Influencer Marketing VS Celebrity Endorsements

Celebrity endorsements have been used by businesses in all types of industries for quite some time, delivering positive effects on brand image, consumer buying behaviour, and of course, financial performance. Every year, businesses spend large sums of money on employing celebrities to endorse and promote their products, services, and brands.

McDonald’s is a prime example of utilising the name-value of celebrities to garner consumer attention. Their list of endorsed celebrities includes Britney Spears, Ashley Olsen, and Morgan Freeman, all of whom have produced promising results using advertising campaigns. The ROI (return on investment) of celebrity endorsement is the most notable aspect of this marketing tool. Generally, businesses see an average increase of 4% in stock price and sales after they launch the signing of a celebrity endorser.

Furthermore, according to an influencer marketing study conducted by Tomoson (2015), businesses can make $9.25 for every $1.42 spent on influencer marketing, making it potentially one of the most cost-effective customer acquisition channels.

Although, it’s still important to note that not all celebrities are equally influential. Just because a particular celebrity did well for a certain brand, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will benefit your brand in the same way. For that reason, selecting the perfect celebrity endorser has become a common issue among marketers and managers.

Celebrity endorsers are traditionally movie stars, models, and athletes. But with the increasing popularity of social media, even “ordinary” people can now also become famous and influential. This new type of celebrity is usually referred to as a “social media influencer” or “microcelebrity”. Hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have ventured into partnerships with social media influencers and received positive results.

In this article, we are going to dive into the differences between traditional celebrities and influencers and how to identify the proper endorser that best suits your business’s needs.

Traditional Celebrities

Celebrity endorsers are commonly musicians, actors, chefs, and other forms of professionals that make them public figures. They enjoy fame and public attention for their achievements from their skills or expertise in their craft. Research shows that celebrity endorsements can result in consumer attention attraction, invoke positive consumer reactions, and increase the chances of purchases when compared to a non-celebrity endorsement. Successful celebrity endorsements can result in significant financial benefits for the companies that employ them, such as positive stock returns.

The power of persuasion of these celebrities comes from their popularity, fame, recognition, admirability, trendiness, and fashion sense. These attributes that they possess are the prime reasons why celebrities are so influential to others. A popular and good-looking celebrity is said to have more “star power”, also known as celebrity power, which has been established to be effective in meeting the customer’s need for status.

For example, a study showed that consumers felt that popularity was one of the most important factors to be considered for marketers when it came to choosing celebrity endorsers. Another study also found that people with an inflated need for power responded more positively to a spokesperson with high social status compared to one with low social status.

Basically, celebrities with global fame can aid companies to overcome a variety of roadblocks, such as time, space, and language in an international market.

Social Media Influencers

Social media influencers as a concept have progressed following the increase in popularity of referencing social media content, such as peer reviews or comments, when making the decision to purchase products or services.

The rapid increase in popularity of social media platforms enables “ordinary” people to create an online persona of themselves with the narrative of their daily lives through social media content like blog posts, photos, and videos. This allows them to make use of their authentic personal brands to grow attention for themselves and build a significant fanbase of followers. Social media influencers, also known as microcelebrities, can be anything from unknown high school girls, fitness trainers, and industry experts, to just extremely wealthy people that live extravagant lifestyles. Their broad online reach and personal branding give them almost the same influential power as traditional celebrities when it comes to influencing consumer purchasing behaviors.

What Are The Differences?

The majority of academic investigations on the effectiveness of social media endorsers have been contextualized in the realm of source credibility, meaning that the information is credible. Credibility in this context refers to “the extent to which the source is perceived as possessing expertise relevant to the communication topic and can be trusted to give an objective opinion on the subject”. Social media influencers are commonly perceived as trustworthy, credible, and authentic as their opinions and information that they share with their audience is considered non-commercial conversation and is relatively unaffected by manipulation from companies.

In addition, influencers are usually seen as an inspiration for how “normal” people would want to live their lives. The content they post acts as a “catalog” of what most young people nowadays dream of having and the type of lifestyle they dream of living. They portray a life that their followers do not have but wish they had. Also, influencers act as mediators between companies and consumers. They create a space for consumers to communicate about matters that should affect their purchase decisions, such as reviews or concerns about a particular product or service. This makes social media influencers an effective tool for businesses to communicate with consumers.

Another difference between social media influencers and traditional celebrities is the extent of their reach to followers and potential followers. Social media influencers are usually only able to use their influence on their existing followers, beyond that, their impact is quite limited. Celebrities are able to also influence other people beyond their followers as they are familiar faces to many. As such, the way in which a celebrity and an influencer are utilized for endorsement shall be different. Influencers can be used on a monthly basis for smaller marketing campaigns like social media posts and content, targeting their followers. On the other hand, the image of the celebrities will be used to reach their existing fanbase and more people beyond that as they are suitable for both social media postings and larger adverting campaigns.

Both types of endorsers are associated with their own unique challenges that should be considered by their employers. For traditional celebrity endorsements, ineffectiveness can occur if the celebrity is overexposed to the public. This causes the perceived connection between the celebrity and the endorsed product or service to become meaningless. There is also the issue of consumers simply just not being a fan of celebrity endorsements or when celebrities are suddenly involved in scandals crimes or other negative associations that could damage the reputation of the celebrity and the endorsed product or service.

However, even though social media influencers are popular and engaging, they are not professionally trained and may not always successfully communicate the intended message properly and clearly or in the best way to generate actual purchases.

Generally, it is not unknown that the industry for endorsers is rapidly growing with an increasing amount of brands utilizing the benefits of the unique influential power and vast reach of celebrities and influencers. That is why it is more important than ever for employers to choose wisely when deciding to enter a long-term partnership with potential endorsers to ensure a beneficial and sustainable experience.

Marketers and managers must choose endorsers carefully by taking into consideration the characteristics of each type of endorser, such as their respective influence mechanisms and challenges, as well as the company’s desired markets’ potential response to the endorsement activity. After all, at the end of the day, the consumer’s experience is what matters the most.


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