In 2018, digital influencers will continue to be the number one choice for brand endorsements. However, we’re likely to see a more planned, sophisticated approach to influencer marketing with audience data and analytics forming the backbone of talent identification. So what do you need to know to stay ahead of the game?

1. Digital influencers will prevail in popularity

As one might expect, digital influencers will be increasingly sought after by brands, largely driven by the demands and expectations of Generation Z. As Figure below shows, the largest majority of survey respondents (44%) believe digital influencers will be best suited to endorsement opportunities that they have coming up. Sitting below this are TV actors, with 38% of respondents claiming they would be most relevant to forthcoming campaigns, but this margin between digital talent and celebrities is only like to grow in size, unless it implodes, which one expert argued could be a possibility. Overall it seems likely that the emerging trend for campaigns that blend a frontline celebrity with rising digital talent, will continue.

2. Budgets will increase for 42%

The findings from ‘The Age of Social Influence’ research report, published in December by Celebrity Intelligence, stated that 42% of respondents said their budgets would increase moderately or significantly in the next 12 months. Yet, despite the need for a greater proportion of marketing budgets to be attributed to celebrity and influencer engagement, it seems more likely that funds will remain pretty much the same, for approximately half (47%) of survey respondents.

3. Data will become a more fundamental part of celebrity and influencer marketing

As the industry continues to mature, it makes sense that the number of brands taking a data-driven approach to celebrity marketing and influencer programmes will increase. Moving forward, it will be crucial that brands replace subjective identification methods or personal recommendation, with data-based intelligence and analysis, so that they have an in-depth understanding of the celebrity or influencer and their audience, and can know for sure if their ideal consumer will be reached through the partnership. Additionally, as niche influencers rise in prominence, it will be even more critical for brands to have an in depth understanding of their audience, to ensure the match is a credible fit. Audience intelligence will be instrumental in leading this evolution, offering valuable insight into the most fitting and impactful influencers to be collaborating with, based on the characteristics, behaviour and demographics of their followers.

4. Brands will broaden their reach to international influencers 

For celebrity and influencer marketing to mature further and become a top priority at board level, it needs to be demonstrating global reach. While many A-list celebrities, such as actors, have global recognition, this generally isn’t the case for digital influencers. Increasingly, brands will need to seize the opportunity to reach out to new international markets through collaborations with local influencers, who are known and trusted within their region. Markets such as China, Japan and India offer exciting, largely untapped possibilities, and have unique influencer ecosystems that brands must immerse themselves in, in order to establish meaningful partnerships.

5. Augmented reality and holograms will enable consumers to get closer to celebrities than ever before 

It might sound crazy, but augmented reality within the celebrity engagement space is closer than one thinks, which could enable consumers to get much closer to celebrities and influencers than ever before. China is one country leading the way with AR, and according to new research from Worldpay, 95% of survey respondents in China have used VR or AR technology in the past three months, indicating a growing consumer demand for the technology. Early AR prototypes were a bit rough around the edges, but current VR technology has the ability to present a clear and engaging three-dimensional image so vividly, that a truly dynamic user experience is possible. Experts interviewed for The Age of Influence report said they could foresee the technology being used in an experiential way in the future, enabling consumers to engage with celebrities and influencers in a far deeper and more meaningful way.

You can download the full Celebrity Intelligence research report here, showcasing more trends that will be impacting the nature of brand endorsements in 2018.

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