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Why Digital Influencers Are Winning the Battle for Consumer Trust

Quietly, marketing has undergone an enormous power shift in recent years, driven by consumers’ demand for more authenticity from brands. While a rise in the application of quantitative methods like big data and marketing technology has dominated the collective mind-space of marketers, a more qualitative shift has also occurred, highlighting the changing trend in consumer trust that marketers must address:

“Digital influencers have become more powerful than traditional celebrities.”

Sounds crazy, right? However, it makes sense when you consider that modern consumers expect authentic brand relationships, and therefore value the input of influencers that they trust over celebrities that have a perceived monetary relationship to promote products and brands.

Last week, I read an article on AdWeek that does a great job of breaking down the case for influencers, and consequently, describing the rise in user-generated content (UGC) as a powerful marketing asset. Entitled “Move Over Kardashians: Why Average Joes Are More Influential Than Celebrities on Social Media,” the author thoughtfully argues that a well-executed influencer program can yield higher conversions at a much lower cost for brands than spending enormous money on traditional celebrity endorsements. As an example, consider that to get Kim Kardashian or Kendall Jenner to post ONCE on a social platform, the cost can be in excess of $200,000, which not only is cost prohibitive to many brands, but is hard to justify given the changing consumer sentiment towards authenticity and transparency.

Research confirms that digital influencers are a force for building meaningful relationships with consumers, especially a younger demographic. In fact, Variety, in tandem with celebrity brand strategist Jeetendr Sehdev, commissioned a survey to ask 1,500 teenagers between 13-18 years old to rank influential figures on criteria such as approachability and authenticity. The top five influential figures, and 6 of the top 10, were YouTube stars.

While there are certainly digital influencers that themselves have jumped into the category of actual celebrity, the key to success in an influencer marketing program appears to be less about single initiatives, and more about activating a brand’s total online consumer-base to create content on behalf of the brand. The results of that UGC in aggregate can be exceptionally powerful. According to recent research, “influencer campaigns on average earn $6.85 in earned media for every $1.00 of paid media.”

The Power of Earned Content

While garnering earned media through influencer UGC is helpful to brands and their marketers, the content itself that influencers create and inspire can have far-reaching impact as well, being used for both organic engagement and paid advertising. We’ve discovered through working with our clients that when consumers feel like they are a part of a brand’s authentic marketing strategy, they are often more than happy to create and share UGC with the brand, inspiring more creation, loyalty, and conversion.

Of course, traditional celebrities continue to wield an enormous amount of power, and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. But the days of blindly spending budget to get a celebrity to say something about a product and sitting back while the sales roll in are gone. Today, a more sophisticated and authentic approach is the way to reach the top consumer segments.


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