Influencer marketing had been thought by many as a new way of marketing, but this is quite the contrary. The idea of a person promoting a product that they like or had found useful has existed even before the idea of advertising started. Before making the choice to purchase a certain product of service, we would usually ask for an opinion from our friends or family. If there are good opinions of the product or service, it would have impacted our choice to switch brands or purchase something significant in our lives. Hence, the question is, why is influencer marketing still perceived as something new?
Marketing’s previous attempts at creating influencers
As influencers came before marketing, there was no way for marketing departments to identify, promote or communicate properly with these influencers. Early attempts at emulating the model of how products are promoted are through brand ambassadors. They are meant to embody the corporate identity in appearance, demeanour, values and ethics, while portraying the company in a positive light and manner.
For example, Leonardo DiCaprio was selected as the brand ambassador for Tag Heuer, and a range of product placements in a James Bond movie. This method had worked extremely well for luxury products such as watches, cars, and the latest phone models. However, for product categories such as makeup, food and consumable goods, this method failed to market to more discerning consumers.
Not all brand ambassadors are celebrities. Brand advocates who are extremely satisfied with a brand go out of their way to promote it. Although it may be hard to imagine the idea of an unpaid advertisement, they do exist for big brands such as Apple. Apple’s strong USP and belief in consumer satisfaction inspires customer loyalty and hence creates brand advocates. However, the behaviour of these advocates is unpredictable and difficult to control. If the relationship between the brand and the famous advocate turns sour, it could seriously damage the brand’s reputation.
The Internet Revolutionising things
As advertising began to overwhelm the Internet, Google drew consumers’ attention by placing advertisements among searches. At the same time, there was a prevailing sense of distrust towards obvious social media marketing campaigns and advertisements stemming from associating advertising with distracting popups. By early 2010, it was clear to the marketers that the old business model of media advertising was doing more harm than good. This coupled with the huge drop in advertising on websites made most marketers doubt the effectiveness of marketing via websites.
Influencers For A New Age
Despite the decline in advertising via websites, consumers are still keen to learn more about different products to compare them with alternatives. The trend of posting product reviews began with bloggers who gave honest opinions on products they have tested. Most Internet users were quick to trust the bloggers’ product reviews as they express the most critical and honest reviews.
According to a report by Nielsen, it was shown that a staggering amount of 92% of people are more likely to trust friends and families’ opinions than marketing ploys when searching for recommendations for products they wish to purchase. Only after consulting multiple reviews will consumers be able to form an opinion and make an informed purchase decision.
It was not long after social media marketing became more widely used that marketing companies started to contact social media influencers. They were offered products to try out and some were even signed on as secret brand ambassadors. However, this method did not work for long, as followers eventually realised certain brands were receiving too much praise too often.
Soon, social media influencers with larger followings began to charge for sponsored content, citing the need for a constant feed of quality content on their social media, which requires a lot of resources to produce. These influencers can craft professional-looking social media campaigns to push the brand further and at the same time post targeted advertisements on social media.
Social media influencers are also able to give the consumers more relevant and unacknowledged information than marketing can. Mobile advertisers are turning towards advertising through social media influencers on their social feeds.