In an ideal world you might argue that contracting a global celebrity and paying him money to promote your brand and utilizing your most loyal and passionate consumers are two different tools altogether and should not be compared. But is it really so, when the objective of both is to use connected and influential human beings to increase the relevance of your brand to an intended target market by using your extremely scarce marketing resources?
There is a lot of debate going on globally about this. One school of thought says finding the most connected individual and paying him to accidentally or purposefully promote your brand is the right way to go. It increases reach and by the sheer popularity of the connected individual it increases the popularity of your brand. The caveat is, the connected individual, simply because he is connected, is sought after by many many other brands and people and by nature he may not be loyal to you or have any real emotional connection with your brand. Therefore what he says or do might have the same credibility of a print ad to intended audience.
The second school of thought strongly advocates using loyal, active and passionate consumers of your brand to somehow reach their constituency by igniting them. These are the people who genuinely have a “thing” for you. So the only challenge is empower them with right tools, right story and of course right reason.
As we evolve from a model of mass marketing to personal marketing, understanding the difference between these two can be crucial to success. In April 2012 a Nielsen Report, “Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages,” reported that 92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends over all other forms of advertising. While an influencer/celebrity/well connected individual might have a larger audience than the brand champion/passionate voluntary brand follower, the difference is that 92 percent of their audience trusts the voluntary brand champion while only 18 percent trust the influencers when it comes to a recommendation.