Ok. Perhaps the title and imagery is a bit dramatic, but it sums up my view of paid influencers as it relates to the CMOs desire and need to control messaging. A recent viewing of the 60 Minutes segment called “The Influencers” (© 2016 CBS Interactive Inc) lays bare the new trend which is earning some at the top of their Influencer game, millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars (such as Kim Kardashian).
Kim Kardashian doesn’t even have a talent, other than self-promotion. I mean she certainly has some attributes that caught the attention of many, but her talent is the fact that she can instruct others, at scale, in what to do, how to do it, and most importantly, with what product.
Logan Paul, on the other hand, has blended comedy, mockumentaries, provocative statements throughout social media, and now ad videos that now include, according to the 60 minute interview, his own direction and creative for a major international Donut company! Most recently, Logan Paul took on Heavyweight legend Floyd Mayweather in an exhibition bout that earned him a $250,000 base take and up to $20,000,000 in residuals from PPV.
The strategies of using a product in a direct or indirect manner throughout their social footprint has earned Influencers a second look by the Federal Trade Commission. Just as with any other advertising, professional influencers are bound by disclosure requirements – stating that they are being paid for the endorsement, according the the 60 minutes interview.
So social influencers, who earn Billions of followers by the way, are a great way for business to set a ground game in action. This is true “grass roots” advertising. Everything, it appears, is up for endorsement by these people. Whether influencer fatigue will set in one day is not even being discussed, yet!
So why do I have the dystopian view of Influencers, and why western civilization declines with their use? Simple, accountability! Who is controlling the brand look and feel, the messaging – keeping things “on-message”? Have we as marketers suddenly given up on all of that? Is there no longer an interest in Brand Guides and Creative Briefs?
Paid influencers give companies an arms length relationship with their consumers. Since the videos, posts and tweets normally go through no QC or legal review, companies get away with the exaggerations that they could never benefit from through normal advertising/marketing interaction. It’s the Wild Wild West and the FTC is just catching up.
Now with all of this said, I think there is a different level of influencer that is far more useful and presents less of a direct threat to the integrity of a company – Earned Media Micro-Influencers. These are people who are not paid for their endorsement of products, but their reach to their personal social networks gives companies great exposure through what we call UGC or User Generated Content. UGC can then be repurposed for national reshares by the brand if a review of the message complies with the marketing strategy. The Micro-Influencer gains by earning national notoriety and presence, which in turn gives them a better chance at paid media engagements, or just to be more “popular’ in the social media realm.
So influencers, the capitalist in me is incredibly jealous that I didn’t get to capitalize on this trend! But the marketer in me is waiting for the other shoe to drop, when marketers find themselves in so much trouble for this crazy free for all due to class action suits, wrongful death suits, etc, that they will be forced to change the rules and truly treat paid Influencers just as any other celebrity endorsement, complete with ethics and morals clauses, content reviews, legal reviews, etc. For my money (and really none is needed – that’s the best part), I would much rather use the genuine UGC that can support a brand and message.
Full disclosure, I follow no Influencers! I do follow great speakers and though leaders, but they aren’t selling me things – for example Simon Sinek. I follow him on LinkedIn, but he’s never tried to sell me running shoes or zit cream.