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Marketing focus: Go with a celebrity or a "micro-influencer?"

Were you aware that Oprah Winfrey -- or Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise and other so-called "A-listers" -- are inexorably linked with a diminishing return?

Take the word of a principal with one marketing company who recently reported in a Forbes article that the alleged utility of top-end celebrities in marketing schemes is often overrated and frequently disappointing for the companies who pay them to shill products.

Bill Sussman, who is the president of an "influence marketing company," notes that consumers -- progressively younger, more discerning, sophisticated and weaned on social media platforms -- are far less inclined than many of their elders to pull a product off a shelf because some famous person claims he or she uses it.

In fact, Sussman says that legions of would-be buyers these days are likely to find marketing links between celebrities and products "automated and unoriginal."

To wit: Yesterday Jennifer Aniston told us she swears by a certain cosmetic. Today she informs that she can't go a day without using her favorite brand of toothpaste. Do we really believe any of that?

Sussman says no, and that a major consumer survey reveals instead that "non-celebrity influencers are 10 times more likely to drive in-store purchases than celebrities."

The point: A number of gentle nudges over time by influencers that aren't always leaping off the page with their bigness can really drive a product. An individual who is gaining fame yet still seemingly containable, coupled with an apparently honest appraisal of why he or she uses a certain product, can be quite effective in driving sales.

The bottom line, says Sussman, is that relevancy and truth in marketing matter quite a lot to the public these days.

Thus, appearing legitimate in a marketing piece, whether an endorser is a huge celebrity or a so-called "influencer," is key, because "consumers can sense inauthenticity a mile away."

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