Thought Leadership

Are we seeing a shift from celebrity to community in marketing and what will that mean for the future of marketing endorsement deals?

From the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement to the climate crisis, it is no longer hyperbole to declare that business as usual is no longer business at all.

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director

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Regardless of whether you believe the predictions that the coronavirus crisis will change marketing forever, there is no escaping the fact that 2020 has brought with it a tectonic shift across every industry. 

From the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement to the climate crisis, it is no longer hyperbole to declare that business as usual is no longer business at all. For the marketing industries on the sharp edges of this shift grappling with what constitutes ‘brand purpose’ is no longer the preserve of just marketing columnists, but an increasingly urgent business priority. 

For decades getting the right brand voice has been vital to building successful brands. In the current climate ‘tone’ has expanded to encompass not just what a brand says in its marketing channels and communications, but what it behaves like as a business. Everything from supply chains to gender and ethnicity pay gaps, to the diversity, or lack thereof on corporate boards. Arguably it has never been easier for a brand to appear ‘tone deaf’.

In the creative work, representing the lived experiences of the communities they seek to connect with, both in front of and behind the lens is rightly rising up the marketing agenda. ‘Authenticity’ perhaps the most misrepresented, overused and yet under-utilised tool in marketing is coming to the fore, not as a fleeting trend, but instead as a business necessity.

With this in mind we asked a selection of industry leaders what this shift means for the future of marketing endorsement deals.

By reaching out and connecting within their community, brands will only be strengthening a foundation that can support them should a crisis hit them again.

Molly Rowan Hamilton

Molly Rowan Hamilton

Molly, BrandOpus.JPG

Associate Strategy Director

BrandOpus

The cult of celebrity is dwindling. 2020 has made us question all the existing structures and systems around us. Faced with modern realities, we’ve been brought crashing down to earth, and it’s stopped us pining after the unattainable aspiration symbolised by celebrities and high-flying influencers, we previously held dear. At best, celebrities today feel un-relatable to many of us. At worst, think the Ellen DeGeneres comparison to her massive house feeling like “being in jail”, they feel out of touch. 

The crises accelerated a movement of community power. We’ve seen a dramatic change in who sits on the pedestal, with the crowning of heroes shifting to national and local front-line defence. It’s therefore no surprise that brands are moving away from endorsement deals with figureheads that feel disconnected from the reality their consumers are living today. Instead, they are increasingly looking to micro-influencers within a brand’s own community, those that helped build the brand in the first place, facilitating real, genuine and immediate connections for their consumers rather than ones that feel elevated, filtered and distant.  

By reaching out and connecting within their community, brands will only be strengthening a foundation that can support them should a crisis hit them again.

Don’t just now ‘do community’ for the sake of it, or because it feels like the right thing to do.

Helen Rainford

Helen Rainford

Helen Rainford BW.png

Managing Partner

Smarts

I think we’ve being seeing a shift away from classic celebrity endorsements for a while now. People can see through brands using celebrity for celebrity’s sake, and I think brands, even more so post-COVID, are also scrutinising the costs of bringing one on board. It’s no longer, who can we get for £x, it’s, what will we gain by working with a celebrity? Often the answer is not much.

That’s not to sound the death knell for using celebrities in marketing. But you absolutely need to have the right reason for choosing your ambassador and the content you create with them must have a natural synergy with the rest of your marketing. L’Oréal and Eva Longoria proved during lockdown how effective an endorsement can be when it all comes together.

Whilst the industry does shift further to focus on community, I hope the lessons learnt from celebrity endorsements are carried over. Don’t just now ‘do community’ for the sake of it, or because it feels like the right thing to do. Otherwise you can end up with similarly badged content. For every interchangeable celebrity endorsement campaign, we had a similar amount of interchangeable ‘real people’ campaigns over lockdown. Make sure that what you do has a purpose. Make sure it’s what your customers actually want. Then you shouldn’t go too far wrong. 

The genius thing is that with virtual platforms there’s room for all kinds of influencers, and there is content for everyone.

Fernando Angulo

Fernando Angulo

Fernando Angulo SEMrush 2.jpg

Head of Communications

SEMrush

Yes! Totally. Who doesn’t enjoy those 'I have no idea who that is, but I love what they’re doing' moments you get when you scroll Instagram or TikTok?

2020 and COVID-19 changed the influencer marketing landscape forever, and for good.

Celebrities are not the behemoths they used to be. The extraordinary reach they once had has not just dropped, it has been shared. The new celebrity rose further up the ranks this year as people have spent a lot of time looking for something to keep themselves occupied in lockdown. The highly skilled, funny, engaging and everyday musicians, marketers, dancers, cooks, singers, cleaners, parents and more that have kept us entertained on social media.

Ordinary people without a particularly remarkable background or story, but with something to say and share, many of them focused on delivering high value, but not necessarily high production value, content: good advice, tips, tricks, honest reviews. The genius thing is that with virtual platforms there’s room for all kinds of influencers, and there is content for everyone.

On the business side, working with macro-influencers can of course increase brand awareness on a huge scale. But working with micro-influencers can reach much more targeted audiences. You can gain more from community-feel influencers with smaller, niche followings compared to traditional celebrity sponsorship, for a lesser cost.

Trades are now the future of endorsement deals. Micro-influencers are not necessarily looking for monetary deals; they are looking for empowerment, amplification of their message and ultimately their exposure. If your brand has a robust online presence, you can trade that exposure for their support and engagement. The symbiotic nature of a partnership creates long term opportunities for your brand.

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