Marguerite Vernes
Sep 29, 2016

Influencers, advocates and the need for honesty

Growing demand for transparency is leading to higher distrust for influencers in some markets. Where can brands turn?

Marguerite Vernes
Marguerite Vernes

“Same, same, but different”. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to go to Southeast Asia will undoubtedly have seen this phrase plastered across T-shirts in every market. Although the bright neon designs might not agree with everyone’s taste, the phrase resonates across communities.

“Same, same but different” calls for us to recognise that we are what we are: equal. The simple phrase speaks for honesty and equality, two things that consumers are increasingly demanding from brands in online spaces.

Across cultures and categories there is growing consumer demand for openness and honesty. Whether it be criticising feminine hygiene adverts over their misrepresentation of menstruation, or a need to know the provenance and craft process of goods (all those hand brewed, artisanal coffee shops spring to mind), there is certainly a desire for greater transparency.

This desire for openness translates into the digital world as well. On Instagram we are seeing a trend of women posting images of their body hair under the hashtags #bodyhairdontcare and #lesprincessesontdespoils (#princesseshavehair)—a call to recognise things as they are.

This article is part of the Cultural Radar series

And it’s not only Instagram trends that point to this desire for honesty, but also the relationship between consumers and brands in online spaces. With more and more influencers being approached by brands, their content is now pointing towards artificiality.

In reaction to this, consumers are sourcing knowledge, advice and guidance from other people. Especially in the US and in Western Europe, there is a sense of distrust around influencers, and we are seeing a move away from influencers and toward advocates.

Unlike influencers, advocates are not paid by brands to post about products on their social-media pages. They are normal people posting about products for the pleasure of doing so. Their content is more truthful and honest, and their relationship with their peers is more lateral, equal and transparent.

Brands should be careful to follow this migration towards realness and adjust the tone of their digital presence.

Marguerite Vernes is research executive, Digital Forensics, at Flamingo London

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