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With influencer marketing taking over, what values do celebrities bring to marketers?

With influencer marketing taking over, what values do celebrities bring to marketers?

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Celebrities and mega-influencers wield significant influence across social media platforms in the current digital landscape. Around 82% of participants in Southeast Asia have admitted to being influenced by recommendations from influencers or celebrities in their purchasing decisions, according to a study by impact.com. 

The study also found that consumers diversify their choice of influencers to follow with approximately 33.6% of respondents following a range of one to 10 celebrities and influencers regularly. Of which, 31.8% of respondents indicated a broader engagement with 11 to 30 of them. The reasons for following these influencers vary, including entertainment (73%), lifestyle inspiration (52%), and a desire to learn from influencers (51%). 

Earlier in May, Singapore Tourism Board partnered with international celebrity and artist Nicole Scherzinger to spotlight Singapore’s iconic attractions and experiences in a new video as part of its "Made in Singapore" campaign launch in Europe. 

For Chinese New Year, Giant Singapore worked with bigwig influencer Jianhao Tan and local influencers Ridhwan Azman, Debbie Soon and more to release a music video titled "How GIANT is your Huat?”. 

Don't miss: Is an influencer career sustainable amidst micro content rise, gen AI and geopolitics?

While both celebrities and mega-influencers bring the crowds and the clicks brands want, they aren't cut from the same cloth. A mega influencer today is considered one with over one million followers, according to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. 

In a modern marketing world where the line between a celebrity and mega-influencer may be blurry, one can differentiate them from how they attained their fame and influencer. 

According to Nicolle Sing, senior vice president of X10 Media, The Smart Local Media Group, a mega-influencer is a social-first content creator that has amassed a social following by creating social media content. 

A celebrity, on the other hand, is famous off-social through talents such as acting, singing, performing, sports and gaming, adding that fame found them through off-social achievements. 

"This definition is getting blurry, especially when mega-influencers become so popular that they can cross lines into other off-social talents, and vice versa for celebrity," said Sing. However, the common factor remains that both of them hold influence and authority within their respective communities.

Interestingly, Isaac Tan, regional creative strategy director, Hepmil Media Group has a different point of view, suggesting that one should see celebrities and mega-influencers as "human brands" instead. 

"At Hepmil, our focus is on social celebrities - individuals whose rise to fame started on social platforms and are primarily engaged with through small-screens. At the same time, we've seen some of our talents also make it on the big screens," said Isaac Tan.

"I think it's easy to try and be caught up in the terminologies but what it boils down to is the level of interaction and influence a 'celebrity' has on the respective platforms that they engage on. At the end of the day, celebrities - whether on social or traditional - must also see themselves as 'human brands.'"

Has influencer marketing pushed celebrity endorsement to a corner? 

Influencer marketing has become a mainstay in the marketing landscape and is only growing in popularity as 67% of marketers said that they are upping their investment in influencer marketing this year. 

Out of the marketers who are increasing their investment in influencer marketing, 23% have dedicated nearly half of their total budget to it. 

This surge is likely due to the evolving consumer landscape where today's consumers crave authenticity, a personalised touch and narratives that resonate with their personal experiences and aspirations. This is according to a new report by Partipost titled "2024 Influencer Marketing Insights: Key Metrics and Industry Trends".

With influencers marketing spend rising, do celebrities still have a piece of the marketing pie? According to Jonathan Eg, CEO of Partipost, they absolutely still do. 

"Celebrities still hold significant value in marketing. Their widespread recognition and appeal can be incredibly effective for reaching larger audiences quickly. Brands may choose a celebrity over a mega-influencer when they are looking to leverage the celebrity’s broad appeal and established reputation to enhance brand prestige or to break into mainstream visibility rapidly," said Eg.

He added that celebrities also typically have an international presence compared to mega-influencers, which can be advantageous for increasing international brand awareness or regional product launches.

Melantha Tan, strategy director at We Are Social agrees, adding that "While mega-influencers are fantastic at connecting with specific online communities, celebrities offer that broad appeal and iconic status that can make a brand truly stand out." 

Celebrities and mega-influencers swim in different lanes, and I don't see one taking over the other anytime soon.

"They each bring their own strengths to the table, and brands know it," said Melantha Tan.  

Holding a differing view, and adding that mega-influencers can take over celebrities one day, is Hepmill's Isaac Tan:

Never say never. I think brands who are really trying to build themselves for the next generation of consumers should start early and build relationships early.

"Jumping on the bandwagon when someone is already a celeb-status is going to come at a cost," said Isaac Tan. "Human brands take time to build, foster and engineer and if you get in at the right time, it can really be beneficial for all parties."

A harmonious coexistence 

At the end of the day, a coexistence all depends on what brand marketers set out to achieve with their marketing strategies and campaigns. In fact, in this day and age, one can likely see campaigns run with both mega-influencers and celebrities at the same time. 

Taking Hugo Boss for example, the fashion brand has run campaigns with mega-influencers such as Khaby Lame and Nobody Sausage to tap into the unique communities these influencers have built on TikTok and Instagram. 

At the same time, Hugo Boss also partnered with model Kendall Jenner and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to make inroads into the fashion and sports world too. 

"Brands are likely to keep using both celebrities and mega-influencers, depending on what they're aiming for," said Melantha Tan.

The trick is to play to the strengths of each—whether it's the broad appeal of celebrities or the niche engagement of influencers—to craft the most effective marketing strategies. 

Sing agrees, adding that "there is a space for both celebrities and mega-influencers to exist, just as there is a space for mega and nano influencers."

The key is in understanding the role each of them play, and how to best work a partnership with creators that play to their strengths and value-add. "No two celebrities are the same too - when operating at their high scale of influence, it is best to take on a very curated partnership that benefits both sides," she said.

Photo courtesy Jianhao Tan Instagam

Join us on 12 June 2024 for an exciting experience as Content360 makes its debut in Malaysia! Brace yourself to join the crème de la crème of the content marketing industry hailing from across the region. Immerse yourself in a dynamic atmosphere, and uncover the latest trends with thought leaders and solution providers from the realm of content.

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