Celeb Next Door: How Brands can use Micro Celebrities to Impact More Communities

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We’ve become more and more accustomed to be the center of everything– from drinking a Coke featuring our own name, producing a Mickey Mouse statute embedded with our face and, of course, building our own shoes and cars (so 2014) —  and we’ve started to believe we are the center of the universe.

In a world where customization is the norm, can advertising become even more personal? In a recent conversation, a friend of mine told me how one of his friends had appeared in his news feed, wearing Burberry’s latest fashion.

The photo was not a conventional fashion photograph, but an ordinary shot, featuring his friend in a somewhat trendy way. What he didn’t know was that this was part of Burberry’s latest influencer campaign, where consumers will be offered a discount at Burberry’s in return for a great fashion shot to be promoted among the “owner’s” friends.

2016 will be the year of extreme personalization – not by you, but by brands around you. The reality is that we’re much more influenced by others than by ourselves. If software is able to pair us up with people we once knew but lost contact with or, increasingly, with people we unknowingly seem to fit with, why shouldn’t technology be able to go that step further and identity those people who hold those aspirational dimensions you unknowingly seem to fall for, your sweet spot of desire, driving you to choose one brand over another?

As this happens, a completely new segment of celebrities will appear. I refer to them as micro celebrities, individuals who doesn’t appear in the gossip magazines, E! news or featured by Perez Hilton, but ordinary human beings who we can relate to and have an authoritative voice in our local communities.

You could say that celebrities will go ultra-local and, at the same time, become battle-grounds for brands. It first happened during President Obama’s election campaigns in 2008 and 2012, where a sophisticated data team was able to insert familiar faces next to undecided voters to sway them. These acquaintances and community leaders acted as living banner ads to educate and influence people to vote.

But what is the brand version of this election campaign? The local football coach. The church leader. The up and coming chef from the hot restaurant. The community center leader. All of these local heroes, with steady groups of followers and media, will become the next branding battleground. Why? Because if they are convinced that this particular pair of shoes, gardening tool, football headset or whatever is relevant to their lifestyle, they are likely to convince their tribe of the same. Influencer campaigns has been around for a while now.

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In 2011, I conducted a program in LA persuading a family to spread the word of mouth on brands as they were living their daily lives. The result? A sales increase of more than one hundred per cent. Brands are increasingly seeking this local authenticity, that a global, one-size-fits-all approach can’t deliver. Real, ultra-local individuals can and will. What’s the end result?

Forget about Coca-Cola relaying on their 96 million Facebook fans only. In the future they’re likely to tap into tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of sub segments that will listen to these micro celebrities. With this, the arrival of dynamic advertising campaign will happen.

Campaigns that are no longer locked in with a set timeline, but evolves as the world evolves. If a piece of breaking news occurs, the campaign represents enough flexibility to reshape, reformulate and utilize the news in its favor. If the local football coach wins a game, the local chef is featured on the news for his cooking, or the local community leader is honored by their students, the brands can rework their copy and adapt it to the story of the local player.

In short, as our slightly self-obsessed generation no longer is intrigued by watching a mirror of themselves, the next battleground will be people surrounding them– local people, personal people, who, in an intimate way, will come to represent the voice of brands.

It is an intriguing world, if slightly scary, where amazing opportunities are about to burst open – and perhaps a can of worms. I’m afraid my crystal ball is a little foggy on the outcome. Check back with me in 12 months—I’ll let the year do the talking.

hc_author_1This article is authored by Martin Lindstrom, one of the world’s leading brand expert and author of several New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books, including Buyology (Doubleday, New York, 2008) and Brandwashed (Crown, New York, 2011).

To book Martin Lindstrom for your next business event or corporate training program, click here

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