The rise of the “digital influencer” as a cultural force has been a trending news topic for years—and for good reason. Numerous studies have found that millennial and Gen Z consumers trust product recommendations from influencers more than traditional advertising. Furthermore, influencer marketing is estimated to become a $10 Billion industry by 2020.
Yet despite taking on a new form, the use of third-party endorsements as a selling or marketing tactic has been around far longer than Instagram or Snapchat. For proof, look no further than one of President Ronald Reagan’s most notable jobs in Hollywood; serving as the long-standing host of General Electric Theatre on CBS Radio and Television. That program debuted in 1954, and since then the power of third-party endorsements has taken many forms; from celebrity book clubs andred-carpet designer call outs, to wine clubs offered by popular magazines and, yes, sponsored Instagram posts.
All of these endorsements offer unique benefits from desirable customer segments. Before deciding if one is right for your brand, it’s important to understand what goes into securing the right one.
Let’s start by examining a few of the most notable examples of third-party endorsements. Exhibit number one is Oprah Winfrey’s wildly successful Oprah’s Book Club. The program, which ran from 1996 to 2010, recommended 70 books to millions of Oprah’s viewers. It also helped many of those authors find fame and fortune.Nine years after winding down, it’s still one of the most powerful examples of how a personal celebrity endorsement can take a product (or in this case book) from relative obscurity to blockbuster success in a matter of days.
Another is The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, which has been in existence since 1909.The program uses a diverse team of experts to test products ranging from cleaning and beauty supplies to textiles, home appliances and kitchen utilities. The testing is so intensive that the brand even offers a limited warranty for products it endorses, giving consumers total faith in the product bearing the Good Housekeeping seal.
Research, research, research
Whether you plan to contract an Instagram influencer or approach a celebrity to endorse your product, the first and most important step should always be research. Influencers come in many shapes and sizes, and it’s important to understand the background of any partners you engage. At the start of the process, utilize powerful research tools like Nexis® to look into a potential endorser’s history and news coverage. Taking this step will ensure that they are a suitable fit for the brand and company’s values. The same holds true when considering certifications. If your research indicates a certification or seal of approval is being given to less-than-quality products, it could be more hurtful than helpful for that logo to appear on your own.
Make the most of it
Finally, third party endorsements, especially from digital influencers, are most powerful when they are authentic. Followers know that these endorsements come from a place of genuine interest … even if they are helped along by a sponsorship fee. If your brand does decide to pursue a third-party endorsement, make sure it stays true to the endorser’s voice and viewpoint. To do this, provide the celebrity influencer with guidelines for what you hope to achieve with the endorsement, but don’t be so rigid that they can’t create a message that feels natural to their audience.