The New Audience Experience

Even though influencer marketing is still a new topic, it’s constantly changing. Snapchat influencers didn’t exist a year ago, but as soon as the platform catapulted, it’s people like Nick who were ahead of the game.
— Editor's Side Note

The New Audience Experience

- Nick Cicero


For the past two years, Variety has been running a study designed to measure who the most influential, approachable and trustworthy celebrities and personalities are among teens.


The study is usually the place reserved for A-list movie stars, superstar athletes and music goddesses, but you won’t find Tom Brady, Adele, or Beyonce on this list. Instead, you’ll see names like PewDiePie, Smosh, and The Fine Bros, all major YouTube personalities. In fact eight of the top 10 slots on Variety’s list were YouTube celebrities.


So why are these YouTubers and really, influencers as a “thing” in general, replacing traditional celebrities? It’s equal parts technological and emotional evolution. These new celebrities weren’t groomed on the big screen, but on the laptops, tablets and mobile phones of billions of young people around the world. That’s a big deal because it makes them accessible. They’re not kept behind a velvet rope, or up on a stage, or stuck inside your TV, they’re in the palm of your hand. They create videos, photos and updates that keep people entertained throughout the day on the social platforms where they spend most of their time; their audience shares those posts with their friends like trading cards online.


Being able to take these personalities and their stories on the go is a major key when it comes to building a reputation. That type of accessibility of content just doesn’t happen with television and movie stars. You might read about something they did or said in a magazine, but you certainly don’t experience it right from their mouths like you do with online influencers.


On an emotional level, creators are so popular because they come off as approachable and build relatable content about shared experiences viewers can identify with.


Take a look at some of the most popular types of videos made by online influencers— they play off mainstream pop-culture with parodies, commentary and recreating looks and styles. They prank ordinary people on the street, or their families, situations that just five years ago you might only catch on America’s Funniest Home Videos. They bring viewers along on extreme adventures, music festivals or just around the corner to their local pubs with hyper-stylized trips.


No matter if they’re in their bedrooms or on top of the world, they share experiences of all kinds on video — polished in HD on YouTube down to raw and unfiltered on Snapchat. And that reliability and accessibility are what truly resonates with today’s youth, which is probably why young people use shared experiences to fuel entertainment more than any generation.


It’s not just a theory, the numbers support it—since 1987 the share of consumer spending on live experiences relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70% and in a separate study Eventbrite found that more than three in four millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying something desirable. And while yes, experiences shape every generation, this generation has even invented new experiences when old ones didn’t fit.


Take for example, Friendsgiving (getting together with friends for a Thanksgiving meal but not with immediate family). Ten years ago Friendsgiving didn’t exist as a term. Today, it’s widely popular, and as mentioned before many influential creators online help to fuel the trend by making Friendsgiving cooking videos, decorating videos, and pranks (of course). Even major brands like Target have incorporated the Friendsgiving experience into their brand messaging last holiday season. Robert Rose said recently that “The buyer’s journey is not a guided tour,” and he’s so right. Contrary to what we have been trained as marketers with the path to purchase and sales funnel mentalities, today’s sales cycle is not linear and millennials especially demonstrate this better than anyone else.


If brands are going to connect with younger consumers (even as they age) they’re going to have to recognize that every interaction with a brand is an experience. Every interaction is a conversation, and yet for the past hundred years, consumers have been used to speaking with a brand logo. When we take off our marketer hats and put back on our brains, we’ll quickly realize that it’s a heck of a lot more interesting to talk to a real person instead of a logo, and that’s why the future is in the hands of the creators.