The art of persuasion purchasing has been around as long as marketing itself; think of the “Mad Men” days of exceptional salesmanship. But in the age of digital, the art has been given the chance to thrive and adapt into all areas of our digital lives.

We’re all used to the idea of celebrity endorsements – having a high profile celebrity or persona latched to a product to hopefully boost sales – isn’t an idea that we, as consumers, are unfamiliar with, or generally even concerned about.

Just have a look at some of the most successful celebrity endorsements over the last decade:

Britney Spears for Pepsi in 2001 and her contribution to the Uggs phase a few years back; (Ugg sales totaled $348 million in 2007, up from $37 million in 2003), to Nicole Kidman for Chanel in 2004, and most recently we’ve seen how Adidas has managed to leverage off of their relationship with both Kayne West and Pharrell Williams, bringing its market share above $17 billion. Locally, Cell C has been able to leverage off its relationship with Khuli Chana with the new radio ad Walking and Dabbing; and who could forget the sponsorship of KFC and The Parlotones.

The fact is that we are used to this relationship of brand x celebrity, but in the digital age with the rise of influencer marketing, the lines are not so clear cut. Brands have been able to adapt to the new world of online marketing (search, display, remarketing, Facebook/Twitter ads), but with influencer marketing, brands are able to leverage off of a more personal relationship, giving a ‘less contrived’ feeling of brand advocacy to the unsuspecting social follower.

A recent study conducted by Wilcox and Stephen (2013) not only confirms this finding, but also discovers that higher self-esteem resulting from online social network use (e.g., Facebook, etc.) is likely to lower a person’s self-control, which subsequently leads to more impulsive or indulgent behaviour (Khan, U. & Dhar, R., 2006), (Wilcox, K., Kramer, T., & Sen, S., 2011) such as unhealthy food choice and excessive spending. – *source

The relationship between social media and user, combined with the relationship between user and follower have allowed brands to constantly refine the art of persuasive purchasing, and the areas in which they are able to operate in, and the most commonly sought after place to leverage on this blurred brand x celebrity relationship for brands is Instagram.

Instagram is one of the biggest growing social media platforms ever, according to eMarketer’s latest internet usage forecast. This year, 89.4 million Americans will log on to Instagram at least once a month, representing 34.1% of mobile phone users. And by 2017, 51.8% of social network users will use Instagram—surpassing the 50% mark for the first time. – Click here to see more.

The Essena O’Neill story shows the relationship that can be created and capitalised on in the new digital landscape, although her story is one of the more radical ones to take shape, it shows how brands are tapping into more ‘real life’/accessible’ personas, blurring the lines even more between hard sale, product placement and endorsement.

* Read her story here.

As our relationship with digital grows and the areas where we engage in change and reform, brands will always be looking and active, giving the art of persuasive purchasing new life.

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