With influencers exerting tremendous power over brand perception, forward-thinking companies are investing more and more in this new advertising medium, leveraging trusted third parties to expand market reach and increase profitability.
As advertising industry expert Sergey Karshkov – founder of 9 Pandas – will attest, the way people shop has changed forever, with increasing numbers of consumers placing less weight on corporate ad campaigns, following influencers in ever-increasing numbers, and basing buying choices on what a trusted peer has to say.
Influencers hold massive sway over markets for three important reasons:
- Social media advertising is a rapidly expanding sector. According to a study published by Adobe Digital Insights, 42% of millennials and 50% of Generation Z report that social media adverts are the most relevant to them.
- With advertising governing bodies like CAP and ASA setting stringent standards, the scope for fraud, fake followers and general bad practice has decreased. Transparency is an essential element of gaining and maintaining consumer trust. Standardisation also ensures that consumers know exactly what they are buying, preventing them from feeling duped – a vital element in terms of creating trust.
- Enhanced customer experience. People engage more closely with peers than a faceless company. Influencers can highlight important touchpoints, providing a much more persuasive pitch. By choosing the right influencer, a brand enhances its reputation and authenticity, creating a real connection with its audience – an incredibly powerful asset in terms of converting interest into sales.
To maintain their own credibility, a successful influencer presents themselves with authenticity, maintaining a degree of impartiality. Although most of their audience appreciates that they are paid to promote products, at the same time, the public still expects a basic level of honesty and integrity. If a product receives a lukewarm review, this will do little to enhance public perception. If a product receives a scathing response, this could damage brand reputation.
In Euro 2020, Cristiano Ronaldo’s apparent rejection of Coca-Cola inadvertently created a furor in the international press. At the time, Ronaldo was one of the championship’s star attractions, scoring three times in Portugal’s first two matches. Sitting down at his first pre-match press conference, Ronaldo frowned at the two bottles of Coca-Cola in front him, promptly pushing them out of the shot, rolling his eyes and muttering “Coca-Cola”. He held up a bottle of water, saying “Agua”, the Portuguese word for water, in a purported bid to persuade the audience to reject Coca-Cola and drink more water.
At the tournament, Italian player Manuel Locatelli adopted a similar stance, substituting Coca-Cola for water at his press conference while smiling broadly. French midfielder Paul Pogba also removed a Heineken bottle from shot while speaking at a media event, reportedly rejecting another of the tournament’s sponsors.
The impact of Ronaldo’s apparent rejection was startling; Coca-Cola’s value plummeting by a staggering £2.8 billion in the wake of his actions. While influencers can enhance brand reputation, they can also cause catastrophic damage, rendering influencer marketing an incredibly challenging and confusing space.