Influencer Marketing: The Shift of The Celebrity

We as a society are constantly consuming various forms of media. As we tour our homes today, every corner of a room is filled with countless means of new technology, providing hours of entertainment. The development of digital media has revolutionised the way we view news, information and entertainment. Any major historical event from the past 50 years we have witnessed happening through a screen. From the horrific events of the 9/11 Terror Tower Attack to man’s first steps on the moon, this documentation and new wave of technology creates an extent sense of connection, bringing individuals together through discussion and reaction.

Growing up in the early 2000’s traditional media played a huge role in my upbringing. My generation was probably one of the last to shape their nights around a television screen, tuning in to watch our favourite programs at a specific date and time. With this medium having such prevalence at the time, these featured celebrities and their influence were pushed as spokespeople for many brands. (Think Michael and Britney for Pepsi).

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Screenshot from Pepsi’s ‘Generations Campaign’ paying tribute to musicians Michael Jackson, Britney Spears and Ray Charles

However, from what we can see shown throughout this blog, Today’s audiences don’t hold this past way of consuming media. Although CD’s, DVD’s and Television has given place to streaming services like Netflix and Spotify, people are also turning to other forms of entertainment platforms like social media. With TNS global market research company reporting that 71% of this millennials use social media daily and 76% watch online videos, the number of hours spent watching old forms of media are diminishing with each generation.

With the introduction to social influencers through online platforms, many are challenging past mediums with the shift towards producing their own content. This has proven to be well received as shown through their success in views and followers, which each influencer pushing activities that target specific niches.
Example: Kayla Itsines (@kayla_itsines) Instagram: 9.6m Followers

Kayla Itsines is an Australian personal trainer, author, and entrepreneur. She is the creator of a series of fitness ebooks titled Bikini Body Guides, and a meal-planning and workout app, Sweat with Kayla. While this content has previously been made before by various other fitness trainers, Sweat with Kayla has generated more revenue than any other fitness application. Being named one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet, Kayla notes her success at leveraging social media to promote her brand. Itsines’ interval workout regimens may not be revolutionary, but she leveraged an enviable body, #transformation pics, and an achievable lifestyle into a true fitness empire.

Estimated income: $17 million from “Sweat with Kayla” app alone, $150,000 per Instagram post (Data retrieved from Complex.com)

Looking at these online individuals influence, their factors of credibility challenge the notion of the traditional celebrities. Look at actress Jennifer Lawrence for example. She is a traditional celebrity as a result of numerous acting roles over the last decade. Although she has a large following she isn’t apart of the online world, having no accounts throughout social media. Comparing her to the popular influencers of today, audiences are more attached to these online stars rather than traditional celebrities. A survey executed by Variety compared the 10 social influencers against the 10 traditional entertainment stars with the highest Q score among teens, a widely recognized measure of influence by advertisers and marketers. Testing a sample of 1,500 people aged 13-17 , these individuals were asked how these 20 personalities stack up in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria considered aspects of their overall influence. Looking at the respondents data it was the social stars that rated on all counts a quarter of the top 20 list, including the top three influencers ­— KSI, PewDiePie and Vanoss -Gaming. Other findings found in these surveys noted that young individuals have “emotional attachment to social influencers as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrities” (Variety), with these being perceived as “17 times more engaging” (Variety).

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Screenshot of ‘Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’ (@PewDiePie) to the left and ‘Olajide William “JJ” Olatunji, Jr’ (@ KSI) to the right

What I have gathered from this data is there is a deeper relationship between audiences and social influencers over traditional celebrities. There is a relatable sense throughout influencers as they act on free will, whilst tradition stars are often orchestrated by PR strategies to act in a particular manner. The relatable factor acts as a new wave of media for the public as audiences and consumers are able to get to know these individuals on a deeper level, due to these people being more likely to share their lives and experiences more openly. According to a study commissioned by Google, 40% of millennial YouTube subscribers say that their favorite content creators understand them better than their friends and 70% of teens admit that they can relate to those folks more than to traditional celebrities. This also looks to drive more engagement with audiences through making connections with viewers. Looking at the platform of Instagram for example, audiences are offered direct contact with these individuals through private messaging and open field commenting. As this career is built off strong fan bases, these infulencers are constantly connecting with audiences to maintain their relationship and audience .

Before the eruption of social media, a standard celebrity endorsement would involve a long-term collaboration full of lengthy conditions between the brand and high-profile figure. Nowadays, this arrangement has been facilitated with the rise of social media’s popularity. The emergence of this ‘modern celebrity’, combined with changing consumer behaviours, means that brands and influencers have the capacity to be more flexible, by collaborating over short-term projects, strategically chosen by both parties to ensure relevance, which in turn leads to authenticity. From what we can see the traditional celebrities influence on audiences has declined over recent years with the introduction to this new form of marketing. My advice for these individuals would be to maintain an online presence, utilising both traditional and social methods throughout their distribution. A great example of this shift can look at Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson as he has understood the concept of a modern celebrity, adapting himself into the online environments and now embrasing a total of 77.3 million followers on Instagram alone.

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