Influencer Marketing- The False Narrative


The effectiveness of Influencer Marketing has invited attention due to its rising popularity and its positive relationship with the consumption of goods and services. However, does it necessarily have a positive effect on both parties in the transaction? The image portrayed by social media influencers who endorse products as a form of brand marketing can often have a negative influence on the audience. The problem lies with the way everything is depicted with a label of influencer marketing may at times be misleading and even perilous to the consumer.

 

Influencer Marketing

“According to Forbes, influencer marketing can be defined as a form of marketing in which focus is placed on specific key individuals rather than the target market as a whole” (Glucksman. M., 2017). Social media plays a significant role in the lives of a vast majority of the population. While the users are of different age groups, a considerable part of them are children and young-adult population. Brands partner with Influencers, or individuals with a noticeable social media presence, to market their products by showcasing their endorsement through such influencers’ media handles. While this strategy is beneficial in some ways, like the audience becoming aware of the products available in the market, there is no doubt that such product promotions lead to adverse effects among the viewers.


Body Image Disturbance

A significant proportion of the lifestyle-related product market uses influencer marketing for brand promotion. The ideal images of beauty, fitness, fashion, etc. are projected by these brands through influencers who are followed by millions of users. “Fitspiration” or Fitness Inspiration, a social media trend, while encouraging the audience to lead active lifestyles, also sets a standard for fitness, or in blatant words, body image. It refers to how an individual views their body and when that image is disturbed it is usually due to negative notions about one’s physique and the desire to make drastic changes to it (Grover and Rai, 2017).

One might question what the issue is with influencers advertising the products by showing the audience the effects they have upon consumption. However, the situation goes deeper than individuals merely showing the aftereffects of product use. Behind the photos and videos that the followers get to see there are heavy modifications made with the help of professionals to portray the influencers in a directed fashion. Achieving such unrealistic goals of perfection is impossible simply with the use of the products they endorse.

The problem with such product endorsement posts is that the viewers, mostly teens and young adults, develop a false image of what ideal standards of fitness and beauty are, causing them several psychological issues such as low self-esteem, body image disturbance and even eating disorders. “… promote the socio-cultural norms of ideal beauty. This holds true for both women and men. For example, when viewing images of men, they “conform to only one body type that of a medium build with a high degree of muscularity. (Thompson and Cafri, 2007). Adapting drastic measures to reach those standards could lead to users harming themselves when such standards were never pragmatic in the first place.


Effect on product Market

“Physical attractiveness of social media influencers is perceived to have a high tendency in driving the acceptance rate of advertising. Source attractiveness focuses on an endorser's physical attributes or characteristics” (Erdogan 1999). This theory, however, was observed to have an almost insignificant influence on customers’ purchase intention with the help of a statistical study that was conducted on the same topic in a report by Lin, Razdol, Chea, and Wong (2017). It revealed that the respondents were more likely to buy products endorsed by influencers they admired or found a resemblance to. Additionally, the Product Match-up or the message implied by the influencer concerning the product endorsed is positively related to the effectiveness of the marketing plan. The Match-up in this case is the portrayal of the influencers’ lifestyle.


Need for Research

In a report by YPulse, experts in youth marketing, 58% of Gen- Z and 48% of Millennial followers of social media influencers claim to have purchased products due to influencer recommendation. There has also been a spike in social media traffic due to a rise in the number of teenage and young adult audiences for influencers in the past few years. Research also suggests that popular influencers have followers that associate the advertisements or product endorsements with authenticity and credibility (Chen and Yuan, 2019). This means there is a significant section of society, especially the growing population, that is affected by influencer marketing. According to Kamins (1990), there is a direct relationship between the endorser's influence on the audience and their purchase intention. In addition to superficial claims of the products, the image portrayed by the influencers can have a lasting impact on minds that are susceptible to it; namely the younger population. Not only is research important for realizing the gravity of transparency to the audience and the effect inaccurate marketing can have on the users, but it is also probable that the scope of influencer marketing is going to widen as the size of the user population increases with time. Finding a proper marketing strategy is important for brands to increase their brand reputation and reach.

 

Conclusion

Influencer Marketing is a rapidly growing aspect of product marketing that has not fully been studied. With a majority of its target audience being the growing population, a comprehensive study should be conducted to make sure all parties are benefited or, at least, unharmed by this marketing strategy. It is important to note that not only are the audience at the risk of witnessing unrealistic standards of lifestyle but it is also the influencers who are pushed into that box of rigid standards constructed by society, making it impossible for them to duly express themselves. The consequences of fake influencer marketing can be dire and is thus an issue of grave concern that needs to be addressed.

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Influencer Marketing entails product endorsements and shout-outs by social media influencers to boost a brand’s reputation and sales.

  • The target audience of the strategy consists mainly of the growing population i.e., teenagers and young adults.

  • The issue arises when the image portrayed by influencers is claimed to be the result of using a particular product when, in reality, it is directed by professionals and heavily re-touched. It leads to unrealistic standards of lifestyles goals that are unattainable.

  • Such content is misleading and exposure to it can lead to psychological problems and dissatisfaction with the products consumed.

  • There is an urgent need for research to be conducted about influencer marketing to create effective plans for marketing products that allow brands to grow while ensuring the mental and physical wellbeing of the audience.



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