Courting Key Influencers May Be Wasted Effort

Last Updated Dec 14, 2007 7:00 PM EST

Courting Key Influencers May Be Wasted EffortOprah's been hitting the campaign trail with Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama (and Chuck Norris is stumping for Mike Huckabee) in hopes that the celebrity support will sway wavering voters (trust us, this has something to do with business). However, recent research suggests that celebrity endorsement won't help the candidates much. Natalie Wood Ph..D., a marketing professor at Saint Joseph's University recently published research on the subject in the Journal of Political Marketing. She comments,
"In terms of voting behavior, family and significant others are more influential than celebrities in engaging support for a political candidate. At first glance, it would appear that the money and time invested in celebrity support is wasteful."
So what's this have to do with business? New research in the Journal of Advertising Research suggests that what's true in selling politicians is true in selling products. The opinions of key influencers (like Oprah) matter less than those of ordinary people. Venture Capitalist Guy Kawasaki summarized the findings on his blog:
James Coyle, assistant professor of marketing at Miami University's Farmer School of Business, Elizabeth Lightfoot of CNET Networks, and Ted Smith and Amy Scott of MedTrackAlert conducted the study... Said Coyle: "We find that trying to track down key influencers, people who have extremely large social networks, is typically unnecessary and, more importantly, can actually limit a campaign or advertisement's viral potential. Instead, marketers need to realize that the majority of their audience, not just the well-connected few, is eager and willing to pass along well-designed and relevant messages."
Kawasaki agrees, and describes key influencers as, "pompous, insecure jerks who take themselves way too seriously. And I say this knowing that you can rightfully accuse me of being one of them."

(Image of Oprah and Obama by Joe Crimmings, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.