The influencer market soared from $9.7 billion in 2020 to $13.8 billion in 2021. It’s projected to expand to a $15 billion industry by the end of 2022. As the “holy grail” of influencer marketing, celebrity partnerships have the power to exponentially boost brand awareness. Successful ones will see loyalty and affinity for a company or product. Most of us can remember a time when we saw one of our favourite celebrities promoting a brand. And, more importantly, felt compelled to check it out.
Not all celebrity partnerships deliver the same impact. It’s important to proceed with a thoughtful strategy when considering using someone’s name, face, and likeness to endorse your brand.
You’ll need to consider a list of critical things while evaluating who to engage: their audience, their following, their engagement. But beyond the numbers, authenticity and brand alignment are two of the most important factors for success. This is where brands often get it wrong when pursuing high calibre brand ambassadors.
Here are some tips I’ve learned to help you be the brand to get it right.
Define your objectives and deliverables
As with any new project, it’s critical to kick off the influencer search by clearly defining the objective you want the campaign to achieve. Ask yourself: are you hiring an influencer to help refresh your brand’s reputation? Are you solely focused on boosting sales? Do you want more brand awareness? Sure, celebrities can certainly lend credibility to your business. But, in order to make progress, you need to first clearly outline your desired assets and campaign initiatives.
Importantly, understanding your campaign objectives before negotiating contracts will save you time, energy, and money. When my company Molekule partnered with Derek Hough around the launch of the Air Mini device, we outlined dedicated commitments to conduct press interviews and curated content in order to amplify the partnership and gain a larger reach.
Clearly defining your goals will ensure you’re picking the celebrity influencer who will bring the most value to the business.
Authenticity is imperative
Authenticity can’t be forced. But this isn’t a limitation, it’s an opportunity to create greater impact. Your existing and potential new customers demand authenticity. It’s critical to choose a celebrity influencer who aligns with your brand and values.
Spend time having conversations with your customers and your stakeholders to learn more about their interests. Consider completing an intent to purchase survey prior to bringing on a brand ambassador. This can give you insight into why your customers are buying your product and therefore the type of influencer you should invest in.
Last year, Molekule learned that design and aesthetics are among the top reasons our customers choose to purchase our air purifiers. For a brand that’s rooted in science and education, this information enabled us to lean more deeply into our design principles. With new data to support decision-making, it made perfect sense to launch a celebrity partnerships campaign with celebrity design expert Bobby Berk. The partnership taught our customers how they can style functional pieces in the home and design with health in mind. Early indicators have shown that some of these campaign ads have had a 1.5x higher Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) than non-influencer ads.
Your campaign content also needs to “fit the feed.” In order to seamlessly integrate your two brands, search for celebrity partners who will complement existing content. Brand the two personalities with shared values and objectives. Take Charli D’Amelio’s 2020 partnership with Dunkin Donuts, for example. While it’s not unique to love iced coffee, no demographic loves iced coffee as much as Gen Z does. As the quintessential Gen Z influencer, D’Amelio’s partnership with the coffee brand made sense to her audience. Dunkin saw a 57 percent increase in app downloads on launch day. The chain sold hundreds of thousands of Charli’s signature drink within days of launching.
Other great celebrity success stories include Athleta partnering with Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix to promote female empowerment following her rift with Nike. Or Dolly Parton and Dunkin Hines’ co-branded cake mix that sold out in five minutes. One of my personal favourites is Post Malone and Justin Bieber essentially putting the quirky shoe brand, Crocs, back on the map.
I’ve seen brands get creative with collaboration too, like when Bumble and Babe Wine partnered to cover post-breakup moving costs during the pandemic. The stunt was estimated to reach 75 percent of U.S. consumers ages 18 to 24. It drove a 79 percent surge in off-premise sales. Successful partnerships can catapult your brand across every metric if done right.
Follower count isn’t everything
Brands often get stuck on the idea that bigger followings equate to bigger or better campaign outcomes. This isn’t necessarily true. Campaign metrics like open rates, click through rates, and conversions are all influenced by campaign structure and the quality of the audience, not follower count. The same goes with advertising strategies. Success is based on how you use the audience’s engagement behaviours to attract more qualified leads.
Test & learn
As you god down your own celebrity partnerships’ route, just remember that there will be some trial and error. There’s an opportunity to learn about your target audience and what resonates with them in every campaign. Not just in terms of lead conversions but the types of assets that are the most effective (static vs. video, product shots vs. lifestyle shots, etc.). Influencer marketing is as much of an art as it is a science. Sometimes it’s best to start small and learn more as you go. If you keep brand authenticity at the centre of your campaign and listen to feedback, you’ll be able to scale these initiatives, monetise them to drive revenue or lead generation for your brand, and make influencer partnerships invaluable to the business.
Stephanie Borman is the vice president of global marketing communications at Molekule.