By Michaela Jones
We’re in the midst of what can only be described as a tough time, a time which means ‘normal’ people are struggling to go further than the Tesco express at the bottom of the street and are attempting to pluck fun from the most menial of tasks. Long gone are the novelty zoom quizzes, furlough summers and banana bread baking. It’s the bleak mid-winter, and we’re bored! We’re fed up of home-schooling, home officing, zoom conference calls for everything and endless walks around parks. We long to see our families and can’t wait for a good old knees-up with more than 6 friends, at a pub!
As much as we all long for the sun and sipping cocktails on a beach far far away, at the moment, it seems like an unrealistic ambition. However, amongst us, living in the leafy suburbs (or clouds) is a group of extra-terrestrials, a group that live life as though they can’t be touched. These people are more widely referred to as macro ‘lifestyle influencers’ whose apparent understanding and appreciation for the current pandemic is relatively limited, to say the least.
How It Started
It all started just a few months ago as Kim K celebrated her birthday in the most elaborate way possible, flying a large group of close family and friends to a private island. Our Instagram feed once flooded with NHS rainbows, and lockdown puppies became filled with over the top sun-kissed group selfies. And we hated it because if there is any way to show how stinking rich you are, it’s showing that even a virus crippling the world can’t stop you having a good time.
Since the start of lockdown 3.0, we’ve witnessed a mass media and follower backlash as groups of influencers have continued the trend and travelled on ‘working trips’ to far-flung places like Dubai and Mexico. As they flaunt their tanned and toned bodies whilst laid on a deck chair sipping margaritas, we’re at home laid on the sofa, sipping a cuppa in front of the TV for the 300th day in a row asking have these influencers finally gone too far?
With the rise of the influencer, came the rise of brand interest. According to 66% of respondents to a recent Influencer Marketing Hub survey1, influencer campaign budgets increased throughout 2020. A huge 80% of respondents admitted to spending over 10% of their total marketing budget on influencer campaigns, and rightly so – controlled paid content with people who know their audience and know how to launch creative content to make your product shine. It’s invaluable.
However, what has really been highlighted in the wake of these influencer trips, is a subculture that is now out of touch with reality. Yes, they earn a living from creating beautifully shot content, and in some cases act as a tiny piece of escapism for their thousands if not millions of followers. But they also have a responsibility to act with integrity and honesty. The power and pull of influencers has always been their ability to inspire while remaining relatable, often approachable, but their recent gallivanting has distorted that relationship with their followers, and undermined the connections they can forge moving forward.
The Impact On Brand Relationships
Brands work so hard to craft their image and name so if these reckless ambassadors continue to threaten or undermine other marketing efforts then yes, brands will start to really question whether the risk outweighs the benefit of influencer campaigns. And for good reason. As the agencies building their campaigns, we need to reconsider how influencer actions throughout the pandemic will impact the public response to these partnerships. As we move forward, an audit of activity throughout this period will need to be considered before making recommendations and looking to individuals to help build authentic trust and brand love for our clients.
That said, the rise of niche micro and nano influencers is likely to continue to be exponential in 2021. As the macro lifestyle influencers become less relevant and increasingly problematic brands are waking up to the importance of a well-rounded campaign, one that is honest and authentic, which followers want to engage in, not to mention the benefit to economies of scale. Yes, these smaller influencers provide less reach but a higher level of engagement and relevancy to their audience – and they’ve been staying put and building their relationships throughout this crisis making them more powerful than ever.
As these travelling macro influencers see their followers abandon them in frustration at their selfish actions, the backlash has confirmed the mindset for brands who are trying to think differently about influencer marketing in the long term. It looks like this year, these influencers will feel the sting of trust fading alongside their tans.
1 Influencer Marketing Hub, Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2020