The difference between ‘influential marketing’ and ‘thought leadership’?



The buzzwords of the moment: ‘influential marketing’ and ‘thought leadership’ – two equally important but entirely different strategies. The difference harks back to the notion of influence, which, according to current thought, is not always based on knowledge

Marketing expert Elinor Cohen defines the concept of ‘influencer’ as individuals “who can reach many people through various communication channels and can therefore, potentially, influence them to like or dislike, to adopt or ban, to buy or skip buying, products and services.”


So – individuals with a mass following on social media will have a bigger, better, stronger sphere of influence.


There are lots of different types of ‘influencers’ – fashionistas, celebrities, journalists, analysts, activists, political leaders, philosophers, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) etc. and who you decide to engage with will depend on the character and aim of your brand....OK.


Now let’s get onto ‘thought leaders’, who are all about expertise and knowledge.

Elinor Cohen (again)…defines thought leaders as “people who care about their niche and industry for real and enough to invest time and money in becoming experts. They work in the industry, they learn all the time, they make it a point to generate quality and authentic content, not for their own profit or someone else’s profit, but for the purpose of educating others about something they’re passionate about.”




The insinuation is that thought leaders and influential marketers are not synonymous (that influencers are fakers and leaders are the real deal), and yet can’t influencers sway the decisions of others with their expertise, which would merge strategies rather than separate them? Either way, what you’ll have to figure out is whether you’d like to work with marketing influencers or thought leaders to help your brand kick ass.


The very vague and annoying answer to this question is: it depends on who your audience is and what you’d like to achieve with your brand. Associating with thought leaders and/or marketing influences can help boost the reach of your brand but perhaps more important, is to develop a marketing strategy that develops your own brand identity and thought leadership.


Sources: Medium.com – “It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Influencers don’t really influence anything or anyone!”

Business2community.com – “Why Thought Leadership is Different From Influencer Marketing” 

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