Creators are the new celebrities (and brands know it)
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We idolized musicians, actors, and athletes when I was a kid. That’s it.
If a brand wanted a killer endorsement, they hired one of these types of celebrities for a TV commercial or a magazine ad.
While brands still often recruit celebrities for big marketing campaigns, superstars aren’t the only—or best—option for building brand credibility anymore.
With the advent of social media and the rise in creator fandoms, brands are now turning to creators for endorsements. What’s more, many creators lend greater clout to a brand than big celebrities do.
Before you worry that you don't have the marketing budget for a Hollywood Chris or Jennifer, respectively, let’s look at the reasons to consider the newest breed of celebrity—creators.
1. Creators drive brand awareness—even more so than celebrities
While it’s true that celebrities have robust fandoms, research analyzing Super Bowl ads shows the celebrity star power might actually be a distraction from overall brand awareness.
During the Super Bowl, we saw ads from the likes of Miley Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Paul Rudd, Seth Rogan, Brie Larson, Eugene Levy, Jim Carrey, and more.
Question: Do you remember seeing these celebrities during the commercials?
Another question: Do you remember which brand these celebrities were touting?
Morning Brew pointed out this problem using research from EDO’s search engine index list. The issue? Search volume for the celebrities spiked significantly and was much higher than searches for the actual brands.
For example, after the first T-Mobile ad ran:
- Dolly Parton received 53.6 million searches above her average search volume after her first ad, and Miley Cyrus had an additional 179,000 searches after her first ad.
- T-Mobile, on the other hand, only saw an additional 31,000 searches after the first ad.
Morning Brew reported similar results for many brands that hired celebrities for their campaigns. The celebrities received more searches than the brands themselves for the 22 brands EOD analyzed.
Another interesting Morning Consult study offered further insight into this idea. While traditional celebrities have widespread allure, they hardly drive awareness for even their own brands.
Morning Consult found that the majority of consumers knew little to nothing at all about top celebrity beauty brands.
Even the most widely known brand—Fenty Beauty by Rihanna—had low awareness numbers:
- 57% knew nothing at all
- 12% didn’t know much
- 17% knew some
- Only 14% knew a lot
Interestingly enough, in a recent game of “Guess Celebrities’ Real Names,” Kelly Clarkson struggled to identify Rihanna’s beauty brand, Fenty.
Surprisingly, most consumers (and other celebrities) don’t know much about these celebrity-created beauty brands, even if they adore the actual celebrity.
Celebrity bottom line: While it’s true that celebrities have massive fandoms, the fans are primarily interested in the stars themselves and the details of their lives. We want to know about Zendaya and Tom Holland’s relationship, Jacob Elordi’s house in LA, who was at Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Oscar after-party, and what Rhianna’s gorgeous baby bump looks like as opposed to the perfume these stars prefer.
Creators, on the other hand, are a completely different story.
Creators and their opinions hold massive influence over consumers and their purchasing decisions. Forty percent of consumers reported purchasing something after seeing it on Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. And 49% say they depend on creator recommendations.
I have theories as to why there’s such a stark difference between celebrities’ and creators’ swaying power in the commerce world:
1. Celebrities don’t feel like real people, but creators do
Celebrities’ lives are enviable, but they aren’t relatable. Only a handful of people in this world know what it’s like to step onto a yacht with Ben Affleck, and those people live in a different income bracket than the rest of us.
On the other hand, creators' lives look exactly like ours. So it makes sense that I would purchase the same sunglasses as my favorite nano-creator because I recognize myself in her content. If the glasses work for her, it probably works for me. I can also probably afford the sunglasses.
Additionally, creators talk about their personal lives, and they interact with their fans. Celebrities don’t. This intimacy creates a personal connection and makes creators feel like trusted friends.
2. Consumers spend time where creators live
Here’s another reason creators heavily influence purchasing decisions: Consumers spend more and more time on platforms where creators post content.
There are about 4.62 billion social media users in the world. The average daily social media usage of global Internet users was 145 minutes per day in 2019 and 2020, according to Statista.
What’s more, for the first time ever, consumers spend more time on their mobile devices (where creators live) than watching television (where celebrities live), according to eMarketer.
This trend will likely continue, giving consumers even more exposure to creator content.
It’s also worth mentioning that creators live in a digital world where purchasing happens often, and online sales continue to grow. eCommerce, mobile commerce, and social commerce are huge revenue drivers.
In fact, online retail amounted to 4.9 trillion globally, and it’s projected to grow more than 50% in the next four years.
Simply put: We see creators pitching products every day on TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook—much more than we see celebrities on TV or in movies pitching products—and creator content massively boosts brand awareness and sales.
2. Consumers trust creators more than celebrities, brands, and, sometimes, their own friends
The modern consumer is a smart consumer and is quick to side-eye celebrity ads that come off as obvious financial transactions rather than genuine endorsements.
In fact, 74% of Americans said they don’t want to purchase products from celebrity brands. Out of the same group, 31% said they don’t trust that celebrities will have well-made beauty products.
This shows that celebrity status isn’t enough to sustain a brand.
Today’s consumers are calling for brands to be genuine. Ninety percent of consumers said they look for authenticity when choosing which brands to support.
And, what’s more authentic than a real person who loves to cook talking about which chili crisp she uses, for example?
Statistics show that brands who invest in creator voices (no matter the level of a creator) over the brand’s voice, and over celebrities, are winning in the trust department. Check it out:
- 61% of consumers trust creators over branded content
- 92% of consumers trust a creator more than an advertisement or traditional celebrity endorsement
- 70% of teens said they trust creators more than traditional celebrities
What’s more, some consumers report they trust creators more than they trust their own friends. YouTube reported 4 in 10 Millennial subscribers said their favorite creator understands them more than their friends.
3. Creators have specialized expertise
One reason people may trust creators over celebrities, brands, and even their own friends when it comes to making purchasing decisions is because creators have niche expertise.
The most successful creators talk about what they know—and only about what they know.
Take BookTok, for example.
If you browse #BookTok, you’ll see thousands of book recommendations from creators who are avid readers. It’s like having a community of smart librarians or a global book club right at your fingertips.
BookTok influencers are changing publishing and influencing the popularity of certain books. If you walk into Barnes & Noble, there is an entire table dedicated to the most popular books people chat about on TikTok. It’s the #BookTok table.
Morning Brew recently spoke to Samantha Boures from Book of the Month about its partnerships with some BookTokers.
After realizing how much creators influenced book sales, Book of the Month created an influencer marketing program. BookTokers involved in the program create relatable content about relevant books, and it’s paying off for Book of the Month.
Boures said she created an influencer campaign around The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. The book ended up seeing a huge boost in sales and acquiring many positive reviews, according to the Morning Brew interview.
What more could Book of the Month ask for in terms of audience targeting than immediate access to a handful of book reviewers with niche followings of readers?
As any marketer knows, gaining immediate access to your target audience is worth its weight in gold—even more than a discounted celebrity partnership. Well, with the exception of Oprah Reese Witherspoon or any other celeb with a book club.
In today’s world, brands can partner with creators who talk directly to the brand’s audience. It’s why brands are moving away from celebrity endorsements and investing in smaller celebrities—creators with the perfect audience for their brand.
4. Creators have loyal fans
Fan loyalty is concrete evidence of creator influence. And the extent to which fans support creators is uniquely impressive compared to fans of celebrities.
When I talked to Matthew Pierce from Versus Systems last year, we discussed the differences between the two kinds of fandoms and what this means for brands.
Pierce said, “There’s a staggering difference between the fandoms on YouTube or Twitch creators and the fandoms of TV or movie celebrities. A whole generation of people has no idea who Angelina Jolie is but would walk through a wall to meet a YouTube creator.”
Not only are fans keenly aware of their favorite social media creators, but they also support them in ways they don’t support celebrities. For example, fans:
- Buy and sport creator merchandise
- Donate to creators' philanthropy efforts (e.g., Beast Philanthropy)
- Purchase creators’ unique products and services
Creators also generate second-hand loyalty. In other words, consumers often look to creators for product and brand discovery instead of turning to direct search. So when these creators talk about their favorite brands on social media, fans get the message, follow the brand, and start making purchases.
Brands already know this, and that’s why 76% of marketers report influencer engagement as an effective strategy for garnering customer loyalty.
The best part for brands? Even small influencers who don’t require a large financial investment generate sales.
Eighty-two percent of consumers said they were highly likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer in an ExpertVoice study. And, if you remember from earlier, almost all consumers (92%) trust creators over celebrity ads.
Creators share a personal connection with their followers, and it makes a difference in creator loyalty and brand loyalty for the products that creators endorse.
Creators are taking over as the new celebrities
What makes a celebrity? Loosely defined, it’s the state of being known by the masses.
While it’s true that traditional celebrities have large fan bases, creators do too.
But, here’s what’s interesting for brands looking to promote products: Creators have far more power of influence (especially when it comes to purchasing decisions) than celebrities. This is even true for micro-influencers.
So, when you’re officially ready to launch your next product, and want to spread the word—look to creators, the new celebrities.