Every industry has its influencers – be it celebrity chefs, product reviewers, bloggers, vloggers; we’ve all been exposed to different forms of opinion leaders and have likely been influenced by them in our purchase decisions.
Left column: Top six consumer review channels by subscriber count.
Right column: Top six beauty vlog channels by subscriber count.
Marketing via opinion leaders is popular among companies looking to increase brand equity and establish credibility among targeted groups of consumers. The rise of ‘vlogging’ and product review channels are a current example of opinion leaders being used to establish trust among consumers – these influencers have large, loyal groups of followers seeking their opinions and advice on new and existing products. Channels with loyal followings are often sent products in advance of their launch to spread awareness and build hype for the upcoming launch.
An example of a product review channel, Linus Tech Tips, featuring lists of products throughout their video and ‘Sponsored by Intel’ in the description. This channel makes money through affiliate links to sponsored products on Amazon, whereby when viewers click the link and purchase a product, the channel receives a percentage of the order as commission.
In the early 2000’s, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s featured celebrity chef Jamie Oliver in their advertising campaigns for grocery shoppers (Byrne, Whitehead and Breen, 2003). Given his frequent exposure in popular media in the target region and his reputation as a chef, Jamie Oliver would seem like the ideal opinion leader for this promotion. According to Byrne, Whitehead and Breen – “Celebrities can build, refresh and add new dimensions. What celebrities stand for enhances brands and they save valuable time in terms of creating the credibility a company has to create in order to build its brands by transferring their values to the brand” (2003). When the consumer sees such a celebrity using and endorsing the brand’s products, they effectively project their own expertise and values onto the brand. A grocery shopper loyal to another grocery chain may see this series of promotions and consider switching to Sainsbury’s given their new perception of the brand’s values and identity.
When making purchase decisions, consumers typically perceive several different types of risks should their purchase decision not live up to their expectations. These risks include:
- Monetary risk
- Functional risk
- Physical risk
- Social risk
- Psychological risk
Different techniques can be used by marketers to help offset each of these perceived risks. The use of opinion leaders as part of a marketing strategy can help primarily to overcome depends on the type of influencer being used. Celebrities tend to be most effective at overcoming social and psychological risks, that is, the consumer’s risk to their self-esteem and self-image. Endorsements by industry experts, however, tends to help most to offset monetary, functional and physical risks. That is, the potentially wasted money on a purchase, the potential harm to the consumer should it not be safe, and the risk that the purchase simply doesn’t do what it needs to. In the above case study in which Sainsbury’s promoted via Jamie Oliver, there is an overlap in the type of influencer used. Because their chosen opinion leader is both a celebrity and regarded as an expert in the industry, Sainsbury’s effectively decreases each of the five main forms of perceived risk in their target audience.
There are risks to both parties involved when using this type of promotion, the most common being negative publicity of one party (the brand or the influencer) also affecting the other party, by association (Kok Wei and Li, 2013). When used correctly and with consideration to the points above, opinion leaders can be a powerful asset to boost a brand’s penetration in its target market.
Byrne, A., Whitehead, M. and Breen, S., 2003. The naked truth of celebrity endorsement. British Food Journal, 105(4/5), pp.288-296.
Kok Wei, K. and Li, W., 2013. Measuring the impact of celebrity endorsement on consumer behavioural intentions: a study of Malaysian consumers. International Journal of Sports Marketing and Sponsorship, 14(3), pp.2-22.
Thinkbox, 2017. Jamie Oliver Sainsbury’s Banner. [image] Available at: <http://www.getmemedia.com/ideas/case-study-sainsburys-use-tv-to-launch-try-something-new/thinkbox.html> [Accessed 3 May 2017].