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Influencers sell more than celebrities

People were 59.7% more likely to say they would buy a protein shake when it was endorsed by a social media influencer vs a celebrity (e.g. famous actor).

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📝 Intro

You’re looking for someone to endorse your product. Should you choose an influencer or a well-known celebrity?

For example, who would be more effective to promote a laundry stain remover:

  • A stay-at-home mom posting content about her family life, meal prep for her family, and hacks around the house

  • The star of the latest box-office-topping romcom, who's currently the talk of Hollywood

New research from Tilburg University gives us the answer.

P.S.: If you want to highlight how innovative or cutting-edge your product is, try working with a virtual influencer instead of a real human

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Topics: Social Media
For: B2C. Can be tested for B2B 
Research date: July 2019
Universities: Tilburg University

📈 Recommendation

To promote your product, work with influencers who are relatable and likely to use your product. They are more effective than celebrities (e.g. a famous actor, or fashion model).

People will be more likely to buy.

🎓 Findings

  • Endorsements by influencers are more effective at increasing purchase intentions than endorsements by celebrities.

  • As part of two experiments, researchers found that when a product was endorsed by an influencer (vs a celebrity) people were more likely to say they would buy a:

    • Protein shake (+59.7%) when endorsed by fitness influencer Kayla Itsines versus Dutch field hockey player Fatima Moreira de Melo

    • Watch (+15.6%) when endorsed by fashion influencer Danielle Bernstein versus celebrity Kendall Jenner

    • Tinted moisturizer (+15.1%) when endorsed by influencer Serena Verbon compared to supermodel Kate Moss

    • Stand mixer (+9.6%) when food influencer Gaby Dalkin endorsed it versus TV chef Rachel Ray.

  • The effect only holds if there is a fit between the product and the influencer being used to promote it.

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  • The experiments focused on purchase intentions - the effect might not be as strong for real-world purchase behavior and sales.

  • The research used experiments where a product was placed next to the endorser, to resemble a basic ad format. In real endorsements, influencers and celebrities will also use engaging captions to accompany the posts. Depending on the accompanying text, the effect could be stronger or weaker.

  • The experiments looked at influencers and celebrities as two distinct groups - in reality, it’s probably a spectrum. There are famous influencers that have reached celebrity status, and celebrities that are very relatable online, with many becoming influencers in their own right through strong social media engagement.

🏢 Companies using this

  • Most companies seem to use influencers of various sizes and celebrities interchangeably. For example

    • Coca-Cola with celebrity trio the Jonas Brothers

    • L’Oreal with celebrity Kendall Jenner

    • Gymshark with fitness influencer David Laid

    • Joybird with influencer Chrissa Sparkles

Logistics company Flock used celebrity TV personality Steve Burns for a social media campaign. Perhaps a more relatable influencer would have been more effective.

⚡ Steps to implement

  • Use influencers to endorse your product, instead of celebrities.

  • If you’re selling an aspirational product (e.g. luxury goods), celebrities may work well as effective endorsers, as long as their content seems genuine and it looks like they actually use your product.

  • When deciding which influencer to use, choose one that seems to genuinely link to your product. For example:

    • Cooking influencers for kitchen and food items

    • Interior design influencers for furniture

    • Athletes or wellness experts for health products and gym wear

  • Ask your influencers to develop original content that seems genuine, as compared to following a standard script. For example, if you’re using a homemaker to promote a cleaning product, have them mention anecdotes of messes involving their family that your item helped clean up (e.g. washing the mud off my son’s soccer jersey).

  • Storytelling and personal experiences (vs informational and announcement-style posts) help make the influencer more relatable.

  • Choose your influencer based on the goals of your campaign - if you’re trying to increase sales, micro-influencers are more effective, while larger influencers are better for expanding the reach of your product.

🔍 Study type

Lab and online experiments

📖 Research

🏫 Researchers

Remember: This is a scientific discovery. In the future it will probably be better understood and could even be proven wrong (that’s how science works). It may also not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.

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