The proliferation of social networks has transformed consumers into active participants and content creators who post, share, like and comment online. More and more users are becoming influencers, and some have gained a large audience on social media platforms without any institutional mediation. In line with the megaphone effect, the iinfluencers typically serve a well-defined niche market on their social media channels (e.g. fashion, fitness, beauty, lifestyle, and games). Their subscribers can easily identify with the content of the channel social networks and are therefore more interested and receptive to products and brands that serve this niche.
Macro-influencers and celebrities: what are the differences?
According to a 2020 market report, 80% of companies surveyed (N˜4,000 ad agencies and brands) intend to invest in the influencer marketing in the future, and 91% of respondents believe influencer marketing is an effective form of advertising (Influencer Marketing Hub 2020).
The strong and intimate bond between influencers and their community makes them attractive advertising channels for brands. The difference between influencers and celebrities is that the former can reach a variety of followers from a few thousand (for micro-influencers) to several million (for macro-influencers). These figures are comparable to the audiences of “ordinary” celebrities. Some influencers have indeed become almost indistinguishable from “ordinary” celebrities. For example, influencers such as James Charles or Nash Grier have attracted 26 and 11 million subscribers respectively on instagram. Many celebrities, such as chef Jamie Oliver (˜ 8 million Instagram followers), singer Hillary Duff (˜ 15 million Instagram followers) or actress Blake Lively (˜ 28 million Instagram followers) have a similar reach on social media. Celebrities also interact with their followers and can be a similarly interesting targeted communication channel for subscribers. advertisers.
A key differentiator between influencers and celebrities is their career path. Influencers are often digital natives, people who grew up in a digital environment where immersion in digital-related activities is part of their daily lives. They generally became popular without any form of institutional support early in their careers. They do not use agents, managers, publicists or professional photographers to create their public image when they start their influencer activity. Social media presence and engagement with their growing follower base has shaped their image with them. This makes them, in the eyes of consumers, accessible sources of unbiased opinions and personal ideas.
In contrast, ordinary celebrities, who gained their popularity through some form of institutional support, often representing aspirational figures for their fans. Their success as actors, singers, models or descendants of other celebrities gives them a glamorous lifestyle that differs from that of ordinary people and professions that often come with social status and prestige. Both of these aspects are desired but are also often unattainable life goals for most ordinary consumers. These celebrity and lifestyle differences make celebrities lend themselves to endorsement and these same differences make them less endearing to the consumer medium. In marketing, celebrity endorsements are an established practice with strong and enduring relevance. For example, a considerable share of advertising appeals to celebrities, with estimates of nearly 20% in the US, 17% in the UK and over 48% in Japan. Celebrity endorsement is an effective tool for increasing attitudes towards advertising, brand memory, brand image and purchase intentions. Different studies have shown that the attractiveness of an endorser depends on his familiarity, likeability and similarity, while his credibility derives from his expertise, reliability and physical attractiveness. The more favorable the perceptions of celebrities’ personal attributes, the greater their effectiveness. Since celebrities are different from influencers, they are also “native” to different advertising channels (online and offline).
What are the differences in perceived effectiveness between posts by influencers and those by celebrities promoting brands for social media?
We conducted a study with 1,300 young consumers to find out, first, if they made the difference between macro-influencers and celebrities and then to know the perception of these consumers as to the level of intrusion of brands in advertisements. of celebrities or macro-influencers and quantify their effectiveness. By brand intrusion in publications, we mean, for example, the size of brand logos, the number of product placement they use, the type and duration of the brand mention during publication, etc.
The results of the study show that the perceptions of celebrities and influencers differ from each other and occupy different positions in the minds of consumers but also that influencers seem to be more effective promoters of brands in a social media environment. . In the case of influencers, consumers made fewer inferences about the manipulative intent of a brand’s social media message.
Based on these results, we can make the following recommendations:
– It is important for advertisers to keep in mind that influencers and celebrities, despite similar levels of popularity, occupy different places in the minds of consumers. It is recommended that advertisers choose their endorser carefully based on a personality that can match the brand’s social media personality.
– Influencers can be more affordable for young brands looking to target specific consumer groups, while celebrities are expensive but offer broader advertising opportunities in terms of type of communication channel and level of intrusion of the brand.
– The presence of influencers versus celebrities raises less suspicion of an ad’s manipulative intent. Consumers seem to have developed the expectation that, with the growing popularity of social media and public awareness of the potential benefits of social media endorsements, celebrities who participate in sponsored ads on social media are motivated solely by gain. financial. Their content is therefore perceived with more skepticism than that of influencers, who are better suited to the context of social media.
– The sponsored posts influencers on social media platforms are more effective than celebrities, but only if the advertising is subtle and natural. Brands must therefore adapt their communication approaches to sponsoring influencers so that they remain true to themselves and their image.
– In the case of social media advertising, as with campaigns in regular ad formats where advertising is overt and somewhat intrusive, celebrity endorsement tends to be more favorable, as the effectiveness of advertising is less diminished. Consumers are used to celebrities endorsing products and services in all their public appearances, not only through traditional advertising, but also through product placement, and brand logos on sports equipment. Therefore, brand intrusion in these cases is perceived with less rejection than for influencers.
Finally, while macro-influencers have become an integral part of the activities of online marketing and a promising alternative to the often more expensive celebrity testimonials, this study highlights how brands can effectively benefit from influencer testimonials. Indeed, the results show that despite similar levels of popularity, macro-influencers and celebrities are still perceived differently from each other. Influencers are seen as less manipulative and more honest than celebrities. Their social media referrals must therefore be subtle to be more effective than those of celebrities. Brands promoting their products on social media can therefore maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns by leveraging more approachable macro-influencers and developing ads that are subtle and synergistic with the chosen macro-influencer. Together, these campaigns reduce consumers’ feelings of being “manipulated”.
This article was written by Dr. Jacqueline Boysselle, Professor at Montpellier Business School, Dr. Fabian Bartch, Professor at Montpellier Business School, and Dr. Jan-Frederik Gräve, Professor at the University of Hamburg