PETALING JAYA: While influencers are seen as one of the effective channels in brand-building, they must be credible and have knowledge of the products they are promoting, say agency and market leaders.
They concurred that it is also vital for marketers to have the right mix of influencers in line with their brand objectives, and to ensure the latter bring value in the brands they are campaigning.
Furthermore, there is a danger as misleading claims of a brand by influencers could lead them and the company to face legal suits, they noted.
The Communications and Multimedia Content Forum of Malaysia (CMCF), which governs content and addresses content-related issues, said to reduce misrepresentation of brands contents by influencers, proper standard operating procedures should be in place, among others.
Brands, it said, must at the same time ensure influencers comply with regulations, including the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Content Code, regarding sponsored content disclosure.
It also advocates for self-regulation. This is where marketers and influencers take it upon themselves to ensure their actions are aligned with best practices and bear in mind their responsibility to consumers and followers.
AirAsia Superapp Sdn Bhd head of media Sean Ter told StarBiz influencer marketing is here to stay, adding that a bigger following doesn’t always mean a more successful influencer.
With audiences becoming more and more savvy, he said working with an influencer with the right credibility and knowledge brings about more meaningful engagements than simply a product placement in a photo with a million likes.
He said sometimes the danger even reaches the influencer himself whereby a brand’s demise and failure leads to lawsuits against the influencer themselves, for example in the cases of FTX and Fyre Festival, causing a variety of damage to the influencers they worked with.
FTX, which filed for bankruptcy in November last year, is a company that formerly operated a cryptocurrency exchange and crypto hedge fund and used influencers to convinced their followers to deposit money into FTX
Fyre Festival was a fraudulent luxury music festival founded by con artist Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule. It was created with the intent of promoting the company’s Fyre app for booking music talent.
Ter also cited the much publicised case of hip-hop artist Kanye West’s falling out with collaborations with Adidas, Balenciaga, Gap, and more due to his comments on social media alienating a large segment of the target audience.
“With social media, everyone has a voice and a channel to create their own content, and with the multitude of different platforms all catering to a different content type, the key to an effective influencer campaign is really working with the right influencer, creating the right content and, reaching the right audience at the right time,” he added.
Entropia founder and senior partner Prashant Kumar said it is critical for marketers to ensure influencers are used in the right way.
“Much as for an influencer not to lose his or her authenticity and credibility, it’s important to be choosy in terms of what they endorse.
“At the same time, it is also important for brands to choose the right mix of influencers in line with their brand, category, and the bottleneck they are trying to solve in the path to purchase.
A “cookie-cutter” approach can destroy value on both sides,” he said.
On another note, Prashant noted that the advent of social media has powered back these influences by putting a microphone in everyone’s hands.
And so, these influencers are once again a critical part of people’s decision journey. They fill the big gap of credibility and relevance that exists in the middle of the pyramid, he said.
He said at the bottom of this pyramid are the influences that friends and family exercise on one’s brand decision, which are highly relevant (since they know you so well) but also very fragmented and uncontrollable for brands.
Top of the pyramid he said are the traditional celebrity endorsement, with vast reach and high controllability but low relevance on average at an individual level.
CMCF executive director Mediha Mahmood said besides the risk of misrepresentation, brands must ensure that influencers comply with regulations, including the Content Code, regarding sponsored content disclosure, especially in regards to identifying sponsored content.
“Most social media platforms already provide tools to disclose paid content and influencers are highly encouraged to use them.
“Sponsored post disclosure allows followers to differentiate between the influencer’s genuine opinions and content, and content that has been paid for by a brand.
“This promotes transparency and builds trust with followers, which will in turn, bring value to future clients,” she said.
Mediha said both brands and influencers must ensure that influencer content is legally compliant with existing laws and regulations, including advertising regulation and consumer protection regulation.
Be it disguising paid advertisements as personal posts, or endorsing questionable health and beauty products, unethical behaviour on the part of influencers could adversely impact not only consumers, but threaten the influencer industry as a whole, she said.
To this end, she said CMCF believes that self-regulation is the best way forward in cultivating a healthy online space for both content creators and consumers.
“A useful resource for self-regulation is the Content Code.
“Honesty and truthfulness are key tenets of the Content Code’s guidelines for advertising, which is also applicable to influencers who are paid to promote on their respective platforms,” Mediha said.
Mediabrands Content Studio (MBCS) chief executive officer Stanley Clement, meanwhile, said the biggest challenge when working with influencers is really about evaluating the opportunity and basis of engaging with the influencer.
“It’s not just about the person with the highest reach. It has to be about the value they bring to the campaign and collaboration.
“At MBCS, we bring the influencers into the creative and strategic process so that they are aware of the business challenge and intent of the brand. This helps us build the right kind of opportunities for the brand and campaign with collaborative input from the influencer, creating a more seamless and positive brand experience.”
On whether he expects influencer marketing to further gain importance moving forward, Clement said influencers have been the buzzword for the last few years and this trajectory doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
This form of marketing is also not new, he said, noting that in the last year or so, spends towards influencers are already budgeted within the marketing calendar spends for clients. And the agency sees this budget growing significantly, he said.
He said the method in which these influencers are being used is also growing. “From using A-listers to gain positive association quickly, to using micro-influencers to create conversations in social activities, and even enabling social commerce through the channels of these influencers, the opportunities are wide,” Clement noted.