The celebrity spokesperson (or character) has been a marketing fixture since the dawn of advertising. By virtue of being famous, we figure, celebrities can create consumer enthusiasm around and influence the purchase of products that they endorse.
But when it comes to reaching our favorite audience, Millennials, big-name movie stars aren’t the only celebrities that influence hearts and minds. Social influencers like online vloggers and the ubiquitous Kardashians have established their own brand identities to market products beyond traditional advertising endorsements.
The Kardashian brand has expanded from their initial retail business, DASH clothing, to a full suite of products and platforms – perfume, dietary supplements, and even a mobile app. Others, born and bred on the Web, have amassed massive followings and cyber-celebrities like Lilly Singh (Coca-Cola) or Logan Paul (Dunkin Donuts) have woven brands into their content in a myriad of different ways.
It boils down to credibility, authenticity and trust, characteristics important to Millennials. According to ReferLinks Online Marketing, a third of surveyed Millennials say they are more likely to purchase a product if the approach is not an obvious sell. They want authenticity and a deeper reason to support a brand and buy a product.
According to Musefind, an influencer marketing platform, 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than an ad or traditional celebrity endorsement. Influencers like Michelle Phan (Ipsy) and Zoella (Zoella Beauty) have launched their own product lines based on the strength of their influence.
The formula behind working with influencers is simple:
1. Identify an influencer aligned with your target audience
2. Get product (as well as compensation) in their hands
3. Have them create content that encourages something similar to word-of-mouth marketing, what is also known as a social referral
While marketers have seemingly figured out the approach to reaching Millennials, a new generation is fast approaching. Born between 1997 and 2011, Gen Z is quickly coming of age. There are about 2 billion globally, approx. 27% of the world’s population.
This generation is the first to grow up with the Internet as their primary media source. Streaming is their primary method of consumption, from TV shows to video clips to music. Gen Z is comfortable with technology and reliant on social media websites for a significant portion of their socializing.
Having grown up through the Great Recession, this generation is also frugal and brand wary.
They are impatient with brands that don’t offer connected, personalized experiences. They seek transparency, challenge authenticity, and desire one-to-one relationships with brands. Brands will need to create a deeper, more meaningful dialogue with Gen Z than how they spoke to Millennials by sharing their story, purpose and values.
This is where micro-influencers will continue to gain traction; those used for their relevance to a brand, not their follower count.
Micro-influencers can create a more intimate relationship between a brand and the Gen Z consumer through compelling content. They can talk about a brand’s values and purpose in a way that will resonate, maintaining full transparency. There will need to be a focus on imagination and strong visuals leveraging technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
That’s where we as research and media professionals come to the forefront.
Marketers must identify the appropriate influencers, measuring trustworthiness on specific subjects and degree of affinity that consumers have with them. Recognizing the proper media channels to effectively carry this mindset and engage the next generation is vital to the success of these campaigns.
To be successful, we must think like Gen Z. That is why we at MBMG are actively engaging with them to understand what truly makes them tick.
For example, with 72% of Gen Z visiting YouTube daily, we counsel clients that associating with a YouTube influencer whose passions and tone align with their brand makes a lot of sense. If marketers want to be relevant to this audience, YouTube should take center stage in any influencer strategy.
When it comes to social media, brevity is key. With the average attention span having fallen to about 8 seconds, brands that can create immediate, authentic and impactful messages will win Gen Z’s attention. It’s no surprise that Instagram and Snapchat have their highest usage by this audience.
Regardless of the generation a brand wants to talk to, it’s critical that the marketer understands they will have to relinquish control and loosen the reigns on these influencers and give them freedom to create something authentic. This can be frightening to brands who have historically worked with creative agencies for development of their communication content.
On a personal note, as a Boomer, I am grateful for another benefit of Gen Z: they help me with all of my computer and smartphone problems.