Marketers current secret weapon is the opinion leaders, aka influencers.
To become popular without direct advertisement, top brands rely on opinion leaders to break their news, build / enhance their brand recognition, recommend their products, and drive more sales.
For marketers, finding and securing opinion leaders / celebrity / affluent endorsements to push sales is crucial, with the hope to attract the attention of a certain crowd and turn them into long term clients and customers.
Ever wondered how do luxurious brands gain such publicity and fame without having any advertisements?
You rarely see ads for Louis Vuitton or Hermes handbags, right ?
Yet they are extremely popular despite not being commonly advertised.
Sometimes they have a waiting list for their latest products, even for rich people.
On the other hand…
Rolex does a lot of commercial print advertising, just not in publications normally seen.
Their ads usually pop up in Harvard Business Review, Afar, Luxe, and similar magazines.
Yet they don’t rely only on print.
Below, opinion leader James Cameron indirectly praises Rolex watches.
What about Starbucks? How did they become the prevailing standard for good coffee?
You don’t see them advertising much in print or online, do you?
(If you step outside the US, you won’t see much of Starbucks ads, yet they are famous and very busy)
Put simply, these companies most definitely advertise their products, just not to you directly.
They use much more subtle means, like:
Opinion leaders / influencers marketing
People are easily persuaded by what an opinion leader they trust and follow has to say.
When they speak people listen.
They have the standing to be able to influence the masses.
It’s what makes opinion leaders so advantageous to marketers.
Their reputation makes them favored among the public.
These “fans” ultimately becoming the marketer’s future consumers.
Having goods advertised through these well-known “leaders” make people easy ‘prey’ for product consumption.
In the below commercial, Louis Vuitton relies on opinion leader Gong Yoo to promotoe their watch.
Gong Ji-chul, (Gong Yoo) is a South Korean actor. He is best known for his roles in television dramas.
Social Media Marketing
Social Media is a tool for pinpointing / mining opinion leaders and gauging their publicity / influence.
It’s one good way to easily spot those influential people.
These leaders don’t necessarily have to be celebrities, they can be people like famous YouTubers or Instagram models.
All that’s necessary for these people to have is the ability to recognize and advertise the newest “hip” thing.
This is what makes people so quick to seek opinion leader’s help when purchasing stuff.
To others, those influencers appear to be more experienced about specific merchandise when compared to an ordinary customer.
For example, a potential opinion leader may have many followers on social media that view and like their public posts.
Since Opinion leaders have to stay on top of the game (What’s new, what’s hip, what’s not), they have no choice but to be knowledgeable about the latest trend.
Being steadfast to group standards is what they do best, It’s the reason they’re idolized!
In order to conserve their status they are expected to know these things before anyone else does.
By constantly following this rule, they too appear just as cool as the FAD itself.
When people hear about the newest, most popular thing, it’s only natural for their first instinct to be to tune in to what this “Opinion Leader” has to say about it.
From influencer to brand
Many social media stars, once very effective in influencing others, up their game and start their own brand, and devote their time to promoting it.
A good example is Miranda Kerr.
An Australian model, Kerr’s fame started in 2007 as one of the Victoria’s Secret Angels.
She was the first Australian Victoria’s Secret model.
Kerr launched her own brand of organic skincare products: KORA Organics, and she is active promoting it on her social media channels.
Word of Mouth Marketing
It’s almost frightening just how much influence these opinion leaders possess.
All they need is word of mouth to make nothing into something.
For companies, shortlisting these people is where “the rubber meets the road”.
You could very well have never seen an advertisement in your life about Hermes bags but because Jennifer Lopez posts a photo on Facebook depicting her gripping a Hermes birkin bag, you unknowingly become another chump that’s dead-set on getting their hands on a bag exactly like the one they had. Goes to show that regardless of social status, the amount of wealth you’ve attained, no one is exempt from their influence.
Divide & Conquer / the rise of micro influencers
Problem is, once a normal person becomes a celebrity / influencer, they tend to be hard to rely on.
They also don’t give your event, product, service, etc. their full attention.
In some cases, this can back-fire and may cause back-lash from the community.
In other cases, the competition can convince your top opinion leader to jump ship and join the other team!
For those situations, marketing agencies started to look for micro influencers.
For instance, instead of investing $1000 with one influencer, look for 10 micro influencers (who also cost less!) in your niche, and hire them to promote your product / service, in return for money.
Examples of Opinion Leaders
Opinion leaders can be smart and extremely capable people, but they aren’t always celebrities, Like:
- Clothing line Owners
However, not all opinion leaders are individuals who only care about money. There are those who care deeply and work in their local communities, A few examples of these people would be:
- Hair Stylists
- Baby Sitters
Opinion leaders known by most everyone are recognized celebrities/athletes like:
- Peyton Manning
- Kim Kardhasian
- Kanye West
Lastly, Successful News outlets are also opinion leaders like:
- The Times
- The Huffington Post
- Fox News
- The Wall Street Journal
This is how these brands become popular without much advertising, it’s not that they advertised in the beginning and stopped later after it gained much more popularity.
This is the new “secret marketing weapon” at the moment.