Is the ‘Kim Kardashian’ influencer trend dying?

Celebrity influencer marketing is shrinking in favour of regular people endorsing brands to their social media audiences, says Mangala Rao-D’Sa, an influencer marketing expert in York University’s School of Continuing Studies.

Mangala Rao-D’Sa

D’Sa, who is an instructor in the school’s Content Marketing certificate program, says the  thousands of people who descended on Toronto’s Eaton Centre this month for an impromptu meet-and-greet with four influencers – all regular people made famous on the social media platform TikTok – offers proof that the influencer trend is changing.

Celebrities like reality star Kim Kardashian used to rule influencer marketing with brands relying on their social media endorsements and product plugs to generate sales. But as celebrities are working less with brands and more on marketing their own products, D’Sa says the new trend is for marketers to use ordinary people, known as micro-influencers, who have small communities of engaged followers.

“Your traditional celebrity would be someone on TV, in movies, or making music but nowadays your neighbour could be a celebrity influencer with over a million followers,” says D’Sa. “Influencers started off as brand endorsers and then became brand collaborators to then transform into creators themselves.”

The social media platforms of choice for most influencers are YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, with growing use of newer platforms like TikTok, explains D’Sa. And it can be very lucrative. The 10 highest paid YouTubers in 2019 earned a total of $162 million U.S.

Topping that list is eight-year-old toy reviewer Ryan Kaji who earned $26 million in 2019. D’Sa says Kaji, YouTube celebrity makeup artist Jeffree Star, and local celebrities like 16-year-old Toronto singer Johnny Orlando, are all examples of ordinary people who started as micro-influencers and became mega influencers with more reach than some celebrities.

D’Sa is a senior marketing executive with more than 20 years of experience working in the food and retail sectors. She has an MBA in digital transformation and is an expert in influencer marketing, digital marketing and advertising.