The Passion Economy Trend is Shaping the Future of Influencer Marketing: Here’s How

Female travel vlogger filming as part of the passion economy and influencer marketing trend.


Influencer marketing first became a buzzword about a decade ago. But its roots stretch far further back than the age of social media. Think back to the gladiators endorsing products in Ancient Rome or (the fictional) Captain America pushing war bonds in Marvel Comics. The idea of using celebrities to build brands has always been a part of marketing.

And yet, the concept itself is changing, perhaps irreversibly so. The reason is what Li Jin has termed the “passion economy.”

Itself an evolution of the gig economy, the passion economy has the potential to change what we know as influencer marketing forever, and perhaps for the good. Let’s examine the two concepts. How do they intertwine, and what does the future hold in influencer-based promotional strategies?

Introducing the Passion Economy

At its core, the passion economy is a surprisingly simple concept. It’s the rising trend of individuals taking their personal passion, and turning it into a livelihood. Creators are able to use digital channels to create ongoing revenue from sharing their passion with others, thanks to platforms like Substack, Patreon, Etsy, and others.

The passion economy evolved out of the gig economy. It empowered individual creators to build their own passive income stream rather than having to work through marketplaces like Uber or Fiverr. Creators can work “when they want, where they want,” with almost no entry barriers other than finding a niche that a large enough audience responds to.

A Rapidly Rising Trend

Consider these stats:

  • The self-published newsletter platform Substack now boasts more than 500,000 total subscribers. The top 10 authors on the platform collectively earning more than $20 million each year.
  • The creator subscription platform Patreon now hosts 210,000 creators. At least one subscriber claiming to earn more than $2 billion since the platform’s launch in 2013.
  • In total, one study found that internet creators across nine digital platforms (including Etsy, Twitch, and YouTube) resulted in 17 million Americans earning almost $7 billion in 2017. 
  • Globally, one 2020 study estimated that the passion economy is now worth more than $40 billion dollars.

There’s a reason, then, that Jin has called the passion economy “the future of work.” Increasing virtual options, along with rapidly changing labor markets towards worker power, have encouraged millions of professionals to pursue and create their own, independent revenue streams based on their passions. 

From Passion Economy to Influencer Marketing

It’s not difficult to draw a line between the passion economy trend and influencer marketing. If influencer marketing means working with individuals who have a dedicated following and established credibility among that following, the passion economy is drastically expanding that pool of potential influencers.

Put differently, if anyone has the potential to build an audience of dedicated followers, anyone has the potential to become an influencer relevant for your marketing efforts.  

The traditional practice of working with established celebrities may be effective, but it is also expensive. A single endorsement on social media may cost upwards of $150,000. The appeal of working with micro-influencers has always been their more niche appeal and lower cost. However, now many of them are becoming popular enough that they’re more than just micro-influencers.

Take Max Miller, the creative mind behind the popular Tasting History YouTube channel and a perfect example of the passion economy. When laid off from his film distribution career at Disney during the COVID-19 pandemic, he dedicated time to his passion of historic cooking. To date, that investment in his passion has resulted in more than 1 million YouTube subscribers, almost 2,500 paying monthly subscribers on Patreon, and a forthcoming cookbook.

How Working With Passion-Driven Content Creators Changes Influencer Marketing

Of course, the rise of the passion economy doesn’t just affect influencer marketing. At the same time, it’s difficult not to connect the two, particularly given just how much one may change the other in the near future – and already is in the present.

Above all, the influencer hierarchy is flattening, with everyone being able to contribute and make themselves relevant to brands. As AdNews puts it,

This flattening of the system has also meant that new and more diverse voices can breakthrough. The breadth and range of influence has shifted. Now it’s not just cookie-cutter wallpaper in our feeds; it’s niche and emerging groups of individuals that have influence in their own circles. From ASMR to political activists, history enthusiasts and design experts to health and medical professionals – influencers exist in these communities. They are just as powerful at moving the dial and driving action.

As a result, the balance of power is shifting. Influencers are no longer creating a following with the goal of partnering with brands and making money as a result. They are already making passive income. As a result, brand partnerships become more of an optional tool for passion entrepreneurs to consider.

Collaboration is Key

In other words, collaboration becomes key. Simply paying influencers in your industry and hoping for the best is no longer enough. Brands need to strategically find influencers in this passion economy that match their target audience and brand value. Then, they must build true partnerships designed to be mutually beneficial for all three sides. It’s about cultivating long-term, sustainable communities, rather than simply leveraging influencers with lots of followers as a new marketing channel.

The same shift also enables brands to leverage influencers’ skills and passion, if approached correctly. Max Miller, for instance, recently collaborated with the makers of the Movie “The King’s Man” by featuring the signature dish from the movie, a Bakewell Tart, in a Tasting History video.

Passion Economy and Influencer Marketing: What the Future Holds

While the passion economy is spreading out into different industries, it is currently most prevalent in the beauty, travel, and gaming space. But the tides are shifting. When even a mortician talking about death can amass 1.25 million YouTube subscribers, no field will be able to withstand this rapidly and continuously growing trend.

In the process, this new economic model will (and already has) changed influencer marketing as we know it. Of course, for brands willing to adjust, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you are able to find true partnerships with these newly empowered, passionate influencers, your brand’s reach and credibility might skyrocket.

If Li Jin is right, the passion economy will dominate the next decade plus. A similar shift, then, will occur in influencer marketing. Preparing for the future means embracing influencers who have grown a follower base and income due to their passions, partnering with them in more innovative, comprehensive ways.

How Reach.Dog Fits In

Reach.Dog helps brands find influencers whose passions align with their products. Similarly, we provide space for influencers to showcase their passions.

Reach.Dog is the first-ever holistic platform for creators and influencers. It’s an unbiased website designed to help brands find and partner with influencers. Developed by James Cashiola, Reach.Dog is a free influencer marketing platform. Visit our platform today.

By James Cashiola

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