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The Age of the Influencer

I want to put a warning here that this post will probably seem like a hot mess before any sort of point comes about, but trust me, it’ll all make sense in the end I hope.

So, let’s start with some background. The company I work for is planning some event thing. That’s about as descriptive as I can be because, as an intern, they don’t tell me a single god damn thing. Anyway, my little intern office happens to be right next to the woman who is our “press and celebrity relations director” or something like that. Yes, my company has one of those its boujie as hell, let’s move on.  All I hear her do all day is talk on the phone about guest lists for this event, and who she wants to invite on behalf of the company and how to get in contact. But I swear the word I hear her throw around the most is “influencer.”

Now, I’ve spent some time doing market research about my company and the ways they go about marketing to consumers. It’s a luxury company so the majority of our clients are high-paid individuals, usually late 30’s-50’s business people, and obviously celebrities considering we have a whole department dedicated to them. However, a small group of millennials are taking over the world, and are doing so under the title of “influencer” because they are paid to promote shit, and are for the most part famous because of the following they garnered doing random things. Thus, they promote to their large followers and quite literally influence them to buy products, hence the term influencer.

Anyway, I’m here in the big bad Big Apple and have been joking for years that when I moved here I would become a socialite. So, during one conversation with my mother, I mentioned this joke to her again and she told me that term was outdated and that people are referred to as influencers now. My 65-year-old mother is more in-the-know than I am, it’s cool whatever. That talk ended in us talking about the Violette, the new Beauty Director for Estée Lauder. For those of you who don’t know (which was me, until my mother explained who she was because as I mentioned my mother is cooler than me) Violetta is one of these so-called influencers. AND NOW SHE’S IS THE BEAUTY DIRECTOR FOR ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL BEAUTY COMPANIES IN THE WORLD.

Now for a bit of a tangent. After talking about influencers for like 30 minutes with my mother, when we hung up I started thinking about marketing techniques, considering it’s something I do at work. Last weekend was Comic Con, and like the human with no friends that I am (which is a great start to becoming a socialite, I know) I spent the weekend watching panels and interviews for my favorite shows and movies. TVLine did an interview with David Harbour (who plays top zaddy Jim Hopper on Stranger Things). In this interview, he mentioned how crazy it is that the show gained such a following so quickly. The reason everyone on the cast and crew was so surprised by how well received the show was is due to the fact that they literally did NO promotion for this show.

I spend a fair amount of time on the internet, and I don’t recall once seeing a promo online or a poster, or even interviews with any of the cast on the big talk shows. The show was literally posted to Netflix one day, and the next everyone would not stop talking about it. Obviously, being on a big platform like Netflix helped bring more attention to the show, because everyone loves a good binge session when trying to avoid all responsibilities. But regardless, there really isn’t an explanation for why the show did so well with LITERALLY NO PROMOTION.

And this, dear friends (or anyone who literally made it this far in the stupid post) is where we get to the BIG POINT. I have now become fascinated with the differences in marketing between utilizing big social figures versus organically growing a brand. When I was in college at my lovely little liberal arts school, I had a few business courses that dealt with “your brand.” I was an entrepreneurship major, so branding is KEY when you’re looking to start your own enterprise.

For me, I want to start my own cosmetics company, big surprise there. So naturally, marketing is something that I will need to focus on, and I think the differences in marketing between brands like Estée Lauder utilizing influencers, and Stranger Things utilizing natural growth really teaches a lot and can speak to brand images on a morality level.

By utilizing influencers, companies are sucking up this individuals’ following and expoiting it in a basic sense in order to drive profits and bring in new demographics. You have people out there who follow influencers on all their social medias, and when they see their favorite “celebs” promoting products, they’re going to demand to their parents that they have it immediately, and thus introduces these consumers to new products and driving revenues. On the other hand, you have the organic growth of Stranger Things. They didn’t go out there and exploit the fact that they had Winona Ryder in their show in order to push views. They didn’t even market their show at all. Instead, they made it and released it on a platform, and let the world discover it for itself. No need to push people, no desire to attract millions, no need to drive revenues. They put their work out there and let the viewers speak for themselves. It’s almost comparable to big business vs. mom and pop shops.

For me personally, I’d rather follow an organic growth model for brand marketing. I don’t want fake consumers buying my products because their favorite Instagram model was paid to promote it. I want to attract consumers who like my products because of how it makes them feel, how it looks, and what it does. Also, this is the type of model I’ll have to go for at first because who thinks I’m gonna have that kind of money to spend on paying 14-year-old “models” to promote my shit. But all in all, I think Stranger Things is an example of hope for people like me, because it speaks to the fact that old school techniques still exist, and not everything needs to be plastered on the internet for people to buy into it.

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