The New Influencers:

More Celebrity than Authority?

Matt interviews Mark Schaefer about his recent article, “Emphasis on celebrity over authority is blowing up influencer strategy.”

Mark explains how influencers are made up of the top tier of celebrities, then the next tier of authorities or content experts. Finally, the “minor leagues” which is made up of aspiring influencers.

However, aspiring influencers are adept at curating their celebrity, but not their expertise or authority in any specific content.  Will this limit their commercial viability or the ability of an advertiser to find a relevant partner.

Another danger is the temptation to boost numbers and inflate popularity, which could come back to harm their future prospects. Advertisers, such as P&G have announced that they will not work with influencers who utilize bots or services to boost followers or engagement.

Show Notes

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[00:00:00] Mark Schaefer: I think it was around 2012, more content was being created by people than media companies. We entered this era of infinite media. We didn’t need a license to create media. We didn’t need to own a newspaper to create media. If you had a keyboard and a Wi-Fi connection, you were creating content, you were potentially moving content, and creating influence. So the lines crossed a few years ago and the power shifted a few years ago.

[00:00:47] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining.

[00:01:14] Matt Bailey: Well, hello and welcome to another edition of the Endless Coffee, Cup podcast. And I’m your host, Matt Bailey as always. And today, I’ve got a great guest. If you’ve been in the marketing space for any time at all, you know the name Mark Schaefer. Uh, he’s been out there with podcasts, with speaking, books. Mark, thank you so much for making time today to be with us.

[00:01:36] Mark Schaefer: Matt, is it, it is a delight to talk to you. Is, I’ve had a big star on my calendar waiting for this conversation.

[00:01:44] Matt Bailey: I appreciate that. Mark, could you give us just a little bit of background about yourself for anyone who may not have heard of you?

[00:01:51] Mark Schaefer: Yeah. I spent most of my career working in corporate America, with that around Fortune 100 companies mostly, and started my own business, oh, I guess it’s been around 12 or 13 years ago now. And, uh, I am, uh, an educator like you. I teach at Rutgers University. I am a keynote speaker. I’m a marketing strategy consultant, which is really my, my sweet spot. And I’m also the author of nine books.

Some of the books that have been popular in the marketing space have been known, which has been a bestselling book on personal branding, marketing rebellion, which is been a wakeup call, really, to adjust to marketing in the current age. And my new book is about building momentum for your company and brand called “Cumulative Advantage.” And, uh, so I do a lot and I have fun every day.

[00:02:44] Matt Bailey: Good, good. That is one thing I love about this industry is that, you know, it’s only 20 some years old and every day there’s a new niche. And so, I love hearing that people love what they do.

[00:02:58] Mark Schaefer: Yeah. It’s endlessly fascinating. You know, and we’re, we’re, we’re in a hard time right now because of the pandemic. I think everyone is suffering in some way and we have to be sensitive to that. But from an academic point of view, there’s never been a more exciting time to just observe how the world is changing, how businesses are adjusting, and how marketing is rapidly changing.

[00:03:24] Matt Bailey: It is. It’s fascinating because nobody has answers. I think prior to this, it was things we’ve seen before. And so maybe there were some pat answers, or there was some guidance. With something we haven’t seen before, there’s no guidance.

[00:03:40] Mark Schaefer: Yeah, and going into the pandemic, we guessed wrong on everything.

[00:03:43] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:03:44] Mark Schaefer: We literally guessed wrong on everything. Who could have predicted that, that we would have a building boom, right? And we’d have shortages of wood and bricks during a pandemic. You know, who would have guessed that we’d have record sales of Clearasil because people’s faces are breaking out from the masks, right? We literally guessed wrong on everything. And I think we’re, we’re heading into an era of unintended consequences that we’re going to guess wrong on everything coming out of the pandemic as well.

Because our audience, our consumers, have been changed in millions of small and large ways. And it may be years until we fully understand what happened during this pandemic, how behaviors have changed, and how we need to serve our customers to adjust to these new behaviors, these new habits. The number one skill set for marketers I think is to be humble, honestly.

I mean, we just really need to pay attention right now and to listen, because if, if, if we thought we knew what was going on, we thought we knew our customers, now’s the time to really be humble and listen and pay attention. I’m disregarding any research that was conducted before 2020. I mean, I just think it’s meaningless. I’m, I’m completely serious.

[00:05:08] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:05:09] Mark Schaefer: Completely serious. And I, I can’t even read anything that was done in 2018 or 2019. We’ve got a new rudder behind us right now.

[00:05:18] Matt Bailey: Oh, absolutely. I completely agree. I mean, this is an event that I, I think it shook people because prior to this, yeah, we’ve had natural disasters, but usually small scale. Now it’s something that we can’t control, and I think prior to this, most people’s lives, if you were to describe them, would be under control. That it’s predictable. I can control. If something happens, I’ll deal with it.

And finally, something has happened that almost like, well it’s nature and we can’t control it. And we don’t know what to do. And globally, I don’t think there’s ever been such a time that’s caused us to rethink everything that you know.

[00:06:01] Mark Schaefer: Absolutely, and let me give you just a tiny, tiny story. A tiny example. I was over at a friend’s house, and she showed me this, uh, Instagram video and it was of her two-year-old nephew blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. And she was livid. She said, “In this pandemic, how could anyone be blowing out candles on a birthday cake? I will never do that again.”

Now this is, you know, this is like this little scenario that where this young woman is saying, “I will never be the same again,” just over this little thing about blowing out candles on a birthday cake. And that’s why I say we just don’t know what is going to happen next in terms of consumer behaviors, consumer habits, new norms.

I think we’re reinventing our relationship with work, with food, with education, with parenting. I was on a call last week with a brand leader at Adidas who told me the pandemic has reinvented sport.

[00:07:17] Matt Bailey: Right, right.

[00:07:18] Mark Schaefer: That’s no small thing. And so those are just the big things that we can see. So it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s quite a very interesting time.

[00:07:27] Matt Bailey: It is. And like you said, the research done prior, but then also I see a lot of articles, you know, attempting to prognosticate, “Here’s what’s going to happen. Here’s the trend.”

[00:07:38] Mark Schaefer: Yeah.

[00:07:38] Matt Bailey: And, and I’m thinking, well, in four months, the trend is going to change again. Uh, you know, if we reach a level where things can kind of go back to normal, it, normal is not going to be normal. I think that’s one thing we…

[00:07:51] Mark Schaefer: No.

[00:07:52] Matt Bailey: …agree on.

[00:07:53] Mark Schaefer: Right. Um, and I mean, I think there’s certain things that are common sense around e-commerce. A priority around safety, comfort, no touch. Right?

[00:08:07] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:08:07] Mark Schaefer: So I mean, those things are, are, are kind of obvious, I think. Look at it this way, we’re now into the second year of this thing, and we’ve got a whole generation of, of, little children who were being socialized in a way where they’re not being reacted to in normal ways.

They can’t see people’s faces because of masks, right? They can’t play with other children. How’s that going to show up in 10 years or 15 years when these children become our customers and consumers?

[00:08:39] Matt Bailey: Wow. Yeah.

[00:08:40] Mark Schaefer: I mean, so, so look, you know, there’s obvious things, but we’re in a whacked-out world. A whacked-out world. Everyone is suffering. Everyone is grieving something, and that is going to show up in many unpredictable ways.

[00:08:56] Matt Bailey: Yeah. I mean, that’s the human cost. And on the other side of this as well, a good friend of mine is in the lumber industry.

[00:09:03] Mark Schaefer: Hallelujah.

[00:09:04] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, he’s…

[00:09:07] Mark Schaefer: Oh, happy day.

[00:09:08] Matt Bailey: About three months ago, he was incredibly nervous because of how much money they put out to buy stock. And they went all in. I think more people have learned about supply chain economics in the past year, because it affects now. “Yeah, you want to do something? Well, we don’t have the parts.” I read the other day that there’s thousands of trucks sitting, waiting to be sold because there’s no chips for them. You know? So even from a marketing standpoint, we can’t market things that aren’t in the market.

[00:09:39] Mark Schaefer: Who ever thought the sexiest career choice would be supply chain management?

[00:09:44] Matt Bailey: Right. Right. You know, and they’re going crazy trying to figure out how do we react to this, but not just now, how do we act to this five years from now, and talking to a client about, you know, reassuring operations and what would be the cost of doing that, but yet also comparing that to what they have lost already in the past year.

[00:10:00] It’s just, economics is playing a huge, huge role in the availability of products, in what businesses will be able to offer in the future. So it’s amazing how, how this has impacted everything.

[00:10:20] Mark Schaefer: Yeah. It’s endlessly fascinating.

[00:10:22] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:10:22] Mark Schaefer: It really is.

[00:10:23] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:10:23] Mark Schaefer: Honestly, endlessly fascinating. I learn something new every day.

[00:10:27] Matt Bailey: That’s for sure. Well, Mark, I wanted to contact you and get you on the podcast specifically about an article that you wrote recently, because I, I’ve done a lot in my training and people always have questions about social media and of course, most of those questions revolve around influencers.

And you wrote a great article about the emphasis in, in the up-and-coming influencers that the next generation, or I like how you even put them the, the development league.

[00:10:59] Mark Schaefer: Yeah. Minor leagues.

[00:11:00] Matt Bailey: Yeah. The minor leagues of influencers, where they’re focused on celebrity instead of authority. Could you explain a little bit about that?

[00:11:10] Mark Schaefer: So, first of all, at a very high level, what creates power on the internet is one thing. Very simple. What creates influence? What creates power? It’s this. Can a person move content? Can you move an idea? Can you move a story? Can you move a video or a blog post? Right? If you can move content in a way that gets other people to notice and react, that is influence. Period.

So it’s a very simple definition. And so I think we need to look at influence marketing through this lens. A lot of people, they don’t understand, they think influence marketing is, is silly or fluffy, but if you look at it through this lens, it makes sense. That doesn’t really matter if we think a certain person is fluffy or we don’t understand their impact on an audience, as long as they move content, they’re doing a job for a business or a brand.

So that’s the highest level. Now, how did this whole thing begin? Well, beginning in the 1990s, this shift began to occur. How did content move before? It was through ad agencies. It was through big marketing programs and PR, but with the advent of the internet, and specifically social media, the power shifted to the people, right?

And sometime around, I think it was around 2012, more content was being created by people than media companies. We entered this era of infinite media. We didn’t need a license to create media. We didn’t need to own a newspaper to create media. If you had a keyboard and a Wi-Fi connection, you were creating content, you were potentially moving content and creating influence. So the lines crossed a few years ago, and the power shifted a few years ago. Now, the early days of this power shift were about building authority. The first real way to create content, the earliest way was blogging.

In the early days of social media and the internet, it was still hard to make videos. You needed equipment, you needed software, you couldn’t do it on a smartphone back then. Same thing with a podcast. So blogging was the first real way in to create influence. And the way people created popularity for their blogs, in general, was because they were passionate about something.

They were an expert in something like cars, or fashion, or art, or media. And so they developed their authority, their, their reputation and their influence through authority.

[00:14:11] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:14:12] Mark Schaefer: They were passionate about something. And this went on for about a decade. The early video producers, the early, uh, you know, podcasters, or there’s podcasters, they were all sort of topic specific.

And if you wanted to learn something, if you wanted to connect to a certain industry, you knew where to go. Now here’s the shift. And this became apparent over the last few months, I’ve done several experiments around influence marketing, and I’ve been connecting with these new influencers that are growing up through Tik Tok, through Snapchat, sometimes we call them micro influencers or nano influencers.

And these are the young people coming up who are going to be the big influencers of tomorrow. These are the people who are moving content. And something that became quite apparent to me is that the new generation of people who are creating content are celebrities.

So now, there are really three different kinds of influencers. And it depends, you know, maybe in your classes you talk about, there are 10 or 12. I tend to simplify things as much as possible.

[00:15:23] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:15:23] Mark Schaefer: Say there’s 3.

[00:15:24] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:15:24] Mark Schaefer: Number 1 is a celebrity, and that’s like Kim Kardashian. And there’s a certain role for that. There’s a certain place for that in the business ecosystem. The next level would be content creators. Those are people like you and me, right? We would not be known if you and I weren’t creating content…

[00:15:43] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:15:43] Mark Schaefer: …through our blogs, through our podcast, alright? And brands maybe connect with us because we’re known for something.

The next level would be these advocates. These are people who just purely share content for the joy of it. They may have smaller audiences, but they’re very influential because they’re so passionate about, whatever it is. Could be cars, it could be fashion, it could be makeup, or whatever. And when people see their content, they believe it and they buy it because they know these people are passionate.

Now, it occurs to me that the new generation, they’re performers. They’re creating their influence by entertaining, and, and I’m talking in a big generality here, right?

[00:16:30] Matt Bailey: Yes. Oh, absolutely.

[00:16:30] Mark Schaefer: At a very high-level generality. The people who are becoming the influencers on Tik Tok and Snapchat, these are going to be the new movie stars. They’re going to be the new television stars. They’re not going to be the next people who are experts about automotive, or about, you know, whatever, about technology.

Literally, this is the, the developmental league for big media. There’s no question in my mind that, that these people who are learning how to sing and dance and act, this is what’s making them popular on Tik Tok, which is awesome, by the way. I mean, Tik Tok is just a transformational social media platform.

These are going to be the movie stars of the future. So, it occurred to me, as a brand doing experiments with these influencers, it occurs to me that these people, they’re, they’re not becoming authorities.

[00:17:29] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:17:30] Mark Schaefer: They’re not designed to be authorities. They’re not trying to be authorities. They’re trying to be celebrities. And so any way that they’re representing the brand, is really more about them…

[00:17:42] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:17:42] Mark Schaefer: …than about the brand. And so, now, there is a place for celebrity, but it’s different. I want to be associated with, like, say, Kim Kardashian or George Clooney because they have a certain vibe.

[00:17:57] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:17:57] Mark Schaefer: If George Clooney is drinking Nespresso Coffee, that says something about Nespresso Coffee. So there’s a place for that. Alright? But it’s not about authority. It’s not because George Clooney grows coffee beans, right?

[00:18:12] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.

[00:18:12] Mark Schaefer: It’s not because he studies coffee and is well known for that. So, there’s going to be a very, very different influence marketing strategy that is being dictated by Snapchat and the Tik Tok platforms, and what’s being rewarded on those platforms. So it is going to create really a lot of new opportunities and, and really sort of fracture in the traditional way companies and brands have approached influence market.

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[00:20:21] Matt Bailey: I remember reading once about the reason why we utilize celebrities in marketing and advertising. If we like the attributes of that celebrity, George Clooney for example, when he drinks Nespresso, we subconsciously apply those same characteristics that we like about George Clooney, to Nespresso. Uh, it’s got, you know, it’s little quirky, suave at the same time. And, and, and we just move those characteristics to the product.

And I think that makes a lot of sense, because if you don’t like Kim Kardashian to start with, you’re not going to like what she promotes. You’re not going to like any of that, because it, it, it has so much to do with personality, but they are lending their personality to that product. And I think with this up-and-coming group that you’re, you’re seeing here with these performers, yeah, absolutely, it’s a smaller audience. Uh, but again, they’re lending their, their talent. They’re lending their, how people perceive them to that brand.

[00:21:21] Mark Schaefer: And it really works, you know. I was looking at some, some things going on yesterday where Nicki Minaj is coming out with a new album, and she posed for these pictures that went viral yesterday, and she’s wearing pink Crocs.

[00:21:40] Matt Bailey: I’ve heard about that, yes.

[00:21:42] Mark Schaefer: Pink Crocs are sold out everywhere in the world. There was another rapper who appeared wearing gold Crocs, right? So now, through no marketing genius or strategy, Crocs is probably the hottest brand in the world right now. So it’s just simply being associated with someone like that, who is a fashion leader, who’s making a fashion statement, can transform a business.

So there’s a place for that. Absolutely. But we have to think about, there’s a whole generation where there, there could be a gap, there could be an authority gap, which also creates an opportunity for, you know, those of us who are actual authorities.

[00:22:32] Matt Bailey: Well, it makes a great point because the onus now is on the brand. The brand to do their homework, the brand to do the research, the brand to know, “Does this fit who we want to appeal to or how we want to appeal to them?”

[00:22:47] Mark Schaefer: It’s always been on the brand, really, you know, if you think about, Matt, you know, when you align with, with influencers, really, almost at any level, they’re going to be more well-known than anybody in your marketing department. And so if you hired somebody for your marketing department, you would vet them thoroughly. You wouldn’t just look at the size of their audience.

[00:23:08] Matt Bailey: Yeah. Right.

[00:23:08] Mark Schaefer: So, this is a very serious decision that unfortunately, too many brands take lightly. They just look at, you know, engagement rates and an audience without really looking at this more strategically.

[00:23:21] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. And you made a statement in your, in your article where they aren’t building authority, but they’re under enormous pressure to build their celebrity. And, and then that led into a lot of other points that you made, but I thought that was foundational because if you’re an expert, if you’re a content producer, if you’re an authority, you’re constantly learning and synthesizing, which makes it easy then to publish content. You know, celebrities, not the first thing on your mind. It, it’s the content, it’s the authority.

What are the implications of someone who is focused primarily on celebrity rather than authority?

[00:24:02] Mark Schaefer: You know, I had this experience where I got to know this Tik Tok influencer. She has 4 million fans, and she’s a sophomore at a university in Georgia, and she’s getting offers for big brand contracts. She’s a wonderful young woman and very talented. And, you know, she does a lot of dancing, uh, she’s done things with like skateboards and, and, and different things.

And one day she looked at the camera and she said, “What should I do? I’m running out of ideas. What should I do for you guys?” And she’s looking for ideas. And, and so this is, to me, this was poignant, because it’s just as you said, Matt, I mean, for me and you, I mean, I’ve got a backlog of like 265 blog post ideas, right?

[00:24:56] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:24:56] Mark Schaefer: I’ve got so many things to talk about, so many things to write about.

[00:25:01] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:25:02] Mark Schaefer: I just said, I couldn’t even possibly have enough time to, to, to speak and talk and write about all the things that are exciting to me. And there is no pressure for me to be entertaining, to come up with a, you know, a, a sea shanty or whatever’s popular now, uh, on, on Tik Tok. Uh, I don’t have to come up with a new dance.

I think there, there’s going to be an incredible amount of pressure, you know, I’m worried about that pressure because becoming an influencer, really, it’s, it’s a legitimate career choice. Now, so is becoming a professional baseball player. So is becoming a movie star. The, the chances of you actually doing that are almost nil. Uh, but that doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate.

[00:25:46] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:25:47] Mark Schaefer: I saw a statistic, uh, research that, that showed in the UK, 75% of the teenagers in the UK want to be an influencer…

[00:25:56] Matt Bailey: Wow.

[00:25:56] Mark Schaefer: …when they grow up. Now, 74.99% of them are going to be disappointed. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Follow your dreams, go for it, you know, if you want to be a baseball player, go for it.

My son wanted to be a rockstar. I said, “Go for it.” Now, deep down inside, I’m going, “Oh my gosh, that’s a terrible career choice.” But, you know, look, don’t leave anything on the table. And, you know, it worked out great for him.

But the fact is, you’re right. Wow. You know, it’s, it’s hard to be entertaining every single day. It’s going to be impossible to be interesting and entertaining every single day.

So one of the big trends is hype houses. This is where influencers get together. They live together and sort of like create content based on these experiences, they can pool their resources to get professional video and, and editing people, creatives to help support them. And so we’re going to see this in every city.

We’re going to have these hype houses and, uh, you know, there’s, there’s different implications for that, right? We’re entering an entirely new and interesting phase in influence and influence marketing. And I don’t think it’s insignificant.

[00:27:19] Matt Bailey: It’s not. And, and it’s interesting with the hype houses, uh, been looking into some of that, and it’s interesting because it’s mirroring what’s happening with inner city basketball leagues, where you have agents, you have brands looking for the kids with talent, and then investing in them, grooming them, that if they hit it big, we’ll get a payoff, you know, and we’ll invest in a hundred kids. And if one hits, that’s it.

And there’s also now media companies getting involved with these hype houses, underwriting, but at the same time, in order to be a part of this, you have to sign a contract with us. And I think it’s interesting from some standpoint, because they’re providing tools, they’re providing, uh, you know, maybe some, you know, equipment or things that people couldn’t get.

But at the other side, opens that up to a lot of unscrupulous dealings, that the same thing we see in the athletics, that it’s happening in the media as well. And so yeah, when I hear about the hype houses, I’m like, “Yeah. Oh…” It’s, it’s, uh, it’s almost like, uh, there’s kind of this, “Boy, I hope someone is watching out for this in the industry somehow,” because there’s a lot of potential both ways.

[00:28:41] Mark Schaefer: Yeah. You know, I, I agree that there’s a huge opportunity for corruption here, and obviously where corruption can occur, corruption will occur. And it particularly makes me concerned that, you know, wide eyed, young people trying to make a mark for themselves could be the victims of this.

I think there’s also an interesting sort of implication for, for brands and, and branding here. A year and a half ago, the CMO from Pepsi made a really interesting statement. He said the era of the big brand is over. That instead of making a big splash with a comprehensive campaign, branding today means being relevant in cultural moments. I thought this was a really bold statement. And since he said that I’ve seen other brands say the same thing.

[00:30:00] There’s a quote, it’s in my new book, “Cumulative Advantage” from my friend at Adidas, or for your international audience, Adidas, and he said, “A brand is no longer about creating a bonfire. It’s about creating little sparks. About being relevant in cultural moments.” So I’m hearing this over and over again.

And I think these hype houses, like we see, Nicki Minaj, right? Creating a cultural moment. Yesterday they said her photos broke the internet. This is a cultural moment. A new album from Nicki Minaj. She’s wearing pink Crocs. Now, what does Crocs do? How do you, it’s not a campaign. It’s a moment. By the way, it very much goes along with the ideas I have in this new book.

In “Cumulative Advantage,” I talk about that strategy isn’t any longer about a 250-page document and a five-year plan. It’s about finding a seam of opportunity right now.

[00:30:55] Matt Bailey: Hmm.

[00:30:56] Mark Schaefer: In this moment. Where is there a fracture in the status quo? How do we apply our core competencies and skills to that fracture? Right now, there is a massive fracture in the status quo for Crocs.

You abandon everything and you dive through this with your full force and all the power you have. And by the way, it’s not going to last forever.

[00:31:22] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:31:22] Mark Schaefer: But you go right now. And I think that is sort of this macro trend that Pepsi and Adidas are talking about. Is, and it’s exactly what I talk about in my book, is that today, strategy is activating a fracture in the status quo.

And oh, by the way, how did we begin our discussion, Matt?

[00:31:46] Matt Bailey: Exactly.

[00:31:47] Mark Schaefer: Talking about the pandemic, which is the biggest fracture of the status quo…

[00:31:50] Matt Bailey: Absolutely.

[00:31:51] Mark Schaefer: …in the history of the human race. And that also, you know, like we said, you know, it’s, it’s sad, it’s difficult. There are also endless business opportunities right now.

[00:32:01] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:32:01] Mark Schaefer: I predicted last March, we would see more, more business startups than any time in the history of America. And that has absolutely come true.

[00:32:10] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:32:10] Mark Schaefer: You know, unfortunately, tragically we’ve had many small business failures during this time, but we’ve actually had more startups than business failures. Because every single thing in our lives is changing. And those are all opportunities for innovation.

[00:32:30] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. That’s the one thing about, uh, economic downturns, is they always produce new companies. Uh, and many of the companies that are very familiar to us were started in a downturn or in a crash or something like that. So yeah, it was a, something that you could almost see coming, and especially now with the opportunities, it’s there. It absolutely is there.

And I think also with being, uh, under, under lockdown, people have time to make videos. Now, something interesting, you might like this. So, my daughters are still in school and the sixth-grade teacher I talked with her about three years ago, and they were doing a unit on, what do you want to be when you grow up?

And we were talking and joking, and she said, “I’m not going to lie, this, years ago it was, “I want to be a firefighter, a police officer. I want to be an athlete. I want to be an actor.” She said, “Now, almost to a child, every one of them want to be a YouTuber.” She said it was within like a year or two. All of a sudden, that’s what it was.

Now, it’s interesting, even during the pandemic now, I talked to her and ask about it cause my youngest daughter’s now in her class, and she said it’s almost going back the other way now. There’s still people that want to be gamers. They want to be streaming, but yet now she said, it’s almost like it’s kind of going away with the younger generation, these are, uh, sixth graders, seventh graders. Uh, it’s kind of going back.

So I don’t know if that’s a, maybe a pendulum thing, but it really captured the imagination, uh, for a number of years, like you said, 70% of them want to be an influencer or some level of entertainer online because that’s where they’re seeing entertainment now. That’s where they’re getting it. I mean, every morning my daughter is watching YouTube when she gets ready for school. She’s got her headphones in, and, and part of me wants to shut her down, but I remembered, well, when I was her age, I had my Walkman and I had those headphones on all morning, and, you know, I never talked to my parents, I just got ready and left the house.

So, there’s a lot of that same area and I’ve, I feel like I just need to be patient. I just need to let her do her thing. But their media consumption is completely different, and so their view on media is so different. And I think, you know, those of us that are older, in marketing departments, it’s a different way now, of approaching the media landscape.

[00:34:54] Mark Schaefer: It is, and I also think it’s inspiring and energizing, in the “Marketing Rebellion” book, I talk about how our old ways of marketing and advertising, they just don’t work. They won’t work. That people are not seeing ads. You could easily say that advertising consumption is down 95% in the last 5 years, right?

I mean, I watch more TV than ever in my life. I never see an ad cause I’m watching on Netflix or I’m watching on, you know, I’m watching the Mandalorian or something, right? I listen to music all the time. I never hear an ad ’cause it’s on Spotify. Or, you know, I’m listening to an audio book and 650 million people in the world have ad blockers on their smart devices. And even when people hear ads, they don’t believe them.

[00:35:49] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:35:49] Mark Schaefer: And we see what’s going on with Apple right now, and the privacy things. Apple isn’t being mean; they’re not punishing Facebook. Here’s what they’re doing. They’re listening to people.

[00:36:02] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:36:03] Mark Schaefer: Here’s what the, here’s what the world is saying. We’re skipping your ads, we’re blocking your ads, we’re paying more to not see your ads. Stop finding tricky ways to show us ads, please. And Apple’s saying, “You’re right.” This is exactly what I predicted in the book. Now here’s, what’s exciting. The young people today, the young entrepreneurs, they know this, and they look around and they say, “Look at all the stupid things these big companies are doing. We would never do that.”

And almost every case study, almost every success story in that “Marketing Rebellion” book is from someone under 30, because they get it. You gotta stop interrupting people. You have to stop intercepting people. You got to stop spamming, annoying, you got to stop robo calls, and all this other crap, lead nurturing, which is just another way of saying, “We’re going to spam you until you block us,” right?

[00:37:03] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.

[00:37:04] Mark Schaefer: It’s just a friendly little term that, that really means we’re going to annoy you. Right? Just stop it. Stop doing what people hate. Just stop it and look at how do we connect to people? You know, how do we market to people like they’re our friends? It’s really that simple. And the young people today are leading us in that direction.

This is another way how marketers need to be humble right now and need to watch and listen and see how these new businesses are connecting to customers in new way, in, in a new way. They are leading us to the future of marketing, and big companies, big brands today, they’re holding on to this useless infrastructure.

[00:37:50] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:37:50] Mark Schaefer: It’s being held in place by the scaffolding of relationships with ad agencies that’s going to crumble, and they’re going to lose. And we need to pay attention to what is happening and, and the, the young people, the small companies, the entrepreneurs, they’re the ones that are going to win in this new environment.

[00:38:11] Matt Bailey: Absolutely man, especially with what’s happening in the ad tech space. And every day is a story that blows our minds about how much money is being wasted in ad tech, uh, being shown to bots and the fraud that is within the industry. And this gets to another concept. In, in one of the classes that you spoke to, uh, you, you brought this up, along with the relevance, and it’s a concept of trust, and that’s one of the reasons why people don’t want the ads. They don’t want to see all these things, ’cause I don’t trust you. I don’t trust what you’re saying.

Now, you also brought this in, in the article about these influencers, that one of the biggest temptations they’re going to have is to beef up their numbers, beef up their numbers through bots, through fake accounts, through things like that.

Uh, so in, in, in marketing, which already suffers from trust issues, then we have influencer marketing. I mean, in a lot of circles, Mark, you know, when you say, “influencer,” there’s a negative reaction, more so than there’s a positive reaction. And, you know, I, I talked with Jason Falls a month or two ago, and it’s like, you have to tell people, “Wait, I’m not talking about that.” There, there is, there…

[00:39:31] Mark Schaefer: I love that.

[00:39:32] Matt Bailey: There is a, so marketing already suffers from trust. Whenever you say, “influencer,” there is a, a strong, almost a vitriolic reaction among some people. How can influencer marketing work when there’s trust issues already?

[00:39:51] Mark Schaefer: Well, you mentioned the corruption in, in advertising, in ad tech. There’s corruption in SEO, there’s corruption in, in podcasting, right?

[00:40:00] Where there’s sort of a wink, wink, how people are sort of manipulating their, their numbers, right? There’s corruption everywhere. And in influence marketing, that’s what makes the headlines. It’s the stupid stuff. It’s the silly stuff. It’s the Fyre Festival, right? It becomes a documentary. And, oh, by the way, I could argue that the Fyre Festival was a great victory for influence marketing, because it worked. Right?

If you were offered a free ticket to The Bahamas, to, you know, to make a video, you’re sitting on a yacht, drinking champagne with, you know, lots of beautiful people. Would you say, “Yes, I would.” Right? So the influencers kind of did their job. It was the organizers who were corrupt.

[00:40:49] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:40:49] Mark Schaefer: Uh, they, you know, the, the influencers were duped. I would be duped. You would be duped. So, the silly stuff. That’s what makes the headlines, unfortunately, but that does not undermine the idea, which is what we talked about at the beginning, which is this. Here is power on the web. This is it. Can you move content? These people can move content. So, it’s not gonna go away.

Influence marketing, it’s just beginning because all these companies, they’ve got these huge ad budgets, the ads aren’t going to work. Where are they going to put their money? You know, so, so look, influence marketing is evolving, it’s, it’s, it’s growing, it’s just beginning. And yes, we’re going to continue to see stupid stuff.

In the article that you mentioned, I talked about corruption I observed, myself, with people who, they get in these engagement pods, right? And so they fake the engagement numbers for each other. The companies are just going to have to be smart. You’ve got to have zero tolerance for that. And the influencers are going to have to realize that they’re going to have to earn their way, in an organic way, in a legitimate way. There is no shortcut.

I met an amazing young woman at South By Southwest a few years ago, and I’m sorry, I’m dropping her name right now, I’m embarrassed. But she’s a top influencer, top YouTube star. And she had a big contract with Aeropostale. In fact, she had her own line with Aeropostale, and she said, “I don’t wear their clothes all the time. Why would I?” And I’m thinking, “Because they’re paying you.”

[00:42:41] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:42:41] Mark Schaefer: Right? And she said, “I know that if I wore their clothes all the time, my audience would know something was wrong. That’s not me. I can’t breach that trust with my audience.” Now, that’s a great lesson for a company, a brand, an influencer. Trust means I will never let you down, and if you let people down, probably once, that’s going to be the end.

So, the influencers, the young people today, they have to learn that lesson, ’cause if they cross that line, and they let their audience down, they will not succeed. They’ve got to have a business-like attitude toward the way they’re growing their business and their brand. And they cannot jeopardize the trust they have with their audience, or they’re going to let their audience down. They’re going to let the brand down. And, and, and look, a lot of people, they’re going to buy the numbers.

[00:43:46] Matt Bailey: Yep.

[00:43:47] Mark Schaefer: Because there is that pressure, but it’s not going to work.

[00:43:50] Matt Bailey: No.

[00:43:50] Mark Schaefer: Not in the long-term.

[00:43:51] Matt Bailey: No.

[00:43:51] Mark Schaefer: It’s not going to work.

[00:43:52] Matt Bailey: The best influencer marketing campaign is the one you don’t see, because you don’t realize you’re being influenced, because it’s so natural. It appeals to you. And it’s someone saying something that you agree with. It’s someone you know, or familiar with, and it’s persuasive. And so, I, I believe the best influencer campaign is when you don’t realize it’s a campaign. Uh, you know, like the woman you were talking about, she, “I don’t wear the clothes all the time.”

It’s subtle. It’s not in your face. It’s, we’re, we’re using people in your circle to influence you. And that, I think, is probably a, a great way of maybe, instead of thinking about the, in your face, I’m going to, you know, push this on you, again, it goes right back to what you were saying was the problem with marketing.

It’s, no, let’s reach the influencers that reach the audience and, uh, you know, and, and the influencer’s not always the, you know, the, the entertainer, there’s other people around that fit that mold of being an influencer. So, yeah.

Mark, hey, thank you so much for your time today. Of course, the way we always, uh, end a podcast, how can people find you if they want to learn more, or follow, or get access and, and see the article, uh, as well as others you’ve written?

[00:45:09] Mark Schaefer: Yeah, thanks, Matt. Um, well, it’s really easy to find me. If you can remember “Businesses Grow.”, that’s my website. You can find my blog, the Marketing Companion podcast, all my books, my social media connections, I follow everybody back on LinkedIn, so I’d love to connect with people on LinkedIn.

And Matt, thanks so much. It was just a delight talking to you, and, you know, you certainly got me up on my soap box on a few topics here today. So job well done.

[00:45:41] Matt Bailey: Alright. Well, thank you. It’s always a pleasure, Mark, and, uh, always enjoy, you know, bringing you in on the classes, uh, when we’re, uh, for those of you, you know, some of you watching the podcast, you are, you know already, uh, we’re teaching classes out in the United Arab Emirates, and Mark has been able to come in and, uh, provide some of our expert talks and, uh, they are growing an amazing, amazing school in the Emirates and, uh, your talks just, a, I’ll tell you, Mark, they motivate the students. They really do. And they challenge them, and, uh, there’s always a great discussion afterwards. So, just thank you for your involvement there with the, uh, New Media Academy.

[00:46:19] Mark Schaefer: Yeah, happy, and I learn from them, too, so thanks for, thanks for your support on that.

[00:46:24] Matt Bailey: Absolutely, Mark. Hey, thanks again, and appreciate it. Any final words, uh, that you’d like to leave us with?

[00:46:31] Mark Schaefer: Well, you know, I guess it would be this, the subtitle of the Marketing Rebellion book is, “The Most Human Company Wins.” And I think that is really the guideline for all of us going forward. In every customer touch point, how do we show our faces, our hearts, our smiles, our passion, and especially now, our compassion, uh, for our fans, our customers, and our audience. So, be more human.

[00:46:57] Matt Bailey: That’s beautiful. I love that. That is, that is absolutely dead on, Mark. Thank you so much for that.

[00:47:02] Mark Schaefer: Thank you, sir.

[00:47:03] Matt Bailey: Alright, and thank you, listener. I hope you enjoyed this podcast and this time with Mark, and again, I look forward to seeing you on a future episode at the Endless Coffee Cup.

Featured Guest:

Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer

Speaker, Educator, & Author

Mark Schaefer | LinkedIn

Mark Schaefer | Twitter

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