Marketers Weigh in: Celebrities Are No Longer the Key to a Brand’s Success

By, Kamiu Lee, CEO, ACTIVATE

A new era of more thoughtful influencer marketing drives towards a broadening of the industry 

When influencer marketing first entered the scene as a tool, brands used to build awareness, expand their reach and be associated with a dominant figure, there weren’t many pre-existing parameters to guide you. A celebrity with a notable name (pre-social media days when there wasn’t a clear number of followers to be mindful of) that aligned with brand values (or at least appeared to) did the trick, to an extent. Now, as influencer marketing has cemented itself as a viable channel, and with technological advancements that provide levels of insightful precision, brands have done their fair share of testing to refine this tactic and set the stage for how to best engage and ensure they are making an impact.

The most valuable asset

Some may argue the influencer you partner with is the most important aspect to an influencer marketing campaign. And while that certainly is still key, marketers are digging deeper and assigning more value to influencers beyond just their audience. In the last few years, we have increasingly seen brands attribute more value to an influencers’ content as they continue to find more use cases for the content well after the influencer posts—so much so that the rights to the content has become a key point of conversation in the industry.

At ACTIVATE, we recently conducted a survey to pinpoint the methods in which influencer content was being repurposed and saw a significant jump between 2018 to 2019 alone. This year, 83 percent of marketers reported using the content for organic social (compared to only 31% in 2018), 78 percent re-leveraging for programmatic, re-targeting or paid social ads (44% in 2018), and 41 percent leveraging the content for eCommerce sites or brand site (15% in 2018). An influencer has long-standing power in the eyes of a marketer – as both a content creator and audience builder for continued results.

As the industry continues to mature, with more creators receiving more opportunities, sponsorship saturation has also become a point of discussion. Too much branded content – 44 percent in fact, as reported by marketers in our study – is deemed too high if looking to partner. Other considerations include content quality, brands an influencer has previously partnered with, engagement rates, follower growth, the quality of comments from followers and how often an influencer posts on their social media channels.

Creative curiosity

Micro (5K-100K followers) and mid-tier influencers (100K-500K followers) have risen to become a preferred tier by brands and marketers. They allow brands the opportunity to tap targeted audiences for a significantly more accessible price tag – also opening the doors to brands of all sizes to explore influencer marketing as a tactic for their brand. Where celebrities and athletes were once the obvious choice (now, only 16% of marketers in the ACTIVATE network reported working with them very often), they were only a viable option for big-name brands with large budgets. Anecdotally, we see more brands employ a more layered approach when it comes to influencers, working with 1-2 ‘north star’ celebrities, while tapping into an ongoing set of mid-tier and micro-influencers throughout the year – with an expressed understanding that different archetypes of creators can bring different value propositions as partners.

Beyond exploring new tiers of influencers, marketers are also increasingly looking to tap more unconventional types of creators – we saw the media chatter about CGI influencers, duo-influencers and pet influencers over the course of 2018. Interestingly, despite the media attention on the likes of Lil Miquela and Chloe the Mini Frenchie, we still found much more interest in human creators – with 86 percent of marketers showing interest in working with influencer duos (couples, twins, best friends), and 79 percent in working with nano-influencers (less then 5K followers) versus 30 percent in CGI influencers and 50 percent in pet influencers. While newer archetypes of influencers such as CGI or famous pets can provide shock value or an interesting element to a project, they don’t resonate as strongly with consumers as their authentic counterparts.

Redefining success

Social media platforms and influencer marketing technologies have provided brands and marketers with an insightful advantage: the ability to see how consumers engage with content they put out. ACTIVATE found 82 percent of marketer’s value engagement rate as the number one driving factor when determining campaign success – a commonality between 2017 to 2019. And where impressions and estimated reach were once the second most important KPI, sales conversion and traffic click-through-rate are now of higher importance, signaling the value of lower funnel impact. As more technological advancements enter the influencer marketing arena, these metrics become of greater importance to marketers when defining success for their campaigns.


Kamiu Lee, CEO at ACTIVATE

Kamiu Lee is CEO at ACTIVATE, a fully end-to-end influencer marketing platform, covering influencer discovery, program workflow, measurement, and analytics that supports cross-platform collaborations (Instagram, YouTube, Blog, Twitter, Facebook + more), with an opt-in network of 150,000+ vetted and authenticated influencers. The ACTIVATE platform also allows you work with curated communities of creators ranging including ‘vegan foodies’, ‘outdoor enthusiasts’, ‘bohemian style’ (and more!) as well as pinpoint niche groups of influencers leveraging our geo-targeting and micro-survey capabilities. Kamiu’s career spans a range of strategy and business development roles at Rent the Runway, Refinery29, and Ralph Lauren, as well as experience as an investment banker and early-stage venture capitalist. Kamiu holds a B.S. from Boston University and an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here