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article imageQ&A: Time for brands to drop celebs and to use real people Special

By Tim Sandle     Jul 2, 2018 in Business
According to Sprout Social's new Index report There is a marked revolution happening, driven by a plea from consumers for brands to scrap the photoshopped models from their ads in exchange for more authentic, people. Rachael Samuels explains more.
New marketing trends suggest people consume influencer content at a surprisingly low level across platforms. This is on average between 1 percent and 11 percent, which shows that current influencer programs aren’t driving the value they could be. Consumers want to see authentic, transparent posts from friends instead of influencers and celebrities.
What's filling the void is employee advocates. Employees are often brands’ biggest fans and they are relatable, offering marketers a more cost efficient and scalable solution to influencer marketing. Rachael Samuels, Social Media Manager at Sprout Social explains more.
Digital Journal: What is the state of digital marketing today?
Rachael Samuels: The state of digital marketing today is the product of significant advancement over the last year. In 2017, voice search and IoT devices exploded, paving new roads for content distribution and consumer reach. At the same time, artificial intelligence and machine learning are paving the way for more innovative way of reaching and understanding consumers. Meanwhile, brands everywhere are seeing a greater demand for transparency among consumers.
DJ: How have advertising and marketing altered in the past five years?
Samuels: For a long time, marketers and advertisers had the upper hand in the brand-consumer relationship. Marketers would create brand messages, put them out into the world and consumers would either engage with or ignore them. Simply put, the feedback loop was minimal. As social and other channels have evolved and become a larger part of daily life in the past five years, the ability to engage in two-way dialogue with brands has exploded.
Consumers hold more power than ever before and they are using it to challenge, compliment and connect deeper with brands. This means that instead of blasting marketing campaigns, brands are beginning to listen more closely to their audience and create targeted content that reflects the desires of their consumers.
DJ: You’ve just run a new survey, how did you go about this?
Samuels:In an effort to to truly understand what ROI means in the social marketing industry and how social marketers are aligning with consumer preferences, we surveyed more than 3,000 social marketers and consumers across the U.S. and Canada to see where priorities and goals are in sync, and where there is opportunity for improvement.
DJ: Is there still a role for the influencer celebrity in adverts?
Samuels:While celebrities still hold influential power, it is declining. Recent data shows 92% of consumers trust micro-influencers over a traditional celebrity endorsement, showing that the more authentic and personal influencers are, the more credibility and trust they earn. Similarly, consumers are almost twice as likely to consider a product recommended from a friend rather than an influencer or celebrity.
DJ: Why are some companies moving towards more ‘realistic’ images in adverts, using real people?
Samuels:There is a growing desire from consumers to connect with brands in a genuine and authentic way. They want to picture themselves in the media they consume and feel as though the brands are natural fit in their newsfeeds. This makes focusing on diversity and realism in advertisements really important to building the long-term relationships that go beyond the purely transactional encounters and keep consumers coming back time and time again.
DJ: How important are employee advocates in adverts?
Samuels:Employee advocates are incredibly effective, but currently underutilized. On average, employees have 10x as many social connections than the brand they work for and it’s highly effective to leverage this reach. Employee advocacy is one of the most authentic and effective ways a company can spread their message and build brand awareness. In fact, 70 percent of social marketers use employees as influencers or advocates today, or want to in the future, according to Sprout’s data.
DJ: Can companies use employees in campaigns to also save costs?
Samuels:Employee advocacy is always more cost effective than recruiting top-tier influencers. Forty-six percent of marketers believe leveraging influencers is vital, but only a fraction (19 percent) have budget for it. What’s more, people consume influencer content at a surprisingly low level across platforms—on average between 1 percent and 11 percent—showing that current influencer programs aren’t driving the value they could be. Employees are often brands’ biggest fans and they’re relatable, offering marketers a more cost efficient and scalable solution to influencer marketing.
DJ: Are there ever any concerns about image rights with employees?
Samuels:While anyone looking to utilize employees in marketing efforts should always consult their legal department first, it is generally good practice to ask those participating to sign a consent form and ensure the purpose of the campaign is clearly communicated in order to address concerns around image rights.
DJ: Are there generational differences in terms of the public preferring ‘known face’ or ‘real people’ fronting campaigns?
Samuels:We have not found a large generational difference in preference, but the overall consensus favors real people. Sixty-two percent of consumers agreed that a brand featuring ordinary people was more likely to understand what its customers want. Millennials in particular seem to demand ‘real people’ from campaigns, especially in the beauty and fashion industry. For example, brands like Victoria’s Secret have been scrutinized in the media for using supermodels with unrealistic body types. This ‘real people’ trend is favored in many campaigns and we expect that to continue in the future.
DJ: Is direct advertising more successful or are adverts shared by people more likely to succeed?
Samuels:In recent years, it seems as though adverts shared by people and micro-influencers are received better by the vast majority of social users. This goes back to the authenticity aspect of marketing—consumers trust relatable people and friends, not celebrities. When it comes to social media the age old saying ‘quality over quantity’ could not ring more true. And in the search for quality, micro-influencers can help brands build awareness while also impacting larger metrics, as they are 10x more likely to influence an in-store purchase over a celebrity.
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