Can Influencer Marketing actually cut through the noise?

Written by: Monika Loeffler



The internet grows exponentially

It’s very noisy out there in the digital sphere. With 547.200 Tweets, 123.060 posts on Instagram and 2.780.000 video views per minute the internet is crowded, noisy and busy. This massive content had a huge growth with the emergence of Web 2.0 and an even bigger growth with the increase in Social Media platforms. 

Online Marketing methods have to reflect the evolution of the internet

Mature online Marketing methods such as Google and Facebook ads face great challenges. Online advertising becomes increasingly inefficient due to ad blockers, click fraud and consumer blindness (Bino, 2016). Moreover, cost for Google and Facebook ads increased tremendously (Bino, 2016). 

Primarily “Social Media was made for Consumers, not for brands” (Fournier & Avery, 2011, p. 193). Social Media Platforms contribute to brand awareness and Consumers’ likes, tweets and shares increase brand visibility online tremendously (Anon., 2015). This brought along new opportunities for Marketing – one recently emerged term is Influencer Marketing. With Influencer Marketing - the big thing of 2015 and 2016 - Marketers try to cut through the noise and reach the consumer again. 

Influencer Marketing – new or newly painted?

Influencer Marketing: the “Golden Goose” for Marketers in 2015/16 (Newman, 2015) is extremely hyped but it might not be new after all. Influencer Marketing follows the good old concept of a “trusted advisor” (Brown & Hayes, 2007) and can be defined “as a form of marketing that identifies and targets individuals with influence over potential buyers.” (Wong, 2014). Whereby this loose definition points at the initial task of a Marketing department, Influencer Marketing furthermore comprises at least three different activities. Firstly, a company can market “to influencers, to increase awareness of the firm within the influencer community” (Wikipedia, n.d.). Secondly, a company can market “through influencers, using influencers to increase market awareness of the firm amongst target markets” (Wikipedia, n.d.). And thirdly, a company can market “with influencers, turning influencers into advocates of the firm” (Wikipedia, n.d.)

The beginning of Influencer Marketing was marked by celebrities and popular content provider online (Wong, 2014). This is not very different from older TV commercials featuring celebrities and leveraging their popularity to increase brand awareness and build up trust in the brand. Social Media enabled more and common people to publish content with an enormous reach. With an average daily usage of almost 2 hours (106,2 minutes exactly) (Statista, 2015), Social Media is where the consumer is to be found today. That way, the girl next door can create a channel with a great number of followers. Marketers built on this development, because today “Consumers decide if – and when – brands are invited” (Fournier & Avery, 2011, p. 206). 

Influencer Marketing - taking a ride on the hype curve

Critical voices towards Influencer Marketing are scarce but existing. Some early critics point out that there is little to no evidence that Influencer Marketing actually increases sales and only little to no “predictive power” when it comes to influence and the chance to generate a viral sharing of content (Satell, 2014). Critics grow stronger and more confident in claiming that “Bikini models on Instagram don’t sell bikinis” (Bino, 2016). There is a rising risk that Marketing Departments lose sight of their business goal in pursuit of engaging in whatever hype comes along. There are rising voices to stay focused, to not entirely abandon the basics of Marketing and get the basics right (Barwise & Meehan, 2010). After all each company wants to sell and Marketing departments have a share of responsibility to generate revenue (Kotler, et al., 2006). 

Gartner Inc. is regularly assessing the status of various emerging marketing methods and technologies (2016). With the increasing speed of innovation companies are fearing to “miss the wagon” if applying new methods too late. However, if technologies are used too early and too inconsiderate, resources are wasted. Influencer Marketing is no exception. New companies have risen from the ground and Marketing departments have allocated tremendous effort and money.

  Starting point is most clearly Social Media as technology trigger. It has never been so easy to broadcast oneself and see proof of likes and followers as with the corresponding buttons. The peak of inflated expectations has been nurtured by individual success stories and led companies towards the assumption “bikini models on Instagram sell bikinis.” Failures and well-reasoned skepticism (Satell, 2014; Bino, 2016) let us skip this peak of inflated expectations by now. But frustration at the point of being through of disillusionment has also passed, because Deloitte, McKinsey and Tomoson provide good quantified reason to actually believe in Influencer Marketing. So, how does Influencer Marketing need to be applied to actually reach the aspired productivity gains?

Influencer Marketing applied effectively

Researchers and Practitioners agree; the game might have changed to a different field but the rules are still the same; identify the target audience, identify relevant channels as well as relevant content (Barwise & Meehan, 2010; Bino, 2016). In the case of Influencer Marketing; also identify the Influencer according to the target audience (Hall, 2015; Conner, 2016). 

1. Choose the Influencer according to your audience

Taking Pampers (Procter & Gamble) and Clean & Clear (Johnson & Johnson) as examples, both engage in Influencer Marketing with Influencer in their brand’s channel. Pampers features supposedly real mothers with newborns providing advice for their target group. Pampers target group of parents buying baby products most likely believe a person that is in their shoes. Thus their Influencer Marketing follows the principal “she’s a mom like me” (Conner, 2016). Clean & Clear features among other Lauren Giraldo and Meghan Rosette, regular girls but well-known Influencer among Teen-girls, as well as celebrities such as Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony. Clean & Clear chooses Influencers that their target audience can either identify with or aspire. 

Examples from the automobile industry would be Land Rover targeting the market segment of SUVs. Land Rover features mostly experts in engineering or extreme adventurer. As such they follow the concept “she should know, she’s an expert” (Conner, 2016).  General Motors with its German brand “Opel” runs the campaign “ADAMyourself” featuring Nilam Farooq, Joao, Caroline, Lorna and many more; all rather general Lifestyle blogger but no engineering experts. This is due to the fact that Opel ADAM’s targets an audience mostly interested in the fun, customization aspect of the ADAM. 

Choosing the Influencer according to their target audience is crucial to conduct Influencer Marketing effectively, as a study by YouTube Advertisers proofs. The study shows how different Advertisements featuring different Influencer are received by different age groups. The audience aged between 18 and 24 recalled an ad featuring a regular person of a similar age explaining the product the most, whereby the audience aged between 35 and 45 recalled an ad featuring an expert in the field explaining the product the most. 

As Influencer Marketing matures, it also becomes clear that quality beats quantity (Hall, 2015). Intimate relationships with followers more likely entail engagement, comments and conversion into sales. Celebrities, such as Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian as the two most followed Instagrammers (Kosoff, 2015), might have great reaches but do not necessarily have great influence on the brand’s target audience. 

2. Choose the Channel according to the message

In terms of Marketing Channels, differentiation needs to be made between Marketing with or through the Influencer, in the age of Social Internet this means the brand’s channel or the influencer’s channel. 

Clean & Clear feature Meghan Rosette, Lauren Giraldo, Demi Lovato and Fifth Harmony on their brand’s YouTube Channel and in their campaign “See The Real Me”. Thereby transforming these Influencer rather into brand ambassadors. In contrast, Lauren on her YouTube channel publishes videos featuring products that she (supposedly) likes, e.g. her December Obsessions. Whether she is engaged with the different brands and actually paid to promote them is not obvious. 

Choosing between the brand’s or the influencer’s channel needs to follow primarily the channel use of your target audience. But this choice also impacts the credibility of the Influencer. Engaging with the Influencer on the brand’s channels transforms the influencer into a brand ambassador, whereby advertisement of a brand on the Influencer’s channel might appear more authentic.

Moreover, the evolution of the internet brings up new offerings whereby differentiation between brand’s vs. influencer’s channel become blurrier. For example, is one of the most successful blogs with 45.000.000 unique visitors monthly and 26.000.000 social media followers (, 2016). As of today has developed from a blog to a business offering advertisement through branded content, namely paying influencer to promote brands on their channels (, 2016). By engaging with this kind of businesses Marketing Department are required to hand over control of their brand to the Influencer (Christodoulides, 2009), whether it is an individual like Lauren Giraldo or a business such as 

3. Choose the content according to information demand

Taking a look at the content provided, the comparison between Land Rover and Opel provides obvious differences. Land Rover’s YouTube channel features several advertisements but first and foremost advertisements heavily loaded with product information. With YouTube being the Number 1 source to find product information as ground for decision making, Land Rover facilitates the decision making process with facts and figures. Land Rover heavily aspire to convince with detailed expertise. Opel in contrast aspire to convince with fun and emotion. Nilam explaining why she chooses Opel ADAM includes less product features but more fun and emotion. 

According to the target segment, the demand on detailed information is different and ads needs to address this demand. Opel targets a younger audience with less need for technical details, whereby Land Rover clearly is a luxury product targeting an older audience with a respective higher earning and demand for extensive information on product features. 

Influencer Marketing still follows the rules of the good old game

Social Media has changed the way Marketing is conducted nowadays; first and foremost, it has changed the space where Marketing is conducted, namely online. But Marketing ground rules still hold true; Your target audience decides who, where and what. The kind of Influencer might have changed, because not only celebrities but also the girl next-door can be an Influencer. The channel is online but choice need to be made according to the message. Either the brand is loaded with the influencer following the concept of brand ambassadorship or the product is promoted through the influencer’s opinion. The choice of content again follows the information demand of the target audience. 

Acknowledging the hype about Influencer Marketing but keeping it in perspective, shows Marketing nowadays is conducted on a new field with some additional player, but the basic rules are still the same. Influencer Marketing is not an ultimate tool to cut through any noise, if used inconsiderately will actually just add to the noise. But if used wisely, I can be an effective method to reach the consumer. As any other method, Influencer Marketing needs to follow the traditional rules of Marketing and needs to be executed according to the brand’s target audience by choosing their influencer, advertisement channel and content according to it. It is not so different after all. 













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