The Mega Influencer Is Dead. Long Live The Enthusiast

The reason the mega influencer boom was never going to last is because, like many booms, the idea was flawed from the start.  Kim Kardashian, for instance, attracts gargantuan volumes of eyeballs on Instagram, but only a subset are going to (a) see beyond the fat pay-check for the obvious plug and (b) suspend disbelief that she’s interested, if it came to this, in a new variety of cheese and onion crisps.

You can see the wane in real time in many cases.  These major ‘personalities’ are now, in some geographies, bound by rules that oblige them to disclose their commercial endorsement.  This causes a fall-off in impact and results in the promotion of déclassé products.

I noticed a famous footballer promoting a watch recently that seemed surprisingly off-piste and mid-budget for a man that I assumed would only wear Jaeger le Coultre, Breitling or Rolex.  It’s the disconnect between their manifest personal aspirations and the products from which they can derive a few quid which is the beginning of the end. This isn’t an altogether new phenomenon.  Here are some rather uneasy brand associations:

  • Snoop Dog, Microwave Snacks

  • Brad Pitt, Pringles

  • Matt le Blanc, Heinz Ketchup

  • Keanu Reeves, Cornflakes

  • Jackie Chan, Woolworths

  • Binky Felstead, Child Care app

In their wake follows the enthusiast, also known as the micro-influencer.  Enthusiasts were always going to be more useful because generally-speaking they are pursuing a deep product-related interest.  They are more plausible advocates because they are genuinely interested in the products. Enthusiasm is infectious. They are knowledgeable and engaged advocates: the medium and the message combined.

Proximity to the buyer is an essential attribute of 21st century marketing.  By this, I don’t necessarily mean physical proximity. I mean attitudinal proximity.  If the person you’re seeking to reach doesn’t feel a sense of personalisation or relevance, the marketing battle is almost certainly lost.

The world is increasingly configured to cater to us.  What isn’t widely understood is that it can be perfectly configured.  From our freely available digital footprint, in the form of Instagram, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and any other platforms that we use, much can be gleaned about us.  Our faces can be read like books. Those lovingly crafted selfies can’t simply be admired; they can be interpreted. Reading someone like a book, it turns out, is completely possible.

The best way of marketing these days is to serve a pre-existing and conscious or subconscious need rather than shout an idea in the face of an unsuspecting target.  This requires a fusion of behavioural science, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Phase one is understanding, phase two is about building the picture and phase three is about making sure that the offer arrives at the right time, in the right format, language & creative, through the right medium.

Above all, the most important thing is the plausible authenticity and personalisation of the offer.  It needs to be the right thing served at the right time and in the right way. That’s more about science and maths than it is about marketing instinct.  The truth is that being plausibly authentic is more about science than it is about heart. In influencer terms, what this means is that the science and the maths are better at interpreting who the right influencers are for whom and what they should be sharing.  Finding the budget to get a celebrity to promote your cheese and onion crisps is an impulse decision. However famous he or she may be, it will always be scattergun. Influence today is the new chess - and behavioural science and AI are today’s Big Blue.