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How to Avoid a House of Cards: Focus on Everyday Influencers

Published by Engagement Labs November 21, 2017

Here we go again. Another celebrity scandal, another marketing sponsorship turned into a house of cards. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, several brands and advertisers have broken away from the high-profile celebrities attached to their products or services. And some did so with whiplash-inducing speed.

Consider Netflix, which fired actor Kevin Spacey just 24 hours after another actor said the Oscar winner had sexually harassed him as a teenager. The streaming network halted production on its highly acclaimed show as it considered its options.

It’s no surprise Netflix acted so quickly. As the streaming service’s first original series, House of Cards is a ground-breaking show. It paved the way for more original programming, a strategy designed to ensure the company’s growth. To say the service has a lot riding on this strategy would be an understatement. As a result, though not a celebrity endorser in the traditional sense, Kevin Spacey is closely intertwined with Netflix’s brand and its future.

Every time a celebrity scandal happens, brands with close ties – through partnerships, sponsorships, endorsement agreements or even as employers – are under fire. Public outrage puts pressure on brands to distance themselves.

In April, for example, dozens of companies pulled their advertisements from the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News after it was revealed host Bill O’Reilly had settled several sexual harassment claims. Last year, in the wake of the Rio Olympic games, brands including Ralph Lauren, Speedo, Airweave and Gentle Hair Removal, pulled out of their sponsorship agreements with 12-time Olympic medalist, Ryan Lochte, who had concocted a fake story about being robbed.

To protect their brands, marketers need to act fast in the wake of such scandals by assessing reputational damage and, often, pulling costly marketing campaigns out of the market. Such consequences mean that working with celebrities or high-profile individuals is risky for brands and time-consuming for marketers.

But is there a way around such challenges? One approach is to conduct more due diligence on the celebrity before striking a marketing or business deal, as Mark Schaefer suggests over on the {grow} blog.

That’s a great idea. However, there’s another way that reduces your brand’s exposure to reputational risk, saves your marketing team from an unexpected scramble, and provides even a better return on investment.

Focus on everyday influencers.

These are the friends, family, and colleagues who frequently give recommendations and maintain large social networks both online and offline. They don’t (necessarily) have marquee names, but the buyers of your products know and trust them to recommend what TV shows to watch, which restaurants are worth a try, or which retailer has the best sale.

With approximately four times the “social value” as other consumers, everyday influencers are a good return on investment. A recommendation they make yields four times as much economic benefit to the brand versus a recommendation from an average person. They also tend to be among the first to try and evaluate new products and services, which makes them a powerful group to engage for launches or entering new markets.

Everyday influencers may count their online followers in the hundreds, not millions, as celebrities do. But they have something celebrities lack — credibility. That credibility comes from several sources: They are known personally to most of their followers; they write and speak with an authentic voice. Perhaps most importantly, they’re not paid to advocate or represent the brand.

These are solid reasons for marketers to deliberately enlist these highly valuable consumers in their efforts to introduce new products and innovations. A marketing strategy focused on everyday influencers not only significantly increases the return on marketing investment, but also enables brands to shelter their reputations from scandals they didn’t make. 

Check-out our latest report on Millennial men to read more about the power of social influence and how it can help you grow your business. 

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