Chris Wilson, PMYB Co-Founder: “Real influence in the right hands drives awareness, engagement and conversions. However, it also heavily impacts the perception of your brand. Maintaining your brand’s identity and respecting your company’s corporate values is crucial.”
When one of the biggest YouTubers in the world, Logan Paul decided to post a video showing a dead body to his fans, his sponsors were collectively and justifiably alarmed. Paul discovered the body when walking with friends in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, sometimes called the “suicide forest.” Paul’s actions and approach to the video were not only distasteful; what he did clearly clashed with the corporate values of many of his sponsors. Google distanced themselves, dropping Paul from Google Preferred and YouTube Red.
Logan Paul apparently didn’t expect the backlash. He quickly deleted the video and issued an apology, but by then the damage to his image was already done.
A big mistake that many marketers still make when conducting influencer marketing is selecting influencers that don’t match their brand’s core values. Just because somebody is popular doesn’t mean they will make a good ambassador for your brand. And just because someone has a large following doesn’t mean they are the right person to impact that following in the right way.
That’s exactly why our Influencer Marketing Agency puts a lot of emphasis on the influencer-brand matching stage in our 5 Stage Chromo-Analysis Influencer Selection Process. The influencers you choose need to be a perfect fit every time!
Influencer Marketing is Similar to Other Types of Marketing
Alike, other forms of marketing, influencer marketing very much relies on the ability for an influencer to deliver a message effectively. If there is any misalignment or contrast between your product and the influencer or the influencer’s audience, then there is little chance that your campaign is going to be successful.
It is fundamentally similar to other traditional forms of marketing – each endorsement must be customised to the audience it’s directed at. In influencer marketing, influencers create content that is carefully customised for their audience. The most skilled influencers know the type of content and form of delivery that works best with their followers.
Everybody now understands that influencers are the people that know their audience best. And in order to achieve the best possible results, you need to give them some form of creative control – not a script. With that in mind, every marketer needs to ensure that the personality and attitudes of the influencers you work with match your brand’s ethos too so that they can deliver natural and authentic endorsements. If they can’t do so, then you shouldn’t really be working with them.
The Heart of Influencer Marketing is Authenticity
People do not become influencers by accident. They work hard at building a sound and solid online reputation.
As their reputation grows, they gain more and more followers. And the best followers actively engage regularly – they participate in conversations, ask questions, share their own stories, and generally respect the influencer. They take much credence in statements made by the influencer – indeed, they become “influenced” in their decision-making.
For this to happen, any influencer needs to remain consistently authentic with his or her followers.
If an influencer makes a post that is clearly a paid advert, written in corporate fashion, or using unnatural advertising jargon, they will lose credibility and the endorsement will be flawed.
Every influencer is different, however. They will bring their personality and values. As long as an influencer is consistent in the general tone of their posts, they will build an audience of like-minded people.
A problem comes, however, when an influencer makes posts of a different nature to their typical output. These may jar with their followers, and in some cases may lead to people opting to unfollow the influencer, and question their authenticity.
Align Your Brand with the Right Kind of Influencers
Kristen Matthews – “Don’t just think about the audience you’re after, obsess over it.”
Influencer marketing success relies 100% on you understanding your target audience. You need to know how your intended audience spends their time online. What types of social posters, blogs, and tweeters would your audience follow? Which topics typically interest them? What kinds of photos and videos do they choose to view? What makes them feel excited enough to share a piece of content?
You should build an image of your preferred influencer. For example:
- Personality Type – do you want an activist, an informer, or an authority to promote your campaign?
- Genre / niche
- Topics the influencer regularly talks about
- Audience’s interests
These all need to align with how you portray your brand’s image.
You will immediately strike a problem if there’s a mismatch between the types of values potential influencers have and your corporate values. Disney recognised the potential for conflict here in the early days of the internet. They prefer a strictly controlled family-friendly environment, yet in many ways, the internet is like the Wild West. Disney has learned that it can’t align itself with controversial influencers, no matter how popular they are. They have to vigorously vet potential partners to ensure they also follow family-friendly values.
Disney can’t control the internet in the same way it can its movies, televisions shows, comics, and even magical kingdoms. As far back as 2002, Deutsche Bank’s Jennifer Klein observed, “the Internet is still going to be a resource for people who want to find stuff that you can’t walk into a supermarket to get.” Nearly two decades on, Disney still struggles to separate its material from “inappropriate” content online.
Influencer Matches That Have Gone Wrong
Sometimes brands pick the wrong ambassadors. Usually, this is because of a mismatch between the influencers’ values and the brand’s corporate values.
Disney vs PewDiePie
We have already referred to the family-friendly values of Disney. Some have argued that the decision to work with world-renowned YouTuber, PewDiePie was questionable.
In late 2016 / early 2017, PewDiePie made multiple racist and anti-Semitic YouTube videos. Before long, PewDiePie became the focus of much negative media attention, in particular from a series of exposes in The Wall Street Journal.
This followed on from earlier controversies when Twitter briefly suspended his account in 2016 after he joked about joining ISIS, and when he sarcastically suggested that YouTube was suppressing his viewership numbers because he is white.
As far as some of his young gaming fans were concerned, PewDiePie was merely joking. According to Brian Feldman in The Intelligencer, PewDiePie and the bulk of his fans are part of the “chan” culture. “Online-gaming communities overlap heavily with the culture of anonymous, often-offensive message boards like 4chan. That channer culture is driven by the maxim of ‘doing it for the lulz.’ That often means doing offensive things and using hate speech ironically in order to tick people off”.
However, this behaviour clearly caused problems at family-friendly Disney. They clearly didn’t respect his actions, and like much of the population, they could only see one meaning for PewDiePie’s statements.
Kendall Jenner vs Pepsi
We first mentioned this example in our article, 8 Soft Drink Companies Winning with Influencer Marketing Campaigns. Pepsi used Kendall Jenner in a campaign, where Ms Jenner starred in ‘The Live for Now Anthem’ Pepsi ad, which she shared via her social channels.
This did not go down well with viewers, however. Ms Jenner was perceived as having values inconsistent with the ad‘s message.
In the ad, Kendall Jenner hands out a Pepsi to a police officer during a protest. This immediately leads to the crowd calming down and cheering – losing the anger they had displayed until that moment.
The problem is that Kendall Jenner is not known as fighting for social change – indeed, many people see her more as embodying the establishment.
Pepsi quickly pulled the video, but not before it sent Pepsi’s Buzz score plummeting at an unprecedented rate, briefing becoming negative.
Corporate Values of the Brand vs The Influencer
By definition, corporate values are ‘the operating philosophies or principles that help guide an organization’s internal conduct and its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders.’ In this post, we’ve clearly outlined the importance of ensuring your influencers align with the corporate values of your brand. Without that consistency, you may damage your brand’s identity and your company’s integrity.
However, with that consistency and alignment, you’re able to deliver powerful messages to your target audience that really do have a longlasting impact. Not only on your sales, downloads or brand engagement but the perception of your brand.