We all desire to exert influence with the aim, consciously or not, of getting our values, beliefs, and politics accepted by others and persuading them to take action. That action can be visiting a website, buying a product or supporting a cause.
Within my experience, there is one overriding problem that organizations of every size, whether commercial or philanthropic, have in common. Namely, a failure to connect with their desired, but hard to reach target audiences and get them to take action.
Combined, millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) will be the largest US consumer group by 2026 at 30 percent of the population, with spending power of over $1.4 trillion per year. These highly prized groups of young(er) people are distracted by numerous online options, coupled with a very attuned bullshit radar for inauthentic marketing and literally being sold a bill of goods.
Despite spending billions on marketing, corporate America’s failure to engage critically needed audiences has led to revenue deterioration, customer erosion, brand weak‐ ness, and job losses. The COVID‐19 pandemic exacerbated this problem, especially for brick‐and‐mortar retailers, pushing many companies to the brink of extinction.
Consumer behavior radically changed during the pandemic. Per a McKinsey study, over three‐quarters of US consumers began trying new shopping behaviors, and brand loyalty shattered, with Gen Z and high earners the most prone to switching brands. That’s why brands need to use the Influencer Effect — the exponential impact of an “Influencer” throwing their popularity, social capital, and platform behind a particular cause or brand – to acquire customers or get them to switch allegiance. Influencers can be celebrities, social media stars, sports figures, or others who will inspire your target audiences in a culturally appropriate way for your organization and stakeholders.
Traditional advertising has little impact on reaching the most coveted generations, but Influencers and their content do. Nielsen’s 2015 research shows that Influencer endorsements resonate more strongly with audiences among Gen Z (ages 15‐20) and millennials (ages 21‐34). Their buying decisions are motivated mainly by social media or celebrity endorsement rather than a brand’s advertising or reputation. Nearly 60 percent of Gen Z says they don’t mind being pitched by their favorite online social media personality. A study from the University of Arkansas, in collaboration with the Manchester Business School, found that consumers ages 18‐24 actively develop their identities and appearance based upon celebrities. They are more susceptible to celebrity brand endorsements than other age groups. And for older folks, an Influencer endorsement still resonates.
The clear and present danger in the nonprofit sector is even more extreme. The average individual donor is sixty‐four years old and growing older by the minute. If younger donors and volunteers don’t participate soon, many nonprofits will downsize or cease to exist. Large organizations are not exempt. Due to poor planning, research, and execution, many engage Influencers inefficiently and ineffectively. This failure brings about a retreat from what is a clever business play.
Who Should Use the Influencer Effect
Over the last three decades, I have seen the tremendous good and increased commercial benefits resulting from Influencers’ involvement in campaigns for nonprofits, for‐profit organizations, or both combined. Every day, across the globe, millions of medium and smaller organizations miss out on opportunities to engage Influencers in campaigns to create social change and economic prosperity. The primary culprits for this are an absence of information in the marketplace to demystify the process of engaging Influencers, and a lack of confidence in how organizations like yours could pull it off. The Influencer Effect benefits:
Businesses with products or services to sell. Influencers will reach your desired audiences more effectively than advertising.
Philanthropic organizations, nonprofits, and social justice groups. An Influencer can help you inspire people to volunteer, donate, and support your mission.
Politics, faith-based organizations, and interest groups that want to get people elected and legislation or policy passed. An Influencer’s endorsement can help persuade voters and your constituents.
Why don’t more organizations take advantage of the Influencer Effect? Here are a few rationales I have heard from organizations:
Myth 1: You need to know people
Myth 2: You need big bucks
Myth 3: You need an A‐lister to succeed.
None of these are true. Organizations of all sizes have and continue to engage Influencers at no cost, reaching out with a cold call and benefiting from the transformational change that follows.
Take Annette Giacomazzi, the owner and creator of CastCoverz, who started her business accidentally. After Annette decorated her daughter’s cast, people asked where she bought the decorated cast. Annette began to sell covers for her casts and, with no prior experience, sent celebrities with injuries her cool upbeat covers for their casts. Loris Greiner, Kelly Ripa, and Tamara Monosoff all wore them without any payment or equity participation. The Influencer Effect helped the company rapidly grow to $6 million in revenues.
Myriad opportunities exist for you to benefit from the Influencer Effect. Don’t be afraid to move forward. It can change the trajectory of your business or your cause by increasing awareness, support, and revenue.
This article is adapted from the book GOOD INFLUENCE: How To Engage Influencers For Purpose And Profit by Paul M. Katz, published by Commit Media Books, copyright ©Paul M. Katz 2023
Paul M. Katz, author of GOOD INFLUENCE: How To Engage Influencers For Purpose And Profit is a veteran music industry executive, multi- Grammy nominee, and thought leader in the cause influence field who has guided nonprofits, companies, high-profile artists and other influencers in driving meaningful social impact campaigns for more than two decades. You can find more information and many tools for leveraging social influence for social good at www.paulmkatz.com.