Curtis is just one of the many players who populates the ever-growing world of “influencers,” a new breed of marketer that shuns the traditional strategy of selling directly to a target demographic and focuses instead on appealing to key individuals (i.e., celebrities, influential bloggers, social media wunderkinds, etc.) who hold sway over a large base of potential customers.
For example, instead of attempting to capture the attention of 18- to 34-year-old consumers solely through print or online advertising, a so-called influencer might turn to Tumblr and its cult of product obsessives — those who blog and reblog images from fashion label lookbooks or commercials masquerading as short films — to initiate consumer interest on a more casual level. An influencer might also put his or her client’s product in the hands of a cultural luminary — Kanye West, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, etc. — with hopes of initiating a trickle-down effect. As in, Kanye wore those sneakers, I need a pair. Or, Lady Gaga carries that handbag, who’s the designer?
As Curtis explained to me, influencers help “engineer the consumer-facing persona of most celebrities.” It’s emulation, commodified. Or more aptly, idol worship leveraged for a profit. It reminds me of a well-rehearsed magic act that involves transforming the concept of cool into a bankable currency, time and again.