Do Influencers Actually Influence Consumers?

August 19, 2021 at 6:40 PM

Did you know that the average person can be exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 advertising messages each day? But, only 4% of consumers trust ads, and that’s no surprise! We all know that no brand is going to tell you they are bad. 

Instead, every organization or brand will spare no expense or effort to tell us how they are the fastest, cheapest, best value for money, best in quality, best in aftercare and that only they offer the best experience. But we all know that everyone cannot be the best. It often takes just a few moments of use, before people realize that a product or service experience does not match the expectation that’s been created, by advertisements, for them to lose trust in advertising.  But of course, tactical advertising is a marketer’s easy way out, and it doesn’t take a genius to implement it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a necessary element in your promotional mix, if done well.

Untapped Potential

There is currently a lot of skepticism around influencer marketing. Personally, I believe in the concept, but I HATE how it’s being practiced both by influencers and marketers alike, especially in Sri Lanka. I cringe every time a soul with a lot of social followers unwraps a gift box, dances on TikTok with a product, or parrots out a script written and paid for by the sponsoring brand. Is that influencing? People are seeing through it and these tactics now have no more “influence” on consumers than an advertisement. For example, the only difference between most “influencer campaigns” and Kumar Sangakkara appearing in a Coca-cola or a Keells Super commercial, is that Sanga is an actual celebrity and the production is of a higher quality. That’s it!

Through “influencers”, especially in this country, marketers have merely found yet another avenue to “spam” consumers with broadcasts about products or services. In other words, another avenue to “advertise”. Let’s be real, much of “influencer marketing” in Sri Lanka is just advertising by another name, and to paraphrase Shakespeare, advertisements by any other name will smell as foul. None of the advantages of influencer marketing are being capitalized on. Instead, self-conscious brands are doing what they always do, making themselves look so great that it becomes obvious! 

Where’s the Creativity, the Ingenuity? 

What ever happened to intelligent and creative brand associations & storytelling? People follow these so-called “influencers” for the content they upload. It could be fitness, travel, humour, dance moves or – not to be crude or meaning any disrespect – to ogle at people on the internet in various states of undress. However, regardless of what inspires each influencer’s content and why their followers follow them, real influence comes from how naturally a brand is able to integrate with these influencers’ lifestyles. The trick is to be subtle, yet noticeable and convincing, instead of merely broadcasting. Influencer marketing is about making the consumer feel that the brand, product, or service is a positive part of their favourite influencers’ lifestyles.

Some Great Examples 

Instead of going into influencer marketing best practice examples (which you can google anytime), it’s perhaps better to understand integrating creative brand association into storytelling by examining how some movies and TV series, that are sponsored by brands, have influenced our sentiments towards these brands. It’s pretty cool how some organizations have made their brands a part of the storyline in a manner that influences the viewer, while not being overt. 

While all of the following examples are based on fiction, they are still highly relevant as the fundamental concept remains the same. Influencers and brands should work together to ensure that content created by influencers are based on storytelling about their individual lifestyles, is genuine and convincing. 

“But isn’t that deceitful?” some will ask. Maybe. However, whether we like to admit it or not, marketing itself can often be deceitful. Anyway, here are five awesome examples.

  1. Nike in White House Down 👟

Nike is big on product placements. In the movie White House Down (2013), where the White House is under attack, the brand’s iconic Air Jordan’s line is featured so prominently, yet with such finesse that it’s beautiful; Jamie Foxx goes into hand-to-hand combat with a terrorist who grabs his leg, to which Foxx exclaims, “get your hands off my Jordan’s”. This and various other placements along these lines have shown that ‘don’t touch my Jordan’s’ has become a bit of a meme, but that has only boosted the popularity of the brand. Very cool.

2.     Aston Martin in James Bond

James Bond and Aston Martin go together like Gin and Vermouth. But only because this inseparable association has been built through ingenious product placement tactics. While 007 and Aston Martin haven’t always been together on-screen (many of the films have utilised different cars), they share many of the same traits that make them the perfect matching brands. To add to this, Martini, the vermouth brand and the cocktail itself have also become deeply associated with Bond due to the consistent character quote of, “Shaken, not stirred” used when 007 is ordering his favourite tipple.

3.     Ralph Lauren in Friends 

The investment in the show by Ralph Lauren is obviously pretty significant. As the character Rachel works at Ralph Lauren, the firm gets mentioned a lot and there is a full episode in which “Kenny, the copy guy” pretends to be Ralph Lauren to get on with Phoebe. Ralph himself makes an appearance twice in this episode. How simple, yet how marvellous. 

4.     Ray-Bans in Top Gun 🕶

Everyone knows about Aviator sunglasses, so much so that the glasses have become a household name, “hey, don’t forget your aviators”. However, what you may not know is that these glasses are made by Ray-Ban. Seeing them worn by “top-guns” in jets and on motorcycles looks awesome, and is something many would like to emulate and that is reflected in their sales. Sales of Aviator sunglasses skyrocketed by 40% in the seven months following the release of Top Gun, making it a very worthwhile investment.

5.     Nokia in The Matrix

The Matrix used a lot of phones. All of them were from Nokia. All of them were cool. All of them became must-have items. Simple, but so effective!

It is these kinds of simple but ingenious tactics that can really make influencer marketing work. I hope the examples above have given you some inspiration. Let’s stop being lazy, and look at creative avenues through which we can truly influence our consumers by intelligently integrating our brands, products, and services into the lifestyles of the people consumers follow. Only then will we unlock the true potential of “influencing”.

On a side note, try not to control every aspect of the communication as that approach can result in content that lacks the influencer’s signature personality. While you should provide influencers with key messaging, remember they became influential by publishing the sort of content that resonates with their followers. Embrace their creativity.

About the Author 

Wasaam has 15 years of experience that comprises Business Strategy, Marketing & Management. He has worked with clients in multiple industries including but not limited to Finance, FMCG, Retail, Telecom & Hospitality.
Apart from his daily involvement in managing the operations as CEO of Loops, he is also a Senior Lecturer for the Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing, a Corporate Trainer, Dramatist, and Voicing Artist.
He holds a Professional Postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (UK), in which he holds a Sri Lanka Prize for Marketing Planning. He also has a Masters in Business Administration (AUS). His guidance to the teams at Loops has helped the agency gain recognition for several awards for Creative and Digital excellence.