Is Online Influencer Marketing Headed for a Crash?

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Influencer Marketing is almost the polar opposite of mass marketing. Instead of throwing advertising money out the window with large campaigns to the public, influencer marketing is using celebrities or high profile bloggers to entice a target audience to embrace a product. The concept itself is nothing new. When Victoria Principal, Alyssa Milano, and other stars began endorsing anti-aging creams and hair products on late night television infomercials the orders came pouring in.

Sometimes influencer marketing is quite accidental, like in the pre-internet days when Diane Keaton showed women that it was cool to wear men’s neckties and floppy hats in the film “Annie Hall”. Fashion designers were ready with that eclectic fashion look available at upscale stores like Bloomingdales. With the advent of the Internet and social media, Influencer Marketing exploded. When you check your Instagram account or log into your favorite fashion blogger’s website there’s a high probability that you will see an example of Influencer Marketing.

What is it?

Influence Marketing differs from celebrity endorsement, as the Influencer claims that the product is part of their everyday life, not just a brand with their name on it. The consumer is buying into a lifestyle they would aspire to not just an item to use. A stellar example of this is how fashion maven Doe Deere used social media like Instagram and her beauty blog to get followers called “Unicorns” to promote through their own photos and blogs news and product buzz.

Her social media strategy made her indie makeup company, Lime Crime Cosmetics a hit. Young women log into her site to read her blogzine and see what this controversial entrepreneur will do next. Interspersed with her personal relatable stories and fashion advice is a cleverly crafted marketing campaign, that revolves more around Ms. Deere, the self-proclaimed “Queen of the Unicorns” than her products. She’s selling a lifestyle to girls who want to be like her–daring, beautiful and creative.

Will it fall?

There’s no doubt that Online Influencer Marketing has been wildly successful. Just last year The Social Times headlined an article titled “10 Reasons why Influencer Marketing is the Next Big Thing.” Not unlike the housing bubble, influencer marketing is riding a wave that inevitably crash. It’s so big that now companies can hire “influencers” that aren’t A-List Celebrities but know how to reach millennial buyers to sell under the guise of relating to them. It seems that this marketing style is the way to go for big and small brands.

The problem is that while advertising costs and the price of soaring influencers to push a product are going up, what the target audience is willing to spend can’t keep up the pace. Unemployment and underemployment are still factors that bar potential customers from clicking the order button. Another factor is that sometimes online influencer marketing misses the mark. A male sports personality that poses provocatively on Instagram to sell cologne may get more female viewers than males who will actually buy the product. With student loans and an affordable housing crisis bearing down on recent college graduates, millennials have to be more careful with their money.

Types of Users

Not everyone is singing the praises of Influencer Marketing. A recent article on Vision Critical cites that there are different types of social media users. At the high end are “enthusiasts” who are wired all the time and susceptible to bloggers and advertorial content, but on the other spectrum there are light social media users, or lurkers, who use the web but are not often exposed or influenced by Influencers. Advertisers who put the lion’s share of their marketing budget in one basket are missing out on these potential customers.

Oversaturation

There is also the problem of oversaturation. There is no shortage of “Sponsored Content” which is placed to look like news but is really a call to action to buy a brand endorsed by the subject of the article. Consumers are getting wise to this tactic and are clicking and skimming faster to what they really want to see. The online audience is so used to being “sold to” that Influencer Marketing is losing its impact. Some of the fashion wear promoted is so outlandishly impractical and inappropriate for everyday wear, the target consumer will just click, gawk and move on without buying.

A celebrity known for scandal and bad behavior may attract people to the page, but not to see what he or she is wearing. An example of this is the Kardashians. Kim was the queen of Influencer Marketing. The article admitted that she was no longer the number one followed personality on Instagram and had run into trouble with the FDA. Though still influential, and despite her best branding and PR efforts, those who Google her now are more interested in the feud between Taylor Swift and her hubby than what sort of product she is promoting.

In the news controversial subscription services to companies that sell clothing and shoes are getting new customers due to celebrity front personalities but are not able to retain them due to problems with the products and services. Some of these companies like Zappos and Birchbox are using professional bloggers to promote their wares but if the customer is not satisfied or if the product does not deliver, there is no way to spin customer loyalty.

Teens and Influencer Marketing

Parents are becoming more aware of the relationship between Influence Marketing and teens. It’s more than just a commercial that pops up during programming and goes away, it the selling of an attitude, a way of living that robs teens of their individuality while pumping them up with ideas related to products often touted by relatable “influencers” that seem like one of their peers. The dichotomy between real life and branding is blurred in covert content.

Todays’ audience, particularly those with college educations and disposable income, are not so easy to manipulate. The gloss of social media marketing by influencers seems to be running its course. Consumerism is slowly taking second place to social consciousness. Events around the world like terror attacks, poverty, policing, crime and an election that could change the world are taking center stage. Social media is no longer the shiny new toy, users are sophisticated and decide where they want to spend their precious time and money.

Online Influencer Marketing is still having a heyday; however, advertising by people strolled down the street wearing two sided billboard boards was once popular too.

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