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Journal of Advertising
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Navigating the Future of Influencer Advertising:Consolidating What Is Known and Identifying NewResearch Directions
Sara Rosengren & Colin Campbell
To cite this article: Sara Rosengren & Colin Campbell (2021) Navigating the Future of InfluencerAdvertising: Consolidating What Is Known and Identifying New Research Directions, Journal ofAdvertising, 50:5, 505-509, DOI: 10.1080/00913367.2021.1984346
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/00913367.2021.1984346
Published online: 09 Nov 2021.
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Navigating the Future of Influencer Advertising: Consolidating What IsKnown and Identifying New Research Directions
Sara Rosengrena and Colin Campbellb
aStockholm School of Economics, Stockholm, Sweden; bUniversity of San Diego, San Diego, California, USA
Social media influencers (hereafter referred to as influ-encers) have come to be central actors in an increas-ingly interconnected digital and social advertisingsystem. In the following introduction, we briefly out-line where the academic understanding of influencerscurrently stands, how the articles included in thisissue section add to this knowledge, and where webelieve opportunities for further contributions exist.
Table 1 summarizes this discussion by sorting itinto four key interconnected parts of the influenceradvertising ecosystem: advertisers, influencers, con-sumers, and content. Due to the brevity of this editor-ial, we include only a limited number of citations anddirect readers to excellent recent literature reviews(e.g., Hudders et al. 2021; Ye et al. 2021) for richerdiscussions of the literature.
What Is Known about Influencer Advertising?
Influencer advertising (also referred to as influencermarketing) has shown tremendous growth in the pastdecade. There is no question that the influencerindustry is large, here to stay, and continuing to grow(Campbell and Farrell 2020). The existing academicliterature has given us the following insights.
Influencers Are an Effective—and Major—Advertising Form
Both academic research and results from industrymake it clear that influencers can be an effective formof advertising. In fact, research shows that content byinfluencers can be as effective as or more effectivethan advertising by either brands or celebrities. Inaddition, influencer persuasiveness is not limited to
humans; artificial intelligence influencers can alsobe effective.
Insights on Endorsements Generally Apply toInfluencers
Much of the endorsement literature applies to influ-encers. Consumers follow influencers for various rea-sons, including aspiration, envy, entertainment, andintrigue. Perceptions of attractiveness, authenticity,credibility, and trustworthiness increase influencerpersuasiveness. So too does a strong fit between aninfluencer and what is endorsed.
Consumer–Influencer Connection DrivesEffectiveness
Still, influencers represent a unique blend of paidendorsement being injected into what otherwise mightbe construed as word of mouth, a blend which seemsto drive their success. Research shows that consumers’sense of personal connection with (known as paraso-cial relationship) and similarity to an influencerenhances influencer effectiveness. So does increasedinteraction and engagement between an influencerand the consumers that follow them.
Disclosures on Influencer Content Work AsExpected . . .
Eisend et al.’s (2020) meta-analysis of the numerousstudies on this topic confirms that a disclosure oninfluencer content generally makes consumers moreaware that an influencer is paid, increases persuasionknowledge activation, and reduces persuasion.Likewise, clearer and more overt disclosures are more
CONTACT Colin Campbell [email protected] Department of Marketing, School of Business, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcal�a Park,San Diego, CA 92110, USA.
Sara Rosengren (PhD, Stockholm School of Economics) is a professor, Center for Retailing, Stockholm School of Economics.Colin Campbell (PhD, Simon Fraser University) is an assistant professor, Department of Marketing, School of Business, University of San Diego.
Copyright � 2021, American Academy of Advertising
JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING2021, VOL. 50, NO. 5, 505–509https://doi.org/10.1080/00913367.2021.1984346
Table 1. The past, present, and future of influencer advertising.Perspective What Is Known What This Special Section Adds What Remains to Be Discovered
Advertiser � Influencers are generally effectiveadvertisers.
� Consumers react better to thesame content from influencersthan from brands (Lou et al. 2019).
� Consumers react better toinfluencers than to celebrities(Schouten et al. 2020).
� Artificial intelligence influencerscan be as effective as humans.
� Influencers can produce avariety of different contenttypes as part of a campaign(Scholz 2021).
� Advertisers can collaborate withinfluencers in a multitude ofdifferent ways (Rundin andColliander 2021).
� Micro-influencers are moreeffective at advertising hedonicproducts than utilitarianproducts (Park et al. 2021).
� Influencers are effective atadvertising social causes (Yanget al. 2021).
� How can influencer campaigns beeffectively integrated with other types ofadvertising?
� How can advertisers predict whichinfluencers are best for their campaigns?
� What factors moderate the effectivenessof influencer advertising?
� How can fraudulent or fake influencersbe identified?
� Which community-centric keyperformance indicators best captureinfluencer performance?
� What communication objectives (e.g.,awareness, purchase) are influencersmost suited to achieve? Whatmechanisms can influence this?
Influencer � Influencers are dependent onconsumers following them.
� Influencer–product fit increasespersuasiveness.
� Attractiveness, credibility,authenticity, and trustworthinessboost influencer persuasiveness.
� Perceived motives affectpersuasiveness and can be shapedby influencers.
� Influencer interactivity boostsauthenticity and attachment,increasing persuasiveness.
� Being active across platforms isnecessary for influencers tobecome successful (Brookset al. 2021).
� Influencers’ success likelydepends on the roles they takewhen collaborating with brands(Rundin and Colliander 2021).
� Micro-influence success is drivenby the perceived authenticity ofthe influencer (Park et al. 2021).
� How can influencers choose the rightbrands with which to work? And theright number and mix of them?
� How do influencers maintain celebritycapital (i.e., later stages of celebrificationor the celebrity life cycle)?
� How might growing from a micro- tomacro- influencer affect how aninfluencer operates?
� What influencer roles create the mostvalue for consumers and advertisers?
� How do long-term commitments and/ornumber of collaborations affect influencerpersuasiveness?
� How does wear-out impact influencers?Consumer � Consumers self-select which
influencers they follow, typicallymotivated by authenticity,consumerism, creative inspiration,and envy (Lee et al. 2021).
� Consumers respond more positivelyto influencers who are similar tothem or who they aspire tobe like.
� Activation of persuasion knowledgeoften has minimal impact onconsumer response to influencers,and disclosure can lead to positiveeffects (Lou 2021); these effectscan be enhanced by justification.
� Consumers’ parasocial relationshipswith influencers mute the negativeeffect of persuasion knowledge.
� A strong parasocial relationshipmakes a consumer open to beingadvertised a wider arrayof products.
� Consumers and influencers canbe similar along multipledifferent dimensions, suggestingthat identification in aninfluencer context is complex(Scholz 2021).
� Consumers derive value frominfluencer content in sixdifferent ways (Scholz 2021).
� How are influencers consumed innonbeauty and nonfashion contexts?
� When do consumers view an influenceras a consumer? A celebrity? Anentrepreneur? A brand? And how doesthis affect consumer response tothe influencer?
� How is an influencer’s success affectedby their choice of social media (e.g.,YouTube versus Instagram) and/or byspecific content types (e.g., Instagramfeed versus story versus IGTV)?
� How is response to an influencer affectedby the type of similarity a consumershares with an influencer?
Content � Informativeness and entertainmentmake influencer contentmore appealing.
� Content that is more narrative andhigher in social presence/affectivecan mute persuasion knowledgeactivation (Lou 2021).
� Hard-sell appeals are moreeffective than soft-sell appeals.
� Disclosures are generally effectivein making consumers awareinfluencers are advertising (seeEisend et al.’s 2020 meta-analysis).
� More transparent disclosuresreceive better reactions.
� More overt disclosures aremore effective.
� Micro-influencer content shouldfocus on hedonic rather thanutilitarian appeals (Parket al 2021).
� Content can be adapted to thesix different ways in whichconsumers derive value frominfluencers (Scholz 2021).
� Content needs to be adapted toenable effective use acrossplatforms (Brooks et al. 2021).
� To what extent does the quality (e.g.,aesthetics or creativity) of influencercontent affect consumer response?
� How is the trade-off betweenauthenticity and professionalismnavigated by influencers and reacted toby consumers?
� How are advertising appeals adapted toan influencer environment? Do othernew or hybrid appeals exist (e.g.,proactive disclosure; Lou 2021)?
506 S. ROSENGREN AND C. CAMPBELL
effective in triggering these effects than disclosuresthat are less transparent.
. . . Yet Consumer–Influencer Connection Mutesthe Effectiveness of Disclosures
Still, perceiving a strong relationship or connectionwith an influencer is shown to make consumers lessconcerned about an influencer’s commercial interests.In fact, influencers who share that they are paid butprovide justification for accepting payment can beseen more positively (e.g., Lou 2021). Using narra-tives, being more affective, and having a strongersocial presence all decrease persuasion knowledge acti-vation. Consumers also respond to influencers basedon their inferred motives, but those motives can beshaped by the influencers themselves.
What Insights Does This Special Section Add?
This special section set out to develop knowledge ofhow advertisers can derive benefit from influencers.Answering calls for a more diverse and contemporarydevelopment of advertising theory (Dahlen andRosengren 2016), it sought contributions that addnovel understanding of the mechanisms throughwhich influencer advertising works and how adver-tisers can best leverage influencers. The five articlesincluded add the following to the literature.
Advertisers Collaborate with Influencers inMultiple Different Ways
Rundin and Colliander (2021) show that influencerstake on a variety of different roles in their collabora-tions with advertisers and brands, many of which aremuch deeper relationships than mere endorsement.Their article provides both a “menu” of roles foradvertisers to consider when hiring influencers as wellas a typology for researchers to use when analyzinginfluencer campaigns.
Influencers Create More Than Sales
Yang et al.’s (2021) investigation into content relatedto the Black Lives Matter movement shows that influ-encers are more likely than brands to facilitate posi-tive engagement around a cause, especially when thefit between influencer and cause is high. It also high-lights how influencers can mitigate consumer skepti-cism around cause-related messaging. This suggeststhat advertisers should not restrict their influencer
collaborations to efforts focused on sales and thatresearchers should extend their investigations toexamine non-sales-related outcomes.
Influencers Act Differently Than CelebritiesBecause Their Status Is Acquired Differently
Brooks et al. (2021) outline a distinct process bywhich influencers acquire celebrity capital within aninterconnected social media advertising system. Theneed for influencers to maintain celebrity capital putspower in the hands of their consumer following andadvertisers. This dependency makes influencers natur-ally prone to advertise more collaboratively than trad-itional celebrities. It also complements Rundin andColliander’s (2021) finding that influencers often actas much more than mere endorsers.
Consumers Consume Influencer Content in SeveralDifferent Ways
Scholz (2021) identifies six ways in which influenceradvertising is consumed. His insights provide influ-encers and advertisers with a useful tool for develop-ing and assessing campaigns (e.g., “Are our adsaddressing all six consumption modes?”). Forresearchers, Scholz’s findings also highlight that con-sumer–influencer similarity operates in a morenuanced manner than traditionally thought.
Influencers Advertise “with” Consumers, Not “to”Consumers
Scholz’s (2021) article also highlights that influencereffectiveness is based on more than source effects.Both Scholz’s article and Brooks et al.’s (2021) articleshow that influencer persuasion depends on intrinsiclinkages between influencers and their audiences, aswell as the content being produced and the productsand/or brands advertised in that content.Understanding of ads created by influencers is thushighly contextual.
Micro-Influencer Effectiveness Is Driven byAuthenticity
Park et al. (2021) show that increased authenticity iswhat makes endorsements from micro-influencersmore effective than those of mega-influencers. Theirarticle also shows that this effect occurs only formicro-influencers when their advertising involveshedonic—and not utilitarian—products and appeals.
JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING 507
Where to Next?
We call for research to continue to explore the roleinfluencers have in our increasingly interconnecteddigital and social advertising system, characterized bythe continuous flow of new formats, new consumerbehaviors, and new effects (Dahlen and Rosengren2016). In addition to future research needs identified ineach article, Table 1 summarizes specific areas webelieve are worth exploring. However, we also see threebroader themes evident across future research efforts.
Influencer Advertising Deserves Influencer-Specific Theorizing
A common theme across the Scholz (2021), Brookset al. (2021), and Rundin and Colliander (2021) articlesis that using traditional advertising theories to under-stand influencer marketing runs the risk of missingwhat is unique about the phenomenon. This point isalso made by Lou (2021). The relationships betweenadvertisers, influencers, consumers, and content aremore dynamic and synergetic than that of placing an adin a specific medium or hiring a celebrity to promote aproduct. This special issue highlights the need to refreshand reground our understanding of influencers in theinfluencer phenomenon rather than solely draw on theo-rizing from celebrity endorsement and source effects.For example, rather than studying how different disclo-sures (which are already required in most countries)may or may not affect persuasion, we might considerhow audience interactivity impacts persuasion.
The Complexity of Influencer AdvertisingNecessitates Different Research Designs
Given the dynamic and synergetic nature of the influen-cer advertising ecosystem, we need to design empiricalstudies that account for the interrelationships betweenadvertisers, influencers, consumers, and content. A sin-gle exposure to an ad from an unknown influencer isunlikely to replicate the effect of seeing an ad from aninfluencer a consumer has followed and trusted foryears. Capturing such nuance and context will likelyrequire industry collaborations, longitudinal data, and/orfield experiments involving actual influencers, as well arange of different methods.
Influencer Advertising Must Explore Issues ofImportance to Advertisers
Our review of the literature and reading of all the con-tributions to the special issue highlights a lack of
research examining how advertisers can best work withinfluencers and how influencers can be integrated intoother advertising efforts. Further research that goesbeyond studying the effects of influencers as merespokespersons (Rundin and Colliander 2021) or investi-gates the effect of cross-platform appeals (Brooks et al2021) is needed. Research that looks beyond the hedoniccontexts of beauty and fashion (Park et al. 2021) orexamines cause-related appeals (Yang et al. 2021) wouldalso be valuable. Uncertainty also exists related to select-ing and evaluating influencers, detecting fraud in theindustry, and choosing success metrics.
We are grateful to everyone who contributed to make thisspecial issue possible. We thank Shelly Rodgers, editor inchief, for trusting us to edit this issue and offering invalu-able guidance and support throughout the process. Wethank all the authors who submitted more papers than wecould have ever expected—68 in total!—which necessitatedtough decisions to fill the issue’s five slots. Finally, wedeeply thank the reviewers who shared their expertise.
Sara Rosengren http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4358-8919Colin Campbell http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6218-0866
Brooks, Gillian, Jenna Drenten, and Mikolaj Piskorski. 2021.“Influencer Celebrification: How Social Media InfluencersAcquire Celebrity Capital.” Journal of Advertising 50 (5):546–65.
Campbell, Colin, and Justine Rapp Farrell. 2020. “More thanWhat Meets the Eye: Conceptualizing the FunctionalComponents Underlying Influencer Marketing.” BusinessHorizons 63 (4):469–79. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2020.03.003
Dahlen, Micael, and Sara Rosengren. 2016. “If AdvertisingWon’t Die, What Will It Be? Toward a WorkingDefinition of Advertising.” Journal of Advertising 45 (3):334–45. doi:10.1080/00913367.2016.1172387
Eisend, Martin, Eva A. van Reijmersdal, Sophie C. Boerman,and Farid Tarrahi. 2020. “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects ofDisclosing Sponsored Content.” Journal of Advertising 49(3):344–66. doi:10.1080/00913367.2020.1765909
Hudders, Liselot, Steffi De Jans, and Marijke De Veirman.2021. “The Commercialization of Social Media Stars: ALiterature Review and Conceptual Framework on theStrategic Use of Social Media Influencers.” InternationalJournal of Advertising 40 (3):327–75. doi:10.1080/02650487.2020.1836925
Lee, J. A., Sudarshan, S., Sussman, K. L., Bright, L. F., andEastin, M. S. 2021. “Why are Consumers FollowingSocial Media Influencers on Instagram? Exploration ofConsumers’ Motives for Following Influencers and theRole of Materialism.” International Journal of
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Advertising. Advance Online Publication. doi:10.1080/02650487.2021.1964226
Lou, Chen. 2021. “Social Media Influencers and Followers:Theorization of a Trans-Parasocial Relation and Explicationof Its Implications for Influencer Advertising.” Journal ofAdvertising:1–18. doi:10.1080/00913367.2021.1880345
Lou, C., Tan, S. S., and Chen, X. 2019. “Investigating con-sumer engagement with influencer-vs. brand-promotedads: The roles of source and disclosure.” Journal ofInteractive Advertising 19 (3): 169–186.
Park, Jiwoon, Ji Min Lee, Vikki Yiqi Xiong, Felix Septianto,and Yuri Seo. 2021. “David and Goliath: When and WhyMicro-Influencers Are More Persuasive than Mega-Influencers.” Journal of Advertising 50 (5):584–602.
Rundin, Ksenia, and Jonas Colliander. 2021. “Multi-FacetedInfluencers: Towards a New Typology for InfluencerRoles in Advertising.” Journal of Advertising 50 (5):510–26.
Scholz, Joachim. 2021. “How Consumers Consume SocialMedia Influence.” Journal of Advertising 50 (5):566–83.
Schouten, A. P., Janssen, L., and Verspaget, M. 2020.“Celebrity vs. Influencer Endorsements in Advertising:The Role of Identification, Credibility, and Product-Endorser Fit.” International Journal of Advertising 39 (2):258–281.
Yang, Jeongwon, Ploypin Chuenterawong, and KrittaphatPugdeethosapol. 2021. “Speaking up on Black LivesMatter: A Comparative Study of Consumer Reactionstowards Brand and Influencer-Generated CorporateSocial Responsibility Messages.” Journal of Advertising 50(5):527–45.
Ye, Guoquan, Liselot Hudders, Steffi De Jans, and MarijkeDe Veirman. 2021. “The Value of Influencer Marketingfor Business: A Bibliometric Analysis and ManagerialImplications.” Journal of Advertising 50 (2):160–78. doi:10.1080/00913367.2020.1857888
JOURNAL OF ADVERTISING 509
- Outline placeholder
- What Is Known about Influencer Advertising?
- Influencers Are an Effective—and Major—Advertising Form
- Insights on Endorsements Generally Apply to Influencers
- Consumer–Influencer Connection Drives Effectiveness
- Disclosures on Influencer Content Work As Expected . . .
- . . . Yet Consumer–Influencer Connection Mutes the Effectiveness of Disclosures
- What Insights Does This Special Section Add?
- Advertisers Collaborate with Influencers in Multiple Different Ways
- Influencers Create More Than Sales
- Influencers Act Differently Than Celebrities Because Their Status Is Acquired Differently
- Consumers Consume Influencer Content in Several Different Ways
- Influencers Advertise “with” Consumers, Not “to” Consumers
- Micro-Influencer Effectiveness Is Driven by Authenticity
- Where to Next?
- Influencer Advertising Deserves Influencer-Specific Theorizing
- The Complexity of Influencer Advertising Necessitates Different Research Designs
- Influencer Advertising Must Explore Issues of Importance to Advertisers
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