For many years, the conventional wisdom among marketers has been that celebrity endorsements are a good thing. From the days of radio stars to the internet celebrities of the modern age, companies have been willing to pay out big bucks for a few good words from a famous "fan" of their products. But is it worth it? Recent research suggests that some consumers, especially Millennials, are becoming more wary of some celebrity endorsements.
Celebrity endorsements remain valuable in many situations; it's why celebrities still get millions to wear certain clothes or to put logos on their uniform. However, there is growing evidence that among certain demographics, non-celebrity endorsements carry just as much weight, if not more, with consumers.
Collective Bias recently surveyed an impressive 14,000 U.S. consumers to see how they respond to celebrity endorsements in marketing and advertising. The researchers found that nearly a third (30 percent) of shoppers are more likely to purchase a product endorsed by a non-celebrity blogger than a celebrity. The effective was even more pronounced amongst Millennials.
There are a lot of reasons for people to distrust celebrity endorsements. Slapping celebrity's face on the box doesn't make a product good. For every Foreman Grill, there are dozens of stinkers like Hulk Hogan Pasta and Shaq Fu. As a generation raised on advertising and currently living on nostalgia, Millennials remember the many times celebrity endorsements burned them in the past.
Worst still, many celebrity endorsements come off as insincere. Mainly because they are. Samsung makes great products, but they have a habit of paying celebrities to endorse their products who seem to love their iPhones. Similarly, whether it's the Surface Tablet or their Windows Phones, Microsoft is having similar troubles. After witnessing so many such gaffes, it makes sense that celebrity endorsement has lost a little of its luster in the eyes of the public.
The internet is also a big part of why non-celebrity endorsements are growing in importance. People are already turning to the internet for research when they shopping. According to Collective Bias, nearly 60 percent of their survey respondents reported having taken a blog review or social media post viewed on a smartphone or tablet into consideration while shopping in-store. So in essence, people are searching for these non-celebrity endorsements.
This research is interesting, but it's important to remember that the effectiveness of endorsements depends on a variety of factors. In certain situations, a celebrity endorsement can be more genuine than reviews from everyday people. A good example of this can be seen through Nike endorsements for professional athletes. They are good celebrity endorsements since athletes know how to pick good shoes for their sports. So if the chance to get a genuine celebrity endorsement comes up, business owners should probably jump at the opportunity.
That said, the rise of non-celebrity endorsements creates new opportunities and challenges for business owners that want to use popular figure to sway public opinion. First, it's much easier to reach a blogger to get them to try a product than it is to reach a celebrity. And with so many to choose from, it's likely that businesses can find a popular blogger who is willing to do an endorsement of their product; provided it meets basic standards.
As the data from Collective Bias suggests, business owners who are targeting Millennials should consider finding popular bloggers to review and endorse their products. It's far less costly than getting a celebrity endorsement, and it will mean more to the target audience.
However, the rise of such non-celebrity endorsements has led to calls for more transparency. Last year, the FTC issued new guidelines for blogs, podcasts, etc. for what needs to be disclosed to the audience when content is sponsored. This is why the titles of blog posts and videos about sponsored products have the word "Sponsored" somewhere in the title.
Even Google is throwing its weight behind efforts for better transparency for non-celebrity endorsements. Earlier this year, Google warned bloggers of potential SEO penalties if they frequently post sponsored content as if it were genuinely produced (i.e. non influenced by money or free products). This includes making it known in the SEO structure of the post.
These efforts to make non-celebrity endorsements more transparent may cause a slight decline in their value to Millennials, but not by much. So long as the review or endorsement comes from a blogger that's well-known in that interest group, then the fact that they got paid a little won't deter their fans.
Influencer marketing as we see it on the internet today is a relatively new thing, so we'll have to wait to see how much it grows and evolves in the future. There may come a time when more people look to bloggers than celebrities for reviews.