In the age of digitalisation, the influence and power of individuals are growing. At the same time online and offline filter bubbles are shaping our ‘realities’ and streams of information. It is changing the landscape of journalism, communication and marketing in a fundamental way.
Where companies used to have the power over their own brand and communication, now activists, influencers and independent journalists are increasingly taking over the conversation. No matter what issue, sustainable or unsustainable, individuals have a possibility to be heard and a good chance they will get the desired effect. With that new stakeholders are emerging across platforms and with different mandates.
In the chaos of content and online advertising online, the average consumer is getting more and more sceptical about what to believe and who to listen to. At the same time, we can see a declining trend over the last years when it come to the level of trust in companies. In 2018, only 30-40% of consumers (based on research in The Nordics’ and The Netherlands) stated to have explicit trust in companies.
A New Stakeholder Group
A lot of companies are starting to acknowledge the power of influencers and are finding ways to collaborate with them in order to drive sales or build a brand image. From Instagram posts, to lifestyle blogs or vlogs on YouTube. The key is to connect with influencers that are in contact with your target group on a daily basis and can share your story or product from their own experience.
Not only companies are aware of the power of the individual, also politicians are using the reach and credibility of these new stakeholders in a strategic way. With that said, influencers both exist with and without a business model or specific mandate. The quality and reach of their influence also depends on the follower-base they have and the kind of platforms on which they like to be heard.
Some Concrete Data..
Data show that we are more eager to trust people we follow. Compared to other bought media, influencer marketing has the highest ‘spended-time’ and conversion rate. For every $1 a marketeer spends on influencer marketing he or she on average earns $7,65 back in sales. In 2016, investments in influencer marketing amounted to half a billion SEK in Sweden alone.
3 of 4 Swedes that follow an influencer have furthermore bought a product that they have recommended. Especially among younger generations, the power of influencers has a large impact. 80% of millennials does not purchase anything new without reading an online review first. Also 40% of 13-20 year olds are more interested in a brand when they actively collaborate with influencers.
So we are quite convinced that influencers can have a large impact on consumption and behaviour. However, what does this mean in light of sustainability? Is it possible to use influencer marketing to communicate sustainability in a credible way? This question is becoming increasingly important.
When talking about sustainability and influencers marketing, both the individual and the brand are encountering certain challenges. The credibility of both sides depends on the type of collaborations and the consistency of certain messages over time. From a brand’s perspective it is important to initiate collaborations based on an influencer’s expertise and follower-base.
Co-creation and long-term relationships is essential in creating credible content. Especially when it comes to sustainability, influencers often also experience pressure and critique from their own follower-base to make the right decisions. The question of what is ‘right’ or ‘sustainable’ is often up for debate. In addition, the degree to which they are responsibility for encouraging behavioural changes is often confusing. From an influencer’s perspective it is therefore important to feel a personal connection with the purpose of each collaboration and to think about the long-term lifestyle choses you want to be associated with.