

The key difference is that the influencer is constantly running a conversation with their followers generating earned media outcomes. They are answering questions and going into further detail on points of interest with community members. This group is primed to receive messages from the influencer long before the brand comes on the scene. When the influencer produces a piece of sponsored content, it is part of an ongoing conversation the community is heavily engaged with.

Who controls or empowers the brand message?

With celebrity endorsements the brand is in control. Owners of the brand conceptualise, produce and distribute the content – usually via paid media channels. The marketer is borrowing the equity that the celebrity provides by carefully seeking shared values between the brand and celebrity.

For influencer marketing, control is influencer empowered. The influencer is perceived to be creator of the entire message, which is its beauty.  If they are a blogger, they are the ones writing the post; if they are YouTuber, they are the ones scripting and editing the video. From start to end, the message is considered theirs. Generating message credibility, authenticity, and ultimately trust.

Blurred lines between celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing

Mixing and matching of celebrity endorsement and influencer marketing strategies is now increasing as celebrities are setting themselves up to provide this opportunity for brands. By borrowing the best aspects of both, brands can see greater return from their endorsements through the reach they create and also the ongoing dialogue a celebrity can attain via their extensive social media presence. The key is ensuring that the celebrity is committed to using their influence to engage in dialogue in an ongoing and authentic manner.

Should you consider celebrity endorsement and or influencer marketing? And do they get results?

Firstly, let's answer the 'does this work?' question. Celebrity endorsement is a well understood tactic that's been used with both great and moderate success. The key is alignment and resources to leverage. Influencer marketing on the other hand is newer and some companies have used it to great effect. This influencer marketing study by HubSpot reported 3 insights to consider when using influencer marketing.

  1. If you're trying to drive traffic, use your time and energy to get one major influencer on board rather than five to 10 mid-level ones.
  2. Weak content rarely performs - even with a big name.
  3. Prioritise content leads to posts that generate traffic

Our recommendation? Budgets permitting – yes you should investigate it seriously as an option to generate inbound attraction for your brand. Celebrities have been used in brand marketing since Adam was a boy. Celebrities can help with message cut-through to aid awareness and market share growth. They have worked in the past and will continue to work in the future. However, they come with a heavy price tag both in terms of the cost the endorsement and the paid media required to amplify. If awareness is your only goal then you are certain to be happy. However, awareness is not always persuasive and can be purchased through paid media channels without using a celebrity for amounts that are far cheaper. 

The appeal of influencer marketing, on the other hand, is the potential for highly targeted and authoritative reach that overcomes the ad rejection response many people have these days. Coming from a trusted source breaks down barriers. Additionally, the dialogue component extends the communication over time and across multi faceted brand attributes.

So if you are prepared to lose a little control, influencers can significantly add attraction for your brand and products. In the end, are you actually 100% in control of your brand anyway? Probably not.

Investigation and research will help identify what is right for your brand – helping to avoid public misalignment and identifying the succession plan post the initial engagement.

A useful checklist for assessing the value of celebrity endorsement and or influencer marketing for your business:

  1. Can my brand achieve fame and dialogue without celebrity or influencer marketing?
  2. Are there shared values for the brand, celebrity and influencer?
  3. Create a celebrity / influencer shortlist with viable fall-back options
  4. Work out what happens if your celebrity or influencer goes rogue
  5. Work out what happens post the contract – how does the brand move forward?
  6. Work out how you can leverage the celebrity or influencers with customers and employees
  7. Negotiate using professionals who understand celebrity and or influencer marketing

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