How bloggers dethroned the endorsement power of celebrities

In a sleek, elegant and minimalist world of design spearheaded by Jony Ive (product), Tom Ford (fashion) and Zaha Hadid (architecture), to name but a few, who would guess that the chunky, clunky and colourful Dr Dre’s Beats headphones would become such a hit?

For a teen target audience, there is also an imaginary world of muscular, good-looking and righteous superheroes and who better than Olympians to become the poster boys and girls of this sonic wearable device that promises you’ll “hear all the music”.

Dr Dre made its mark on the 2012 London Olympics with the idea of sending athletes special versions of his Beats headphones, complete with personalisation and decked out in national colors. Boom!

It was as if those headphones were the source of superpowers to those men and women breaking world records while simultaneously looking so stylish.

And, Dre did it again! Days before the beginning of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, the five-minute film ‘The game before the game’ (TGBTG) was released, featuring Brazil’s Neymar, Germany’s Götze and Holland’s Van Persie, among other soccer stars.

Celebrity status, however, could be facing the beginning of the end of its mystique and appeal. Andy Warhol’s prophecy has been fulfilled and nowadays literally anyone can be a public figure, contributing to the commoditisation of this ‘influencer’s class’.

What follows, as it could not be different, is disruption.

An article published by the Australian Financial Review, just a couple of weeks ago, states that independent bloggers overtook celebrities as key social media influencers. This finding came from Brand Data – a new daily ranking index of digital and social media identities and 5000 brands – that revealed that, “Australia’s top six bloggers now have a larger combined audience than the highest-selling magazine, newspaper and TV program collectively”.

Brand Data CEO Georgie Summerhayes notes that, “many bloggers now have significantly higher audience engagement levels than celebrities”. For those working in medialand and especially in a PR or search function or division, blogger outreach campaigns have never been so hot! Clients crave for authentic connections to their audiences and bloggers look and feel more like everyday people.

Besides that, blogger talent has improved dramatically which, added to their cost-effectiveness, becomes a more compelling investment than the very costly and unpredictable world of celebrity management. Moreover, by using effective research and data analysis it’s possible to deploy blogger outreach strategies targeting larger audiences with more relevant content and delivering campaigns with higher engagement without the costs associated with celebrity endorsement.

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But what are the rules we should use to maximise bloggers’ influence? Just having a high number of followers is just not enough. According to Ipsos KMG Ad Watch Analysis, 10 out of 15 of the most recalled and liked ads were supported by an endorser that was well-aligned to a brand. But choosing the right personality is no easy task.

Under this new reality of producing and influencing through content, there should be a mix of casting (the process used to select celebrities) and recruiting (the process used to select bloggers) because beyond producing their own blog content, superstar bloggers may also be required to act, speak in public as well as engage with other influencers to cross-sell their sway to bigger audiences.

A few of those rules could be defined by:

1. Credibility

The endorsers’ ability to transfer a certain degree of expertise and trustworthiness; ensure your blogger is a proven expert.

2. Attractiveness

When the endorser conveys a sense of affinity, popularity and likeability; reading a blog should ideally feel like catching up with a friend.

3. Value transfer

Happens when meaning is offered via personality and lifestyles; ideally the blogger should be part of the lifestyle he/she is blogging about to ensure audiences are neither being patronized nor underrepresented.

4. Flexibility

The capability of acting consistently across different media and interactions, leveraging the brand holistically. From static blogs to live tweets or live streams a blogger should be able to perform consistently.

5. Data-led

While celebrities represent projections of a social unconscious, search data can ensure bloggers actively play a part on the reality they blog about. By understanding what people are searching for it is possible to define what ‘type’ of blogger one should reach and by filtering your blogger shortlist against highest scoring domain authority ensures impact goes beyond existing consumers, attracting new ones. 

An endorser’s appropriateness to leverage a brand will be a result of the above factors. Traditional partnerships like Nike and Michael Jordan, George Clooney and Nespresso or even Omega and James Bond still are valuable but this model is gradually being disrupted by a more cost-effective alternative. The more focused, tech savvy and less expensive professional bloggers have emerged to become 21st century’s merchants of influence.

Sérgio Brodsky
BY Sérgio Brodsky ON 16 July 2015
Sérgio Brodsky is an internationally experienced brand marketing professional having worked for some of the world's greatest strategic communications agencies. Sérgio is a proven thought-leader, speaking at industry events, lecturing and regularly being published worldwide. He is passionate about cities and culture and the role of brands and technology in society. Sérgio is multilingual and holds a BA in IP law and an MBA in global brand strategy and innovation. Follow him on Twitter: @brandKzar.
  • Rebecca

    The rise of the blogger is about authenticity – people are looking for ‘truths’ and they no longer trust that celebrities are telling it. It’s no different to looking for the unique in this increasingly globalised and commodity oriented world.

    Another great article Sergio!

    • Sergio Brodsky

      On point Rebecca!

  • Daniel Slomka

    Hi Sergio, thanks for the great insights!

    I couldn’t agree more.
    Having been working with bloggers for a while on Boost the News, I think that your five (very good) points can be summarized into one basic argument: bloggers understand the rules of the internet better than anyone else. Many celebrities and brands have not yet digged what the online audience wants, and keep shooting to the wrong directions, wasting time and money, and often looking ridiculous.

    Bloggers understand, as you said (and as Rebecca mentions below), that rule number one is authenticity and credibility. They are people, not branding monsters, and this is what makes them so reliable and popular.

    What I would also add to your list as rule number two, is accessibility – working with bloggers you see how truly accessible they are, how they interact with their audience, react, respond, are part of the audience’s lives. Interaction is the bread and butter of web 2.0, and bloggers are teaching brands and celebrities this lesson. It is related to the “attractiveness” rule you have mentioned, but requires an extra effort from the blogger.

    There is, nevertheless, a problem: the success of bloggers created an inflation of business-oriented bloggers that have only money in mind, and forget the true role of bloggers. Bloggers started as thought-leaders and experts, and this is how they became so popular. When you have too many people now trying to be bloggers just to make money, without sharing the vision, the quality of the content goes down, and the reputation of all bloggers starts to decline.

    • Sergio Brodsky

      Hi Daniel,
      Yes bloggers are increasingly professionalising their trade and although wanting to make money is not a bad thing it shouldn’t compromise the quality of their content. On the contrary! Also by using the righ metrics it becomes pretty easy to determine who’s faking and who’s making!

  • Tom Njm

    Great read, Sergio. This cost-effective alternative perhaps came to prominence partly from the rise of start ups without a budget looking for a sound, authentic way to reach their audience (I know I certainly have). Now there’s data and results to support it, how long until bloggers become too expensive and, no doubt, lose engagement level?

    • Sergio Brodsky

      Good question Tom but I guess only time will tell…