Can influencer marketing damage your brand?
The growth of influencer campaigns has been one of the most exciting marketing developments in the past decade but with highs can come the lows. Jeremy Stern, CEO of PromoVeritas, international marketing compliance and promotions experts, shares how to avoid the pitfalls.
Fuelled by the explosion of innovative social media platforms, consumers have become far more engaged with technology and the lives of those that see on their phone screens. It is estimated that brands will spend over $15 billion on influencers by 2022. The ability to create targeted campaigns that can create genuine engagement with a precise demographic is every advertiser’s dream but there can be pitfalls and risks.
What can go wrong?
…a lot. Especially if you are not prepared and consider all the risks. Significant fines, cease-and-desist orders and platform take-downs are all possible. Here are some other issues that could face:
Damage to your reputation: When you link up with an influencer you are also associating yourself with their actions and opinions. This could be a huge problem for a brand if they have been or are controversial – old posts never die. Leading make-up brand Morphe parted ways with influencer James Charles – who has 25 million YouTube subscribers – after he was accused of having inappropriate conversations with minors on social media. This followed a catalogue of public outcries over his activities and also led to YouTube’s Partner Program demonetising his channel.
Breaking the rules: Hardly a week goes by without coverage of an influencer breaking the industry led rules for identifying advertising posts. Back in 2019 the UK Government’s Competition and Markets Authority cracked down on 16 celebrities including singer Ellie Goulding and model Alexa Chung for consistently flouting the rules about labelling ads. They secured formal commitments that from the influencers, that they would be more transparent in future and the CMA continues to monitor the platforms..
Lacking authenticity: Using influencers who are clearly in it for the cash is a huge turn-off for followers and is counterproductive for the brands that pay them. The best (aka worst) example of this was when fitness brand Bootea partnered with Kourtney Kardashian’s ex Scott Disick. He embarrassingly created an Instagram post that was clearly just copied from the brand’s brief to him. It included the instructions: ‘Here you go, at 4pm, write the below….caption ….’.
A danger to the public: Influencers can often advertise products and lifestyle choices that might not be safe for their followers, in particular younger or more vulnerable ones. Many influencers promote alcohol, plastic surgery or diet products. For example Love Island star Jemma Lucy was ruled irresponsible by the UK Advertising Standards Authority for promoting weight-loss tea whilst pregnant. And in May 21, other influencers were told off for posting about Debt Management companies with9out considering the consequences for their young followers.
Following the rules, wherever you are.
Here are my top five suggestions for ensuring risk free influencer campaigns:
- Training – get some expert training and guidance on what the key rules to follow are and how to select the right Influencer.
- Know the Rules – not just for your own country, but for any country where the influencer may be operating. There are no unified rules for influencer marketing worldwide. Every country will regulate slightly differently – but in most it is both the brand and the influencer who are legally responsible. So know the rules.
- Label Posts – in the UK it is advisable to use “Advert”,” Sponsored” or “in partnership with”, whilst in Spain the equivalent would be “Publi” or “Anunico” and “Werbung” or “Anzeige” in Germany .
- Due Diligence – do thorough background checks on potential influencer talent. Are they a good fit with your brand – previous posts, profile of followers…
- Contracts –get a decent agreement drafted by someone with experience. Don’t ignore it or just rewrite an old media contract. It is a vital way of controlling the dialogue and determining the responsibilities of both parties.
- Guidelines – create a clear framework for both the brand and the influencer to work within. What can be said, what cannot.
- Check the Output – always review copy for a post ahead of publication to ensure it doesn’t breach the rules and carry out spot checks to ensure the influencer is sticking to them.
The rules apply to everyone and every brand – however big. Even Coca Cola. In 2016, Selena Gomez’ ran a post that became the most liked picture on Instagram. But it had to be edited, because she had forgotten to add the #ad to her post.
What is important is that you Run it Right.