The new era of influencer marketing

February 27, 2024
Hot topics 🔥
Marketing Trends
Paula Ferrai
The new era of influencer marketing

Love it or hate it, influencer marketing is a pervasive trend in today’s digital society driven by social media. You can’t go more than a few scrolls or clicks without seeing a celebrity touting their rakish charm to sell coffee pods or a teenage TikTok dancer promoting doughnuts and luxury brands.

Some see influencer marketing as a damning indictment of modern culture while others view it as a fresh way for brands to creatively reach their audiences. Others think that the influencer industry is a big part of the ethical dilemmas surrounding social media and its effects on society. But despite the mixed perceptions, the facts speak for themselves: influencer marketing is extremely lucrative, growing to a $21.1 billion industry in 2024.

However, there are already reports that paid marketing of this kind is losing efficacy in today’s digitally savvy society, which begs the question: how long will the influencer endorsement era last? Importantly, what does this mean for brands and influencers as we enter a new age of consumerism that is facing content fatigue?

The rise of influencer marketing

Brands have been using famous people to sell products since the early 1900s when Murad paid silent film star Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle to promote their cigarettes. The big wigs filling corporate boardrooms quickly realised the potential for promotion hidden in our fascination with celebrity culture.

Marketers understood early that audiences respond better to what they know than what they don’t. The success of Murad’s campaign showed brands the resounding impact of embedding familiarity in the form of celebrities into advertisements. 

People already have an impression of a celebrity due to their fame and character which provides audience buy-in. This is how influencer marketing works. It is the psychological phenomenon we all subscribe to when we trust the recommendations of people we respect and/or admire.

Fast-forward to today, where influencer marketing has evolved into a strategic prerequisite for businesses seeking novel ways to penetrate saturated markets. We buy Nespresso pods not necessarily because they taste better than others, it’s because we respect the silver fox charm of George Clooney. We buy Nike trainers not because their material quality is superior but because Lebron James uses them to slam dunk.

But people are growing weary of the proliferation of influencer endorsements as the saturated market grows.

The beginning of the end of influencer marketing?

The efficacy of traditional influencer marketing shows signs of losing steam. A staggering 57% of consumers express that an influencer endorsement does not compel them to purchase a product. 

Moreover, platforms like Instagram have witnessed a decline in engagement rates, dropping by approximately 30% year on year, accompanied by a reduction in post-reach.

But what is causing this decline in engagement?

Content fatigue

The high volume of content being pushed to users across platforms is overwhelming them, leading to a decline in engagement and receptivity. The relentless stream of information bombarding users is causing content fatigue which is repelling users’ attention.

Declining trust

The rise of follower farms and bots is raising concerns about the credibility of influencers and their content. This is leading to various issues regarding a lack of transparency in two forms: promotion and authenticity. The first involves sponsored content where followers can’t discern if the promoted products have value for them or if it’s just another item being pushed by a brand. The other is the prevalence of influencers faking their identity, like the now famous older Chinese influencer who used a face filter to appear younger to attract male attention. The fact that you can buy followers is a major red flag regarding authenticity in the influencer market.

Lack of authenticity

There is a growing perception of a lack of authenticity in influencer-generated content. Followers can’t tell if the influencers they follow have their best interests at heart, or the brands they are getting paid to market. Pseudo-celebrity Logan Paul’s NFT fiasco and the infamous Fyre Festival hoodwink-en-mass come to mind. Consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, are increasingly gravitating towards user-generated content (UGC) as they find it more genuine and relatable. 

Repetitive content

The repetitiveness of content caused by AI content creation tools is making feeds look the same with a lack of creativity and individuality. Furthermore, the portrayal of unattainable lifestyles is alienating audiences instead of resonating with them.

The new era of influencer marketing

Due to the growing disillusionment with traditional influencer marketing, a new phase is emerging. Brands are implementing innovative strategies and shifts in approach to shape the future of influencer marketing.

Micro-influencers and online tribes

Brands are recalibrating their influencer marketing strategies by straying from mega influencers with large followings and instead focusing on micro-influencers and online tribes. While these influencers and communities have smaller audiences, they boast higher engagement rates and foster deeper connections with their followers due to shared passions and interests.

Authenticity and relatability

Platforms like TikTok are perceived as reliable sources for providing authentic and relatable content from creators. Influencers like Sabrina Bahsoon, famously known as “Tube Girl,” and Khaby Lame have amassed significant followings by showcasing unpolished humour and genuine moments that resonate with audiences who are tired of overly curated content.

AI-powered virtual influencers

AI-powered virtual influencers are revolutionising the influencer landscape. By blurring the lines between reality and virtuality, these influencers captivate audiences with their otherworldly charm and allure. Digitally created personas like Lil Miquela offer brands unparalleled creative control and the ability to craft highly curated brand narratives. 

Community members and brand partners

As we navigate the new era of influencer marketing, brands must adapt to changing consumer preferences and leverage new strategies to cut through the noise and forge genuine connections with their target audiences. 

By embracing authenticity, fostering online communities, and exploring the potential of emerging platforms and technologies, brands can harness the power of influencer marketing to propel their growth in the future.

Paula Ferrai

Paula leads our Marketing & Communications team. She’s a brand strategy expert and is perpetually excited about connecting the dots. She loves scuba-diving, yoga, and having fun with her son.

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