Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why Influencer Marketing Needs a Makeover

By Matt Woods of AFK

In the ever-evolving world of marketing, influencer marketing has emerged as a powerful technique that has captivated brands and businesses alike. Unlike other marketing niches, influencer marketing offers a unique level of personalisation that can be tailored to both the influencer and the brand. This targeted approach enables businesses to effectively reach specific audiences and demographics, ultimately driving success. That being said, the distinctive and customised nature of influencer marketing is precisely what gives rise to challenges within this specific realm of marketing.

There is no denying that the influencer marketing industry is lucrative; boasting a $16.4 billion dollar market in 2022 (Influencer Marketing Hub) with some of the biggest influencers even becoming household names. However, consumers’ attitudes towards this marketing niche have changed in recent times and therefore businesses and brands need to alter their approach when it comes to utilising this particular marketing niche, to drive the most success. Influencers, as individuals with significant influence, bear the responsibility of guiding and protecting society at large. In the past, influencers have abused the power they wield over their followers, whether consciously or not, and so in 2023, influencer marketing needs a makeover.

Stricter Regulations and Accountability of Endorsements

As the use of influencer marketing has grown in popularity, the line between genuine endorsement and paid promotion has blurred. According to the 2022 guidance for social media platforms, brands, and content creators by “The Competition and Markets Authority” (CMA), influencers have a legal obligation to disclose their financial relationships with brands. Failure to do so not only raises ethical concerns but also undermines the trust that followers have placed in these influencers. The guidance at the moment is not strict enough…

With almost half of consumers relying on influencer recommendations for their purchasing decisions, according to the Digital Marketing Institute in 2021, brands have a social responsibility to protect their consumers from the spread of misinformation. Sometimes this social responsibility is not translated into guidelines and regulations to protect the public. Influencers, driven by popular content and engagement, may prioritise such metrics over genuine content. This, in turn, can give rise to the creation of misleading content that has the potential to harm consumers. One such example is the ‘skinny tea’ trend, promoted by influencers, which claimed to cleanse the system and lead to effortless weight loss. The result of this led to damaging body confidence issues among individuals. In addition, recently, streamer NickMerc came under fire for a tweet and was accused of holding anti-LGBT+ views. His Call of Duty skin was swiftly taken down from the store by Activision. This instance emphasises how important it is for businesses to think more carefully about all factors before working with an influencer. Ethical principles should be considered rather than just product relevance.

Whether it’s promoting ineffective products or endorsing unhealthy lifestyles, the lack of regulation and accountability in influencer marketing can have adverse effects on vulnerable individuals who idolise these influencers.

Authenticity and Transparency of Endorsements

In addition, consumers have become increasingly savvy to marketing messages and have a focus on authenticity and the credibility of endorsements. In recent times, brands have adapted to the growing scepticism of consumers, encouraging honesty and originality of endorsements, or at the very least, the appearance thereof. Instead of the typical brand endorsement of an individual reading a script given to them by a brand and shoving the product in the faces of consumers, brands are allowing influencers the freedom to promote their product or service in a more authentic way. By allowing influencers to match endorsement opportunities with the influencers’ own content style, those consuming the content perceive the partnership to be credible and therefore are more likely to trust the endorsement and engage with the brand. By fostering a culture of authenticity and responsible content creation, the influencer marketing landscape can rebuild trust and realise its full potential as a valuable marketing strategy.

Transparency is crucial in any form of marketing, and influencer marketing is no exception. While regulations exist to ensure transparency, enforcement remains a significant challenge. Many influencers fail to disclose their financial relationships with brands adequately, leaving their followers in the dark about the true nature of the content they consume. This lack of transparency not only misleads consumers but also affects fair competition among brands, as those who properly disclose their partnerships may be overshadowed by those who do not.

Influencer marketing has undoubtedly become a powerful force in the marketing landscape, offering personalised approaches and immense market potential. However, it is crucial to acknowledge and address the challenges it presents. Stricter regulations, improved transparency, and increased accountability are necessary to protect consumers and maintain fair competition among brands. Cultivating a culture of authenticity and promoting responsible content creation can help rebuild trust and adherence to ethical guidelines, the influencer marketing industry can rebuild trust and unlock its full potential as a valuable marketing strategy. Only through these measures can influencer marketing undergo a transformative makeover, paving the way for a healthier, more ethical, and ultimately more successful future.