The Celebrity and The Influencer: Who to choose for your brand


Businesses and brands have used celebrities to promote products for as long as there has been an advertising industry. But what is it about celebrity endorsements that attracts consumers? In this article, we will look at how celebrity and influencer marketing offer different experiences for consumers and how the widening pool of influence to digital-first talent is disrupting the market.



  • The fit between the brand and the endorser will impact the effectiveness of the advert. [1]
  • Brands rely on celebrity endorsements for access to a coveted audience. [1]
  • The step change between the new influencer and a celebrity is their involvement in the creative process. [2]
  • YouTube influencers have engaged audiences of millions, and function as an established channel for brands looking to run ads. [2]
  • The dynamic of the relationship between brands and celebrities is changing: with celebrities acting more as brand ambassadors and collaborators than just endorsers. [1]


The Celebrity Endorsement

We are experiencing a changing landscape of celebrity endorsements, driven by the rise of the influencer. Whilst influencers are “absolutely not ‘today’s celebrities’” the relationship between an influencer and brand has perhaps led to the increase in collaborations between brands and celebrities [2]. Examples range from FKA Twigs and Nike, where a creative collaboration comes from a seemingly shared purpose, to Sean ‘Diddy’ Coombs with a stake in Cîroc to add to his business portfolio, free from accusations of selling-out [1].

A recent global study by Carat shows that celebrities are more effective at driving product recall than influencers, at 84% to 73% [2]. Whilst figures show a product endorsement from an athlete leads to, on average, a four per cent increase in sales [1]. For endorsements to work, the relationship between brands, celebrities and consumers must be sophisticated. Brands use celebrities to endorse their products to leverage the celebrity’s image for their own appeal amongst consumers. Effectiveness is most apparent amongst consumers aged 18 – 24, who actively model their appearance on celebrities [1].

The Influencer

Relatability is key to the appeal of influencers; from family bloggers to fashion and style influencers, the scope keeps audiences engaged and the messages authentic. Dom Smales, CEO & Founder of Gleam Futures, is keen to bust the myth that influencers are only attractive to a teen audience and states the biggest audience demographic is aged 17 – 24, proving that those with buying power are engaged with influencer conversations [4]. The pulling power of influencers is felt keenly enough for Forbes’ to produce a quarterly list of top influencers from multiple categories [3].

As engaged audiences in the millions keenly await fresh content, influencers on YouTube have become established as a key channel for brands looking to run ads, but there’s an increasing demand for these influencers to collaborate with brands [2]. The success of these collaborations comes from the influencers’ understanding of their audience and their relationship and familiarity with their consumers [4] [2].

It’s essential that influencers choose to work with brands they’re passionate about. The step change between the new influencer and a celebrity is their involvement in the creative process: they use their knowledge of their audience to promote the brand’s message in a way that tells a story, showing them how the brand belongs in their world in a way that is more authentic and meaningful than a paid endorsement [4].

Which to choose

Authenticity has impacted the dynamic when it comes to brand partnerships with celebrities: we’re seeing celebrities become brand ambassadors, rather than just endorsers, with input into the brands creative process; simply put by Smales, “The age of the quick and dirty plug is drawing to a close.” Whilst celebrity marketing provides an aspirational dynamic for the audience, the influencer draws on an understanding of their audience and a dynamic of trust: brands can leverage different outcomes when choosing to partner with a celebrity or an influencer [2].

Key points to consider:  

  • Who to work with

Despite their vast reach, influencers are not today’s celebrities, and celebrity marketing and influencer marketing can provide different results for brands. Research shows that celebrities are more effective at driving recall but brand familiarity often improves after collaboration with and influencer [2].

Traditional celebrity marketing has focused on endorsement, sponsorship and product placement, whereas influencer marketing has developed considerably more options [2]. Whether you consider using a celebrity or an influencer will depend very much on your product and campaign.

  • The potential scope

Influencers and beauty brands have history: about 86% of the top 200 beauty videos on YouTube are made by creators rather than professionals or brands. But their presence goes beyond beauty channels, with research showing that in 9 additional categories working with influencers led to lift in brand metrics, from familiarity to recommendation [2].

With categories ranging from travel to gaming and fashion to fitness, influencers can impact upon many sectors and brand ambitions, with an engaged audience ready to listen to what they say.

  • The Influencer Approach

Influencers are not celebrities and they are not aspirational. Whilst celebrities have to fit within the parameters of being stylish and aspirational, influencers are able to be friendly, funny and irreverent, enabling them to give their honest view of a product, and therefore being trusted by their audience [2].

With consideration of the above, it’s clear without an authentic voice and message, consumers will not be swayed by an endorsement, the success of influencers lies in their ability to connect with their audience and feeling more authentic than celebrities [4]. Creative collaboration leads the way, and content needs to be curated with this in mind if it’s to have the necessary impact. But where influencer marketing is right for your brand it is clear that it is more than a phase; it’s a powerful, measurable and viable form of communication, exemplified by figures from Smales who states that the combined lifetime YouTube views of the 43 influencers working with Gleam Futures is upwards of 10 billion, with 2.5 billion of those views being acquired in the last 12 – 18 months, there’s a clear indication that influencer marketing isn’t slowing down [2][4].


[1] Canvas8, 2017

[2] Carat Global, 2017

[3] Forbes, 2017

[4] Gleam Futures, 2017, at Make Disruption Pay

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