The (D)evolution of Influencer Marketing

Source: foodinsights.org

Source: foodinsights.org

Everyone is talking about influencers and the words often aren't kind. This summer has been ripe with articles and reports about the d(evolution) of influencer marketing. Everything from Instagram removing "likes" to "fake follower fraud" and the dangers of influencer marketing.

Brands are rightly becoming increasingly concerned about issues of trust and credibility when it comes to influencer marketing—not to mention the value they are getting for their investment.

The cynical among us may suggest that CPG brands, for example, should have realized that many (most?) of some influencers followers were fake—or at least, minimaly engaged. After all, it's not like bots and click farms are new. And what about turning your brand image and message over to the someone who may post/share/like something the very next minute that you don't want to be associated with?

The lure of digital and social influencers is likely strong among CPG brands because compared to mass media such as TV and print, it can be relatively inexpensive while still offering significant reach. If, of course, the metrics are accurate and the followers real.

But what about the influence itself?

What's being lost in this conversation is a meaningful discussion about exactly what type of influence brands are looking to tap into and the role that digital, social, online, lifestyle, aspirational influencers play in motivating consumer behavior change.

When it comes to healthy brands in particular, affiliating with these types of influencers can be a negative from an influence perspective as well.

According to the IFIC 2018 Food & Health Survey, consumer trust in food, health and nutrition bloggers was at 27%—just about the same as trust in friends and family members.

So, reaching consumers through those bloggers may not be an effective way of building trust and credibility for your brand—apart from the other issues aligning with online influencers can raise.

The bottom line is that we need to separate the idea of influence from the label "influencer." Healthy brands need to step back and ask, "Who do consumers trust most? Who do they want to be influenced by?"

Thankfully, IFIC again has the answer for us—health professionals. In that same survey, consumer trust in a dietitian was 71%, in a personal healthcare professional it was 66%, and in a wellness counselor or health coach it was 56%. These levels of trust are two-to-three times higher than bloggers or news articles or social media personalities.

The recent brouhaha about influencer marketing shouldn't dissuade healthy brands from seeking to reach consumers through influential sources. It should simply make them re-think who those influential—and trusted—sources are.