Beauty vlogger and internet sensation Zoella recently celebrated 11 million subscribers on her YouTube channel. Take a moment to think about that - 11 million people watch her make-up tutorials and beauty hauls several times a week. That's the equivalent of the entire Belgian population. When you add the 4 million subscribers from her vlogging channel MoreZoella, that's an impressive 15 million people around the world who are influenced by the UK YouTuber.
And Zoella certainly isn't the only one. Lots of vloggers in the UK are seeing their YouTube channels grow, transforming their hobbies into actual careers and propelling them into stardom. Ask any young girl or woman about Tanya Burr, Fleur de Force and Patricia Bright are, and odds are they'll know exactly who they are, watch their videos daily and maybe even want to be them.
Recently brands have started paying attention to these 'influencers' and rightly so, as they should be a crucial part of their marketing and communications strategy. In this post I'm going to prove that brands need to work with vloggers to avoid becoming obsolete in today's Instagram and Snapchat-obsessed world.
But first let's back up. For decades, brands chose to be represented by celebrities in the public eye. This strategy made perfect sense: stars are attractive and well-known. Who better to sell a beauty product than the beautiful Scarlett Johansson? The problem is, consumers grew increasingly sceptical of these endorsements. They could clearly tell that a) Scarlett's photos had been photoshopped and b) the celebrity was being paid to sell the product.
Enter beauty bloggers. Young women everywhere started writing and vlogging about their beauty purchases, and consumers turned to them for unbiased and truthful reviews of products. Bloggers and vloggers have become huge influences in consumers' purchase decisions worldwide. In fact a recent poll by London Beauty Queen showed that 47% of people had made "tons of purchases off the back of a blog recommendation" and 46% had made "a few". Only 7% hadn't made any purchases based on a blogger.
From 2007 onwards, brands really started paying attention to bloggers and influencer marketing was born. This led to the rising popularity of 'sponsored content' in the form of monetised blog posts and YouTube videos.
So why does it work so well? After researching the question for six months for my dissertation, I came to the following conclusion: beauty vloggers are influential due to their likability, similarity to viewers, physical attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness.
Likability: Beauty vloggers are chatty and friendly girls. They have likeable personalities and many viewers feel like their friends - and who wouldn't follow a friend's recommendation for a new lipstick?
Similarity: Beauty vloggers are just like you and me. They don't (well, most of them don't) live in crazy mansions, have minty fresh breath when getting out of bed and go to the gym three times a day. This authenticity makes them relatable.
Attractiveness: Of course there's no denying that Zoella, Tanya Burr and many other beauty vloggers are very pretty. But not in an unattainable Scarlett Johansson or Blake Lively way, which along with their similarity, makes them pretty relatable yet pleasing to watch.
Expertise: Beauty vloggers generally know their stuff. They spend hours browsing beauty products and doing research online, get invited to press trips to see new collections exclusively and test out countless beauty launches. They are the perfect source for up-to-date accurate information in the beauty world, no doubt about it.
Trustworthiness: Of course beauty vloggers are paid by brands to talk about their products. However as sponsored content is now clearly marked (with an #ad hashtag) and most vloggers only talk about products they genuinely love, viewers can trust vloggers' recommendations.
In contrast, celebrities score highly on the attractiveness front of course. But vloggers clearly win when it comes to similarity, likability, expertise and trustworthiness. How can consumers trust what Scarlett is saying in an ad when a) she doesn't look anything like them, b) they know she's being paid to love a product and c) has she ever done her own makeup?
My research even proved that due to their high likability and credibility vloggers had a strong positive effect on viewers' beauty purchase intentions. Consumers were much more likely to purchase a product recommended by a vlogger than a non-recommended product. As for celebrity endorsers, I proved that they had zero effort on purchase intentions.
This all shows that the source of a message can be as important if not more than the message itself; and brands need to pay particular attention to the marketing sources they use. Consumers are growing weary of traditional marketing communications strategies, and celebrity endorsements are no exception.
In a saturated market like the beauty industry, being able to access and remain in consumers' minds and hearts through a social influencer is an invaluable asset for brands. Brands need to get on the bandwagon soon and showcase their products through collaborations with vloggers, before being perceived as out-dated by young consumers.