January 30, 2019 |
I remember the horror of taking one of the kids to see Youtuber Logan Paul at the Dubai Mall a couple of years ago. Thousands of screaming teens, and a few older people who should probably have known better, descended upon the mall chanting Logan Paul love tributes. Odd I have to say.
Imagine therefore the furore if someone you had actually heard of turns up. Thousands of all ages would ogle at what the star was wearing, smelt like, had eaten etc. But this happens digitally on a daily basis as the likes of the Kardashians turn up on their various social media channels ‘influencing’ their legions of followers with carefully placed product placements and endorsements. What they don’t make that clear is that they are being paid for endorsing these products, whether they believe in them or not. And given their influence over the younger members of society, their lack of transparency and accountability is tantamount to the much publicised fake news.
Sixteen influencers have recently agreed to state whether they have been paid for their influence, admitedly under the threat of fines or jail from the UK’s Competitions and Markets Authority. But surely this has to become the industry standard after all influencers are endorsers. Influencers is just a way of saying endorsers and making it sound like these people actually like or use the product for free.
People like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King are influencers because they use their purpose to influence the world to behave in a more socially responsible way. I don’t believe that any of these true influencers refused to go on a march if they weren’t provided with a free pair of the latest shoes.
So why not just drop the crassness of using the term influencer and call it what is actually is – endorsement. Sports stars like Cristiano Ronaldo get paid huge fees for promoting products across traditional and social media channels and everyone knows that he is being paid to do so. The movie industry has for years had paid-for products placed on their sets to make the connection between a particular film, character and their association with a particular product. Here the film is endorsing certain products in line with its narrative.
There is no doubt that advertising has changed, not from the actual disciplines but to the media which has changed to Facebook, Instagram etc. Budgets are being moved away from traditional media forms to newer forms of communication.That is just a sign of the times and if this is the way that audiences can be reached and influenced into buying a product then so be it. My point is that the term influencer is fake as the endorser is using their position of having a large number of followers and access to the latest in digital marketing techniques to create a false sense of belief in a product that they are pretending to actually use but in fact are being paid for and not telling anyone.
Restaurants rarely used endorsements before so why use influencers? Just because an influencer gets paid to Insta their free meal doesn’t mean that the restaurant is any good. Various restaurants have invited prominent friends and friends of prominent friends to their restaurants who have posted images to their feeds, and for brief period afterwards there is a rush. Then it goes back to normal. Why is that? Well because it wasn’t any good before so why not spend some money on getting the product right instead? The customer is actually your biggest influencer as their positive feedback influences more people. So instead of spending on pointless celebrities spend it on your product.
Becoming an influencer actually requires a lot less work than becoming a global leader or a sports star, but there again that is a sign of the times too. If you fancy going out every night, taking a few photos and posting them to your growing number of followers it won’t be long before you too are an influencer. How hard can it be?
Sadly everyone thinks they are influencers. There are even awards for being an influencer, which is ironic as if you were actually an influencer then everyone would know and you wouldn’t need an award to show people that you were one.
At least now people who are famous for being famous can genuinely say that they are doing something to earn their fame. Just tell everyone that you are being paid for it and stop conning them into thinking you actually care.