Brands are constantly on the lookout for new influencers who can enhance their brand’s perception. Both influencer marketers and brand endorsers serve the same function – increasing brand recognition and improving brand reputation – but in slightly different ways.

So what’s the big difference between influencers like “The Rock” and “The Points Guy”? And why are there so many options for brands anyway?

84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising, so brands have started diversifying their influencer campaigns. Traditional brand endorsers like celebrities are still used in commercials, but campaigns are now diversified across multiple channels. Brands have also seen success through a relatively new tactic called influencer marketing.

How are the two different? And how should each be used?

Promoting Content vs Creating Content

Celebrities and influential figures (brand endorsers) have worked hard to create a personal brand for themselves — when you think of a celebrity like the Rock, you think of a charismatic actor famous for his roles in blockbuster action movies. He has 11.4 million Twitter followers and is one of the most successful actors in Hollywood. This is why brands like Ford feature him in advertising campaigns. For the most part, the Rock doesn’t create his own content — he reads a script written for him. He is a promoter of content for a brand.  Ford is borrowing his equity to improve the perception of their vehicles.

Successful influencer marketers have earned a following because of their content. Their audience goes to them for information due to their reputation as a trusted source. They know how to engage, educate and entertain their audience through their content.  Brian Kelly runs a blog called “The Points Guy”, where he advises readers on how to get the most from their credit card points. He posts links to credit cards in his writing and gets paid when his readers sign up for the credit cards he recommends. His first viral post detailed how to take advantage of a British Airways Visa credit card that offered 100,000 free air miles. Readers would come to his site for advice on how to get the most out of credit cards. Financial companies can use Brian and the content he creates to persuade audiences that their services are worth buying.

How to use Brand Endorsers and Influencer Marketers

Companies that use a brand endorser in a campaign are borrowing this person’s equity. This consists of the traits that are revered in the individual, as well as the audience they command. When a brand chooses an endorser that emphasizes the characteristics that a brand already has, the combination can do wonders for a brand’s reputation. Campaigns that use brand endorsers also allow companies to maintain creative control of the campaign, as endorsers are used to promote content. While this audience is often much larger than those of an influencer marketer (particularly when A-list Hollywood celebrities are used), the audience isn’t as focused. This makes brand advocates a useful tool for raising brand awareness, even if the audience isn’t as targeted as it could be.

Influencer marketers are skilled at breaking down the prevailing beliefs of their audience. Through years of producing content, they know how to set up a background conversation that sparks enthusiasm in their audience for a product by starting a relevant conversation. Their followers tend to be extremely loyal and focused, though smaller than the audience of a brand endorser. This makes influencer marketers particularly useful when the target audience is clearly defined and the product is relevant to the audience. While enlisting the help of an influencer marketer means sacrificing a certain level of creative control over a campaign, good influencers will be able to create content that resonates with their audience while promoting a brand. Through their content, influencers can sway the opinions of their audience and can play a part in the purchasing decision.

Both influencer marketers and brand endorsers are fantastic ways to increase recognition and alter the perception of brands. In order to see which one will work best, establish what you are trying to do with your influencer campaign before deciding which one is best for you.

If you would like to learn how to identify influencers for your brand, download our eBook: Identifying the Influencers that Matter: A Data Driven Guide to Building Trust in your Brand or Cause.