While working with influencers can have a terrific impact on sales and brand recognition, partnerships need to be handled with care. The vloggers, bloggers and celebrities who have built a strong following through their creativity, talent and relatability may be great at winning fans, but it doesn’t mean they always understand what the rules are when conducting a marketing campaign. In order to maintain your brand’s credibility, transparency is everything when working with influencers; unfortunately, it’s all too easy for things to go oh-so wrong…
The issue with influencers
Whether its teeth whitening kits, protein powder or supplements, there are a wide range of products influencers have been spotted plugging with sponsored content online. However, the issue around lack of transparency has gained momentum over the past year or so thanks to a number of well-publicised gaffes.
One particularly notable example was when Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians fame posted a pic to his Instagram feed accidentally cutting and pasting the detailed instructions from protein shake manufacturer Bootea as the caption, including the time they expected the post to go up. He swiftly deleted it but not fast enough to avoid a whole host of screen-grabbing and ridicule from all around the world.
There’s no doubt that influencer transparency is a shady area. An article in The Times examining this issue highlighted a recent post by Alexandra ‘Binky’ Felstead from reality show Made in Chelsea, encouraging her 1.4m followers to head to the sports brand Reebok’s website to shop her look. Was this her simply spontaneously gushing about how much she loved the brand and showing off her outfit? Or was it a non-disclosed post that had been paid for with money or gifts? We’re not sure as her publicist did not respond to The Times for comment… but we could probably take an educated guess.
How much disclosure do consumers want?
A recent influencer marketing survey – ‘Under the Influence’ by promotions agency Prizeology – revealed that 71% of people thought there were no rules around the use of influencers, despite being regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. A further 61% believed influencers don’t have to disclose that they have been paid to talk about a product.
The muddy waters around this matter lead us to believe that influencers and brands could be misleading the masses. And when you take into account the Prizeology research revealed that “two thirds of those surveyed agreed with the statement that their perception of a brand improved when it was transparent about product placement”, it’s clear brands are running a huge risk with their reputation should they not take steps to ensure transparency. Yet many are placing the short-term gain of pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes ahead of being proactive about ensuring the audience can trust both the influencer and the brand.
If there was any doubt about how much disclosure consumers want, Prizeology revealed 88% of Brits believe they should be informed about promotion, 71% believe the ASA should do more to enforce disclosure and 56% believe that brands and influencers should face consequences if they fail to comply. After all, even if they don’t realise it, they are breaking the law.
The Times highlighted the fact that, under consumer law, influencers must state clearly that sponsored content is an ad if they were paid or received freebies in return. In short, ’both brands and influencers have a responsibility to ensure consumers are made aware that content is sponsored.’
On social media, best practice involves adding a little #ad or #sponsored to content, yet at present the rules have been left unenforced and unclear, though this could be about to change. The ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker was quoted by The Times stating some celebs believed they were ‘above labelling’. Now, the watchdog has asked the public to determine whether specific tags should be made mandatory and proper policing enforced.
Authentic brands will prevail
The best influencer endorsements are authentic – that means they are actually rooted in shared values between the brand and the influencer. Audiences need to buy that the influencer genuinely means what they say i.e. they like using your product or service and do so out of their own free will, not just for the cold hard cash.
The most effective work with influencers is based on a partnership, allowing the influencer some freedom to express themselves and add their own stamp to the content. Plus, if this partnership is rooted in authenticity and your influencer of choice is willing to be a consistent presence in your campaign, their endorsement will prove all the more authentic and all the more effective.