Last week we kicked off a new blog series comparing the benefits of collaborating with breakthrough/emerging artists compared to traditional celebrity/mainstream artist endorsements — breakthrough artists are more influential, can reach a more targeted audience, and have a tendency to be undervalued.
This week we are going to take a closer look at the influence breakthrough artists have with their fans.
Over the past several years, marketers have worked to better understand and utilize the power of influencers. While influencer marketing is certainly not a new phenomenon, it has seen a renaissance of sorts, with technology enabling self-made influencers to grow their audiences (think true indie recording artists, like Chance the Rapper). This new age of influencers has changed the way brands approach influence; rather than spending large portions of their marketing budget on celebrity endorsements that reach broad audiences but may fall flat on resonance, brands can utilize influencers with more targeted followings who drive higher engagement and conversions. In a study of top celebrity artist’s sponsored posts compared with breakthrough artists’ sponsored posts during MAX campaigns, looking at engagement rates based on number of followers, we found that breakthrough artists are 9x more influential than celebrity artists. In this article, we will look at the factors driving this level of influence that make breakthrough artists a better value for brands than celebrity artists.
A Deeper Connection
Different people in our lives hold different levels of influence over us based on which “circle of influence” they are in. In general, the closer we are to someone (those in the “inner circle” of influence), the more sway they have over us. We look to our families and close friends for advice, and may dismiss advice from an acquaintance or stranger.
How does this apply to the influence breakthrough artists have over audiences? Breakthrough artists have a strong personal connection with fans, often just by virtue of how they operate as artists. Breakthrough artists play at more intimate venues and are more accessible to interact with fans before and after shows. They tend to be more involved in growing their fan bases, personally engaging and replying to fans on social media, making them feel approachable and giving fans a closer connection than fans get with mega-celebrity artists. This personal connection, and willingness to share themselves with fans, creates a deep bond between breakthrough artists and their followers, leading to high levels of engagement and high conversion rates (in one case study, marketers were able to achieve an astonishing 10.1% conversion rateusing influencers with targeted reach). Brands can reap the benefits of this kind of connection by collaborating with and supporting breakthrough artists.
A Less Saturated Market
When brands are seeking endorsement deals with artists, the number of celebrity artists offers a limited selection — the number of brands seeking endorsement far exceed the number of celebrities being presented with endorsement deals. It is common for multiple brands to seek an endorsement from the same celebrity artist. While a celebrity endorsement can be very rewarding (Sean “Diddy” Combs’ relationship with Ciroc vodka has paid off for both the brand and Combs), celebrity artists often partner with multiple brands or products, which leads to oversaturation. The more products an artist endorses, the more likely an individual message is to get lost in the noise. Think of the cars, or even the clothes, that NASCAR drivers drive and wear; drivers have so many sponsors, their cars and protective gear end up looking like graffiti covered walls. The more endorsements and advertisements they have, the less impact each individual advertisement has. The same is true of a celebrity artist’s endorsements; when an artist has multiple brands that they endorse, the power of their influence is diluted.
Breakthrough artists often are just beginning to align themselves with brands, and endorsement deals can be considerably beneficial to a breakthrough artist. Brands that engage with breakthrough artists can help the artists reach a broader audience while, themselves, making a genuine connection with the artist’s fans. By partnering with breakthrough artists, a brand can ensure that their message is not lost in the noise of other endorsement deals — making the impact of their endorsement more meaningful. Conversely, breakthrough artists should be selective about which brands they endorse to ensure that they align with the artist’s image and values. Making calculated alliances that benefit both the brand and the artist can help ensure that brand messaging is well received by audiences.
An Authentic Voice
The authenticity of a celebrity endorsement goes hand-in-hand with the saturation of a celebrity artist’s influence. Audiences have come to expect celebrity artists to enter into endorsement deals, and what may be a genuine celebrity endorsement can be interpreted by audiences as a “money-grab.” It can be difficult for a celebrity artist to maintain authenticity while endorsing a brand, even if it is a product they truly believe in.
Celebrity endorsements can also lose authenticity if audiences have a hard time believing that a celebrity would actually use that brand (did anyone ever really believe that Tiger Woods drives a Buick?). When the wrong celebrity artist is chosen to endorse a brand, the result can be a loss of authenticity for both the celebrity artist and the brand, and can be an expensive marketing miss.
Breakthrough artists, with lower levels of endorsement saturation, retain authenticity when they enter into endorsement partnerships. Additionally, fans who want to see their favorite artist succeed will have a more favorable view of a brand that has chosen to partner with a breakthrough artist that they love. The genuine love that fans have for the breakthrough artist can transfer over to the brand, creating an authentic connection between the artist, the brand, and the artist’s fans.
Authenticity can be difficult to quantify, and can be equally difficult to maintain when an artist begins to engage in multiple endorsement deals, but when both brands and breakthrough artists are careful about entering into partnerships that are mutually beneficial and reflect the values of both the brand and the artist, authentic relationships can lead to higher conversion rates for brands.
The Power of Breakthrough Artists’ Influence
When we quantify influence, it’s easier for brands to see the value that breakthrough artists have over celebrity artists. A combination of genuine connection with fans, lower levels of endorsement saturation, and higher authenticity make partnerships with breakthrough artists attractive to brands.
Partnerships with breakthrough artists give brands a more authentic, intimate way to deliver their message to an audience — a way that’s more influential than traditional celebrity endorsements. Next week, we will look beyond the increased influence brands gain through the breakthrough artists they partner with, and talk about how breakthrough artists enable brands to reach very targeted audience profiles — instead of less influence with a broad audience by working with celebrity artists, brands can have greater influence with targeted audiences.
Music Audience Exchange (MAX) was founded in 2014 with a mission to help champion incredible music and the artists who make it through strategic, data-driven partnerships with brands. MAX brings brands into the music promotional space in a way that puts engaging content into the world through a value-exchange model that drives the brand's objectives, and elevates breakthrough bands along the way.