It's not a new concept. Way back in 2007, 50 Cent profited $50MM from his stake in VitaminWater when it sold to Coca-Cola.
Influencers with serious side hustle acumen are cashing in on their power to influence public opinion, drive sales and let their own product affinities extend way beyond paid social campaigns. While they still profit from their celebrity, the investor model is less about being paid to promote and more about authenticity and partnership.
These influencer-investors are in it for the long-haul with a brand, which can be good for fans too: less staging and more "real life" application. If Ember is the mug that Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas love and really do use on a daily basis, it's going to show up in their social feeds anyway. While fans might not be able to imitate their same jet-set lives, they can get their hands on the same mug that keeps Nick alert during late-night recording sessions, and Demi warm and cozy during the winter.
From global superstars to micro-influencers, social media puts these exceptional lifestyles front-and-center for imitation-hungry fans. It's great for brands who not only find their influencer soulmates, but also find the investor-minded stars who go "all in" with them in building a must-have brand.
It’s tough to find an influencer who really cares about the product, someone fans recognize as a fellow fan. Someone invested in its success. So now, many brands are looking for more than an influencer. They want an investor.
"Without a doubt, the influencer-investor movement has never been bigger," said Tom Buontempo, president of Attention, the social arm of KBS. Indeed, there are few spokespeople more committed to a company than a famous personality with a financial stake in it, and brands are finding that a celebrity entrepreneur can be a much better partner than a celebrity endorser.
The best influencer-brand collabs are ones that are genuine and help the fans in some way, via education, discounts and recognition. Whether or not the celeb profits short-term or long-term from those collabs is irrelevant, as long as authenticity and holistic benefits are maintained.
My company, Flutter, provides an owned content and social media platform for influencers and their communities. Our focus is on simplifying the content and brand management process for influencers and shining a light on the most committed fans so that everyone wins. Via the platform, we facilitate more genuine connections between influencer-and-brand, brand-and-consumer, and most importantly, influencer-and-fan.
The concept of imitation being the sincerest form of flattery isn't going away anytime soon, and influencer marketing is starting to grow up. It makes sense that the influencer-investor may be the next big thing in influencer marketing.
Lead photo credit: Demo Lovato on Instagram