I am part of Generation X – the last generation that ever scheduled their childhood evenings around when a beloved TV program was set to air. It was a time when television created celebrities that brands coveted as spokespeople to promote their products. Think of Michael Jordan for Nike, Suzanne Somers for the ThighMaster or Michael Jackson for Pepsi.
Gen Y is wired differently. They spend notably less time watching TV programming -- regardless of the device -- and increasingly more time on social media. The stars that most influence Gen Y are social-media influencers over TV and movie stars due to the sheer frequency by which this generation is exposed to their content.
This trend has spurred the rise of influencer marketing, which is marketing to those who influence your targeted customers versus marketing to those prospective customers directly. Naturally, brands are seeking influencers with large, engaged online followings that align most closely with the demographics and psychographics of their target market.
A recent study by eMarketer indicates that 84 percent of brand marketers will be deploying at least one influencer marketing campaign over the next year. Another study, conducted by Google, reports that 70 percent of teenage YouTube subscribers relate to YouTube influencers more than traditional celebrities. It’s safe to say this is a trend occurring on other social platforms and one that has permeated the coveted Gen Y consumer, as well.
The advertising industry is changing and those brands that fail to realize it will lose market share. It’s not just the younger generations either; consumers overall don't enjoy ads. That’s why they’re diverting their attention to their phones or tablets when forced to sit through an unwanted commercial. Successful brands are incorporating their brands into what consumers are paying attention to – organically.
So how do you dip your toe into the influencer marketing pool? Start by partnering with an organization that already has these partnerships formed and knows the ins and outs of what is legal. The rise in popularity of influencer marketing has caught the attention of the FTC, and there are laws you must abide by that rightfully protect consumers. For example, you must leave it to the influencer to form his own opinion of your products or services, thereby allowing him to create his own related content (videos, photos and editorial about your brand), unless you opt to prominently disclose that the endorsement is paid. Warner Brothers learned this lesson the hard way in a suit the media giant settled in 2016.
As influencer marketing continues to gain momentum, the cost of this advertising medium will grow as well. Now is the time to get on the train before it leaves the proverbial station without you.
Lori Turner-Wilson can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.