The key influencer trends of 2024

Miruna Macsim 29/05/2024 | 14:33

As of 2023, most brands have adopted an influence strategy and are enamored by its yet-to-be-explored potential. According to Ogilvy’s 2024 Influencer Trends You Should Care About, the Creator Economy is no longer just a buzzword or a pipe dream; it is real and it represents the entire network of individuals who are able to tangibly earn a livelihood from content creation.

By Romanita Oprea

 

There are over 50 million creators across the world, with 2 million of them being able to use content creation as their primary or only source of income. That leaves 48 million people actively creating content at an amateur level, eager to make a stronger mark and impression in the space.

“What does that mean for brands? An impressive 96 percent of the creator economy is yet to be tapped into and properly utilised. With the Creator Economy estimated to be worth USD 500 billion by 2027, and only 4 percent of that workforce realising their full potential, there is good reason to hold the hand of these smaller profiles as they establish themselves. While 2023 went as far as to show that Influence has a secure and vital place at the table, 2024 will put it in the front seat. This is the year that Influence moves from a nice-to-have component of a brand’s marketing stack to an essential tool for commercial growth and brand awareness that is not to be omitted,” said Rahul Titus, global head of influence at Ogilvy.

Influence is not just about dance trends on TikTok or gifted hotel experiences spread over Instagram. Those are not to be forgotten by any means, but they are just the very tip of the iceberg in a world with over 40 platforms, giving creators—and therefore brands—unique and evolving ways to interact with audiences. The breadth and unexplored growth of the Creator Economy should excite brands.

“It’s what has already led to AI influencers, the leveraging of blockchain technology, and Metaverse collaborations. As influencers and creators continue to establish themselves as a collective revenue stream, conversations around equality between brand, platform, and creator are being had. And rightly so; after all, we know that Influence makes real impact via real people. So, the pressure is on to ensure the value exchange works fairly for the real people driving this phenomenon,” added Titus.

For her part, Ana Sisu, head of PR & influence at Ogilvy Romania, believes that smart use of influencing translates into smart business practices these days. However, the creator economy is still a bubble with many unknowns, despite the huge potential of transforming businesses into success stories. The traditional collaboration models with influencers are no longer useful today, when the content has to be socially and culturally relevant.

“At Ogilvy, have had this mindset on the table for a couple of years now, pioneering a totally different approach of this business channel, as an opportunity that offers brands unique and highly advanced ways of interaction with their audiences. Our purpose is to prove how this huge potential can help brands stand out from the crowd. Therefore, this year, we are going to bring significant changes in how we operate this business instrument on the local market. Our strategy involves developing an even more robust influencer marketing discipline within Ogilvy PR in Romania,” she explained.

Beauty brands, which have traditionally been the face of Influence, can play a pivotal part in nurturing the Creator Economy, for example by championing small scale influencers as the next wave of beauty pioneers through bespoke product lines. This means favouring controlled partnerships over creating competitors and tapping into the creator’s curated audience, which may have evaded the brand in the past. Moreover, according to Rahul Titus, we will see business start to rally their employee network to advocate for their services and products, love for all things unscripted, unpolished, and unpredictable will push livestreaming to new heights, and we’ll think about sound in ways yet unheard. This is not just the responsibility of brands and CMOs; it’s time for Influence specialists to do more and explore all ventures and possibilities in this newfound space.

Therefore, according to Ogilvy’s study, there are six big trends that will influence the industry: employee advocacy, sonic influence, 2024­ – the year of sport, live streaming, sustainable influence, and AI Influence going hyper-personal.

Employees are now a company’s billboards, communicating with the industry on a daily basis, on the topics that matter right now. They’re engaged with a niche audience and they have access to a network far greater than you realise. They are a huge untapped marketing resource and they are effectively free. B2B CMOs that have spotted this are just starting to scratch the surface of this opportunity with 89 percent of C-Suite marketers recognising that employees as influencers hold immense value for their businesses due to the insider knowledge and authentic advocacy that comes from belief in a shared vision.

However, according to the study, the true potential lies dormant in B2C sectors. The exciting part of the employee advocacy conversation emerges when B2C brands start to wake up and feel the heat… Where B2B employee advocacy has been developing in parallel with the growth of LinkedIn (closing in on 1 billion users), B2C brands have barely blinked to entertain the idea.

“Influence is evolving at speed. These trends show innovative avenues in health, B2B, sonic, and AI. I am excited about the potential for brands to reimagine their approach and think beyond occasional collaborations by making influence a cornerstone of their marketing mix,” said John Harding Easson, head of influence at Ogilvy EMEA.

The sound of influence

As demonstrated by studies, sound contributes 8x more than other brand and content elements (including slogans, logos, and colours) to a consumer’s affinity to a brand. Music’s role in advertising is not a new concept. Brand partnerships with A-list popstars, music, and sound have allowed brands to weave their way into the cultural zeitgeist for decades. But now is the time for Influence to cement brands via sound into conversations and consideration at both a mass and local scale.

TikTok ads with sound drive significant lifts in sales conversion and brand favourability, and Meta reports that 80 percent of story content with voiceover or music drive better lowfunnel results. Your content needs to be as sonically vibrant as it is visually colourful. Established influencers like Ziwe and GK Barry have taken the comedy and star quality from social media to podcasts, establishing dedicated listeners. The audio-only platform of podcasting is a crucial yet often overlooked space in influence strategy, set to be worth USD 4 billion within the next two years. Music’s vast range of genres, styles, instruments, and voices is playground for brands. In this infinite mix lies a unique sound for each brand, waiting to be discovered, captured, and shared into the world.

According to Ogilvy, 82 percent of 18–64-year-olds want a brand to have a sonic identity, and 75 percent say that they connect better with a brand that has a distinct audio identity.

“To stand out, turn up the volume on your brand’s sonic presence. Sound influencers come in all shapes and sizes, including mega A-list talent, budding producers, college students learning an instrument, and editors remixing their favourite songs for TikTok. Their diverse creations can add a new and exciting dimension to your content. When picking your sound creator, consider not just their audience demographics and reach, but also the nature of their creations. Your sound influencer should produce audio that fits your brand as seamlessly as an influencer’s visual content,” said the study’s creators.

The year of sports

As 2024 approaches, overall global advertising spend is projected to reach USD 1 trillion for the first time. And the sports marketing industry will see a notable share of that spend, with the Paris Summer Olympics and Paralympics and the UEFA Euros. Athletes worldwide, such as Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge and Brazil’s Neymar Jr are celebrated for their social impact and advocacy. Their involvement in environmental causes and social issues has significantly amplified their influence beyond their athletic achievements. Today, audiences are equally captivated by their personal lives, opinions, and passions outside of sport. The recent phenomenon of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s relationship exemplifies this. Their relationship has catapulted Kelce’s visibility beyond a best-in-class athlete into a new stratosphere. Interest in the Chiefs has also skyrocketed, with the team gaining more than half a million new fans this season, more than double the next team in the league. Documentaries like “Break Point” have played a crucial role in this evolution, showcasing athletes as complete personalities with emotional depth and diverse interests. This narrative shift is crucial in an era where physical prowess is just one aspect of an athlete’s identity.

Even television networks are serving as influencer agencies, offering ways to partner with creators in the same way they sell ad space during the Super Bowl. This is exemplified by CBS and other major networks exploring innovative partnerships with athletes, utilising their influence to engage audiences in sports streaming and other digital platforms. Retired athletes are pushing the boundaries of their categories, exploring diverse interests and business ventures. And this is welcomed by fans who, according to Daniel-Yaw Miller, senior editorial associate at industry news website the Business of Fashion, are more “comfortable with athletes being more expressive.” Athletes like Shaquille O’Neal in DJ-ing, Nastia Liukin launching a fashion capsule or track star Makenzie Steele‘s baking recipes exemplify this trend of athletes becoming more multidimensional and multifaceted public figures.

To the main screen

31 percent of people believe that live shopping allows them to make more informed purchasing decisions. Where consumers are struggling through a cost of living crisis and every new purchase is being scrutinised more than ever before, the opportunity within live streaming is to deliver an immersive brand experience, directly into the homes and hands of consumers. Coupled with influence, where 66 percent of brands report that creator-led content delivers more ROI compared to traditional ads, a creator-led livestream becomes a fertile ground for marketing opportunities.

Through livestreams, creators can demonstrate products authentically, dispelling fears of staged and deceptive marketing. Consumers believe the authenticity, as they can probe their creators to use the product and answer questions right in front of their eyes. Live-streaming’s potential extends beyond shopping. The trend of creator revenue diversification continues, with platforms like TikTok and OnlyFans innovating new ways for creators to monetise their live interactions. Be this through TikTok tokens, rewarding your favourite creators who spend hours repeating phrases or actions at the camera for their fans.

Moreover, as audiences grow wearier of short-form content, live-streaming offers a refreshing alternative. This format allows for deeper storytelling, where viewers can engage, ask questions, and get a comprehensive understanding of products or topics. While short-form content will maintain its place, long-form is poised for a resurgence, offering immersive experiences that reach beyond physical event attendance.

A better tomorrow

As consumers become increasingly conscious of their environmental footprint, influencers are emerging as pivotal players in shaping sustainable consumer behaviours and perceptions towards brands. 78 percent of people report being swayed by influencers to adopt greener practices, signifying a major shift where influencers act as catalysts for environmental change, guiding audiences to more sustainable choices and lifestyles. However, the industry is not without its challenges. A critical eye has turned towards greenwashing and waste in influence. The emergence of “de-influencing” earlier in the year encouraged users to consider consumption more mindfully and spotlighted the sustainability challenges within influence. Sustainability often stands at odds with the perceived wastefulness of many brands’ gifting programmes. Fans are becoming more vigilant, calling out greenwashing, and scrutinising the claims of both brands and influencers.

With 84 percent of influencers hesitant to post about sustainability for fear of being labelled as greenwashers, brands need to foster genuine partnerships. Influencers armed with credible, science-backed information can translate complex environmental issues into relatable content. Brands navigating this landscape must integrate genuine, informed, and innovative sustainable practices into their influence strategies.

The huge potential of AI Influence

It’s been a big year for AI in Influence. Earlier this year, Ogilvy launched an industry-first AI Accountability Act calling for policy change by asking agencies and social platforms to mandate disclosure around the use of AI-generated influencers. This initiative would require brands to clearly disclose and publicly declare the use of any AI-generated influencer content. In 2024, expect to see a more hyper-personalised form of engagement with influencers as the interplay between influence and AI enters a new era. Meta’s AI Personas, introduced in late 2023 and fully deployed in 2024, signal a significant shift from broad-reaching influence to personalised, one-to-one interactions that maintain a sense of authenticity. Imagine chatting with your favourite influencer’s virtual twin, receiving tips and stories tailored specifically for you. These AI-powered influencers aren’t here to push the original influencer accounts aside, though. Instead, they’re reshaping our relationship with influencers and what fans expect from them. In its current form, Personas allows for interaction directly with avatar versions of influencers, like Mr Beast and Kendall Jenner, offering personalised experiences that were previously unimaginable for fans. With AI Personas like “Billie,” a digital twin of Kendall Jenner, users can now engage with virtual alter-egos of their favourite influencers. This is transforming the traditional influencer-audience dynamic away from passive spectatorship into active engagement. Over time, these avatars will remember preferences and adapt through interactions, delivering a more tailored influencer experience.

Meta’s strategy to distinguish clearly between AI-generated content and human creators—through measures such as watermarks and avoiding the use of actual influencer names­—helps maintain trust in these AI interactions. A careful balance between authenticity and innovation paves the way for a credible and highly personalised form of influence. The implications for social are far-reaching. Meta’s vision extends beyond mere personalisation into a future where content consumption is entirely bespoke.

An upcoming feature even allows users to create custom AI versions of themselves. This advancement is set to democratise the concept of influence, enabling individuals to have a digital presence that can interact and influence within their own networks. This significant shift is not lost on brands. 63 percent of marketers plan to use AI tools in their influence campaigns, with an additional 25 percent considering it. The broad accessibility to hyper-personalised influence is ripe with opportunities.

Mascots like Duolingo’s TikTok sensation, the Owl, have already demonstrated the potential of characters in driving social engagement. And Ipsos research shows that investing in characters has the greatest impact on enhancing brand salience. AI replicas of characters like Duolingo’s Owl could transform content delivery and forge deeper relationships with customers. Brands now have a unique chance to create compelling and intimate experiences through Influence. And as it continues on a hyper-personal path, the essence of authenticity will increasingly pivot towards the trust and transparency cultivated in these new AI-facilitated connections.

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