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Starting about five years ago we noticed a shift in what our corporate brand clients were looking for. In addition to wanting celebrities with name recognition for their PR, marketing, advertising campaigns and events, they also started asking how many followers they had. In subsequent years it became evident that the priority was shifting more heavily in the direction of social media influence and not as much about instant name recognisability. Suddenly, the kid next door with 10M followers was more in demand than George Clooney! We have always used the definition of “celebrity” to mean anyone well known, in the public eye, within their field of discipline, therefore we consider digital influencers to simply be a type of celebrity—just like film, TV, music and sports are types. But there are many who would still argue that there is a major difference between celebrities and influencers and that there’s a battle being fought as to who will win more of the marketing budget in the years ahead. While Influencer Marketing has had a meteoric rise in recent years, there’s also evidence of a slow down due to oversaturation and mistrust. Mobile Marketer reports that “The engagement rate for sponsored posts fell to 2.4% in Q1 2019 from 4% three years earlier.” And according to Mindshare’s recent Power to the People report , which in part looked at public attitudes about trust, influencers are at the bottom of the chart.  It’s also worth noting that fame, particularly the kind formed on social media, is fleeting. The same influencers that capture audience attention today may not be holding onto that attention tomorrow.  In fairness, the same could be said about celebrities to a degree as the “A-lister” of today might be the C-level of tomorrow. Celebrity mistrust is also possible when the public’s perception is that there isn’t an authentic match with the brand.  Whether celebrity or influencer, it all boils down to one essential element for any PR, marketing or advertising campaign to be effective—authenticity.  According to a report by Stackla.com “In a world of celebrity endorsements, sponsored posts and paid influencers, consumers crave authenticity more than ever.” 

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As a result of this authenticity demand by consumers we are seeing a new trend in Influencer Marketing leaning more towards micro and nano influencers (followers under 50K) and more specifically towards organic influencers.  Organic influencers are real people who already buy your products and services and create content about your brand – they’re your genuine brand advocates. While they may only have a few thousand followers, statistics show that they typically have higher engagement rates than those with larger followings. With organic influencers, the content is earned, not paid, so they are also very cost-effective for brands–but most importantly they have authenticity. Similarly, an organic, authentic celebrity match can be made when a celebrity sincerely loves a brand, product or service and when the public perception of the celebrity’s image, lifestyle and values matches the brand’s tone, style and mission. Celebrity product placement can help unearth these organic matches as many of our clients have experienced.  Just as lines have become blurred between marketing and PR in the communications industry, it’s clear that the same can hold true for celebrity vs influencer. Celebrities are influencers and many influencers are celebrities. Therefore, perhaps the important question to be asked is not who is winning the celebrity vs. influencer war but rather how are the soldiers engaged..?