In today’s climate, it can feel harder than ever to connect with consumers. An overwhelming 70 percent of Americans trust recommendations from their friends and family more than brand statements. So how do you make an impact in this digital age? Through human connection.
While customers may be hesitant to trust companies, personalities can still win their affection and respect, driving loyalty and revenue. Take advantage of this by letting a spokesperson or influencer represent what your brand stands for. The question is, which option is right for you? Let’s consider both to help you make your decision.
Spokesperson vs Influencer
A spokesperson is a celebrity or an industry expert that you hire to speak for your brand. They boost your reputation or reach in the media and public’s eye, and can help cement your brand’s image. Generally, they’re hired for long-term campaigns and are often meant to reach a broad audience. The perfect example of this is the brand and a celebrity that have become forever entwined: Michael Jordan and Nike.
An influencer, on the other hand, is most often a social media personality—someone with a large, devoted audience on YouTube, Instagram, or another platform. Campaigns featuring them are usually one-off campaigns or short-term engagements, and they can be used to target specialized, specific audiences. These influencers are trusted in a specific niche and drive real, honest conversations with their followers, making them an excellent choice for a brand that’s looking to build trust.
To see how either choice can make an impact for your brand, consider these two examples.
The Spokesperson: HealthMarkets
When HealthMarkets—an independent insurance agency in health, life, and small group markets—rebranded, they sought a celebrity to revitalize their image. They chose celebrated comic and author Bill Engvall as their spokesperson.
While the connection may not seem obvious at first, the brand had clear and clever reasoning for their choice. Michael Stahl, CMO of HealthMarkets, explains:
“With the introduction of the Affordable Care
Act, HealthMarkets needed to change the way we did business to meet the needs
of our customers. In making the various digital transformation changes to our
business practices, we also wanted to promote the HealthMarkets brand in a way
it hadn’t been before. One of the ways we did this was by launching advertising
on various media with a spokesperson we knew would resonate with consumers.”
Insurance is not typically a “sexy” or interesting topic, especially in the current political climate. To make their brand feel less intimidating, HealthMarkets chose to play with humor. And while humor can often be divisive, Stahl says Engvall’s particular style worked well for a broad audience. “Bill’s brand of humor—clean-cut, family-friendly—resonates universally with our customer base.”
HealthMarkets and Engvall have worked together for national TV spots and social media campaigns. Engvall’s down-to-earth, “regular guy” persona (he’s most famous for his Blue Collar Comedy tour) helps HealthMarkets make insurance seem more approachable.
The Influencer: Ricoma
While insurance is a universal need, Ricoma, a
leading embroidery machine manufacturer, caters to a more specific clientele.
Broad marketing campaigns were not their ideal fit so they needed to find a way
to connect with their target market. To do so, they decided to work with
multiple influencers to drive personal interactions.
Ricoma’s inaugural conference, DecoSummit, was intended to educate hobbyists and professionals on their machines’ usage and building an embroidery business. They hired multiple influencers—including YouTuber Reyes the Entrepreneur and Gary Ajene, founder of T-Shirt Help Desk—to teach classes at DecoSummit. Henry Ma, CEO of Ricoma, explained how influencers made the conference so successful:
“These influencers not only came and taught,
but helped promote the conference, which caused a lot of buzz before and after
the event. We were able to sell out of tickets with the help of these
influencers reaching out to their audience and with the excitement from
attendees wanting to meet some of these influencers.”
Ma also stresses how picking the right influencers (especially in a niche market) can prove you know your industry. “These people become role models, and incorporating that trust and showing that your business is on top of the latest trends make your business relevant too.”
As Ricoma has shown, influencers can be an effective way to leverage close relationships with an audience while increasing engagement, spreading excitement, and building authority as a cutting-edge industry leader.
A Spokesperson or Influencer: Which Option is Right For You?
Like any advertising decision, the choice between a spokesperson or influencer relies on your particular customer base, budget, and goals. If you’re seeking a long-term and consistent method of reaching a wide audience, a spokesperson is likely your smartest choice. However, if you want a short-term, intimate, and specialized campaign for a niche audience, working with an influencer may have the greatest impact. Remember that you can also combine both options for a unique marketing package that hits all potential audiences. Don’t be afraid to get creative and find what works for you. Know your audience, be clear on your ambitions, and then forge a partnership that helps you reach your goals.