Celebrity endorsements are not a new marketing concept. It is a time-honored marketing tool, dating back as late as 1930s for radio advertising, 1950s for TV advertising and as recent as 1990s for the internet. This framework hinges on borrowing a celebrity’s star power to build product awareness. The strategy behind celebrity endorsements are to sell products for the simple reason that the consumers idolize them. When celebrities are seen promoting a new product, consumers get awareness to potentially want to buy it.
In recent years, as social media trends continue to shift away from traditional TV/Radio marketing, it has made the world of celebrity endorsement popular on social media. A new segment called “Influencer Marketing” has emerged. Some influencers are known to charge tens of thousands of dollars for a tweet, Instagram post, or Facebook post. Brands have been pouring marketing dollars into social media endorsements, paying everyone from an athlete, musician, or to a new YouTube / Instagram star. The result of which has led to misinformed consumers, heaps of social media content produced with lack of passion and credibility from their endorsers and a recent regulation mandating influencers disclose all paid sponsored social messages. The latter came in effect due to FTC’s concern over lack of transparency on the sponsored influencer and celebrity posts. Especially, when consumers put any worth in the brand endorsement then some of the social media ‘ad’ posts could be viewed as deceitful.
I have been in the digital marketing industry for 19 years now. While there may be some value to social influencer marketing, I have not seen this type of marketing bring any real success to any brand. It’s more of a vanity play for some. According to a study conducted by Harvard, a real brand that signs an endorsement contract with a celebrity or an athlete may very well see their stock rise up to .25 points as soon as the news is made public. This short-term increase in based on the perceived legitimacy from the celebrity’s endorsement. However, the use of celebrity endorsers does not necessarily influence consumer brand loyalty or prolonged increase in product sales. Particularly when paying for sponsored posts, Brands do not become successful due to a single tweet. The ROI also just doesn’t work, believe me we have the data to support it. Rather, its success is directly dependent on the value it brings to the consumers and the strategy of its execution.
I am not saying anything is wrong with celebrities and influencers to partner with real brands. Rather that, in the past, social media sponsored tweets and posts has missed the opportunity to create an authentic, relevant and even conversational tone with consumers. When a follower sees a brand message, they want to know if their brand ambassador uses the products in their daily lives, they want to feel a connection to an ambassador, and they are looking for the influencers to genuinely advocate a product that they believe in it. The true value of influencer marketing is the ease with which brands can build strong relationships with audiences and their everyday lives. If brands and influencers want to gain the “trust” of their audiences and prospects, then they must be clear about their paid endorsements. Moreover, I would recommend celebrities with large social followings to stop doing this type of sponsored posts. I know it’s easy quick money and addicting, but it just doesn’t work. And, you could be hurting your long-term brand.
Social media influencers have a responsibility to their followers to work with brands that they genuinely like and use. The relationship between an influencer and their audience is pegged on “trust.” The underlying core expectation of the celebrity marketing resides to provide genuine opinions of the endorsers. The FTC’s recent guidelines made it clear that such endorsements must reflect the honest opinion of the endorser and consumers must be made aware of any compensation that exchanged hands.
Celebrity power is critical to many brands, especially in the era where social media drives online conversations. This post is not critical of real celebrity endorsements. Rather, influencers should be cognizant of their own views and give genuine endorsements to the brands they have the closest affinity. If by accepting a paid sponsorship, gift or an incentive would affect the weight or credibility of the product recommendation, then disclose it with honesty. No one said paid endorsement is illegal.
Instead, ensure the trust that you have with your followers. Keep that intact and honest.
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