Why Social Influencers Are Effective Brand Ambassadors
We all have images of what we want, and aspire to be. Women of all ages want to feel beautiful, sexy, and glamorous. Men want to feel strong, bold, and masculine. Accordingly, marketing campaigns for luxury brands are designed specifically to stoke the aspirational flame and make us feel more fabulous when we are carrying an Hermès bag or driving a Bentley.
With that said, it is not surprising that celebrities are often asked to become brand ambassadors. When we see Charlize Theron donning a Chanel gown, or Roger Federer wearing a Rolex, we associate the brand with an alluring lifestyle that is, for the most part, impossible to attain. Luxury houses want these iconic figures to represent their brands because they look the part, and because they fit the brand image—what the brand stands for. Celebrities are attractive, and psychological research has repeatedly demonstrated that whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we find attractive individuals more likeable. By endorsing brands, celebrities create what is called a halo effect around these brands—they make the brands appear even more attractive and alluring than they already are. The reverse is also true, of course; luxury brands create a halo effect around the celebrities (and anyone, for that matter) who consume them. So when we see A-list celebrities living their lavish lifestyle that is brimming with luxury brands, we inherently understand that they live in a different universe, but—or perhaps precisely for that reason—we still aspire to be like them. In effect, these synergistic partnerships between luxury brands and celebrities have been a key component of marketing campaigns for decades.
However, recently, more and more businesses—both luxury and non-luxury—have been engaging a new generation of social influencers to help promote their brands. Dior recently launched its “J’Adior Dior Shoes” online popup campaign, which is structured around 4 female social influencers. In contrast to the more typical ambassadors such as actors, musicians, and athletes, social influencers are consumers who have a strong following on social media sites such as Instagram and YouTube.
So why do businesses want them to represent their brand? What additional value do they bring to the table?
The simple answer is that they fit “ the Goldilocks criteria.” They feel more relatable than celebrities do, yet still have significant social cachet. Sure, they do not run in the same circles as Karlie Kloss and Justin Bieber do, but they are also more celebrity-like than we are. After all, there must be a reason why millions of Instagrammers find their posts worth following. When we look at social influencers, we feel that perhaps if we ventured out more to interesting restaurants to snap photos of delectable bites, were more diligently on the lookout for the next hottest item to Tweet about, or used better filters on our pet photos, we could gain more followers and eventually be noticed by Moët Chandon or Burberry. We feel that if we wanted to, and that if we tried a little harder, we could be more like them, or even become one of them. What they have and are, feels more attainable than what Gigi Hadid has or is.
It is a fact that we are naturally drawn to, and are more easily persuaded by, people who are more like us. This is what the renowned psychologist Robert Cialdini aptly calls the principle of liking. We like people who are more similar to us, because they are more relatable and make us feel more comfortable. From this perspective, it can be argued that social influencers represent a more persuasive marketing tool than do celebrities, especially if they are perceived as the authority figure in the endorsed brand’s space. According to Cialdini, we are inclined to obey authority figures, because we automatically assume that they know best. So if a yoga instructor with over a million followers endorses Lululemon, we will feel very motivated to buy Lululemon leggings to bring to our next retreat.
Given that young consumers pay close attention to the authenticity and relatability of brands, we should expect social influencers to continue to be an essential part of the marketing strategy. In fact, one could even claim that influencers are now a requisite component of any brand building endeavor.
About the author
Dr. Mirei Takashima Claremon is a global branding and consumer expert who has been active in the marketing field for over a decade. She runs her own global marketing consulting firm, and helps companies launch brands into culturally different markets by creating customized and effective marketing and brand-building strategies. She possesses keen insights into Asian consumers that she has gained through in-depth empirical research on Asian consumers’ luxury purchasing habits as well as what drives their brand loyalty.