Do these faces look familiar to you?
Commonly referred to as ‘social influencers’, these are opinion leaders who have the power to affect the opinions or purchase decisions of others because of their (real or perceived) authority, knowledge or expertise in their niche fields. The logic behind utilising them isn’t just for their pretty face really, *surprise, surprise!* since scholars have long justified influencer marketing with the two step flow theory.
Unfortunately, not all social media marketing efforts involving influencers are guaranteed hits. Locally, the influencer marketing practise has been plagued with issues regarding influencer suitability and credibility, which compromised audiences’ trust and undermined their effectiveness.
Take for example, the Marigold campaign received backlash as its choice of influencer (Naomi Neo) was criticized for her untruthful and insincere Instagram post. More importantly, the campaign’s effectiveness was undermined as Marigold’s target audience found it difficult to relate to Naomi since they felt she did not align entirely with Marigold’s brand image.
More serious incidents include the Andrea Chong, Yilin Goh and Eunice Annabel saga, where all 3 influencers blatantly lied and abused their influence by masking their sponsored content as native posts, insinuating false perceptions among audiences. They were subsequently and ironically exposed via citizen journalism.
Hence, a brand’s influencer choice and ethics are crucial since audiences would associate the influencer as the face/personality of a brand. We propose that brands should keep in mind an influencer’s suitability with relevance to their brand image or campaign objectives and utilise them in ethical manners always to gain credibility, since customer trust is a brand’s most valuable currency. A useful tip for brands would be to go through their products’ unique selling point(s) and their brand positioning with selected influencers beforehand, as well as to check through the final post before it goes live.