Companies that favour influencer marketing over other forms of marketing typically do so because the former is seen to be highly “authentic” and believable. Influencer marketing essentially boils down to an influential figure vouching for your brand – but what happens when companies and influencers choose to be less than truthful in their communications, and abuse the trust that followers place in them? They quickly become the laughing stocks of the internet, as evidenced by the following case studies from Singapore:
The Naomi Neo x Marigold saga
Marigold, which is a household name when it comes to beverages in Singapore, engaged several influencers including Naomi Neo , Jianhao Tan, Benjamin Kheng and Rachel Wong to promote their juice cartons. What brought on waves of criticism was the fact that none of the influencers disclosed in their posts that these were ads, as well as how the captions were unarguably contrived and non-genuine.
Upon reposting Naomi Neo’s picture on its Facebook page, Marigold was bombarded with a slew of comments pointing out how ridiculous it would be for Naomi to, as she mentioned, carry a 1 litre carton of juice around on a daily basis. In an act of “goodwill”, some also pointed out that the amount of sugar in a mere 250ml of Marigold’s juice comes close to the daily limit as specified by the World Health Organization (WHO) – and that anyone who consumes litres of the stuff daily would undoubtedly be ridden with serious health issues.
Singtel and Gushcloud’s smear campaign
Singtel, one of the four major telcos in Singapore, was caught red-handed in orchestrating a smear campaign. In the campaign brief that was leaked online, the influencers engaged through Gushcloud (a prominent social media marketing agency) received instructions to “complain” about the other telcos on their various social media channels.
Needless to say, this resulted in a huge backlash, with countless followers and consumers losing faith in Singtel, Gushcloud, and the various influencers involved. Singtel stopped working with Gushcloud, fired the employee in charge of the campaign, and issued a public apology to its fellow telcos. Upon receiving several complaints, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) also issued Singtel with a strict warning with regards to this saga.
Whilst companies will always want their brands to be represented in the best possible light, it is crucial for marketers to ensure that influencer campaigns are not misleading or disingenuous in any way. One example that companies can look up to is Dell, which has a policy of having marketers, influencers, and employees use the hashtag #Iwork4Dell in any posts that they make that promote the company.
Other than making sure that its employees are transparent whilst using social media, Dell also emphasizes the importance of exercising responsibility in doing so. For example, when asked about something that they aren’t an authority on, employees are encouraged to connect the person posing the question to an expert, rather than responding personally.
Employees are also reminded that anything posted online can go viral, and in the interest of self-censorship, to only post content that they would feel comfortable showing up in their boss’s inbox. With consumers growing increasingly media-savvy and having increasingly high standards, it might be tough for a company to recover from an episode similar to the ones illustrated above.
In order to avoid having such a fiasco on their hands, marketers should always strive to uphold the integrity of their brand by doing the following:
– Engaging influencers who are true advocates, and whom truly believe in the product or service
– Allowing influencers editorial independence, so that they may present an unbiased opinion of the product or service
– Not requesting influencers to state anything that is categorically untrue (even if it’s as innocuous as, in Naomi’s case, “I’m always carrying around a carton of my favourite juice!”)