Remember the dark days when the Supreme Court banned Maggi for high quantities of MSG or lead in it? The ban soon got Maggi Grain Shakti’s celebrity endorser – Madhuri Dixit Nene in limelight for endorsing a brand that posed a lethal threat to consumers.
The celebrities who actively associated with Maggi could be booked under the category of “misbranding” under Section 2(zf) of Food Safety and Standards act, 2006. Yet, another instance of celebrities endorsing products that posed health hazard came to limelight when ASCI probed Shah Rukh Khan, Ajay Devgn, Saif Ali Khan, Govinda, Arbaaz Khan, and Sunny Leone to stop endorsing Pan Masalas.
Similarly, there are established rules for endorsing BFSI, Auto and other brands as well. However, when the concept of endorsing brands through influencers is applied there are no established or even unsaid rules that create a standard decorum.
This seems to be the precise reason that “Infibeam Supporters” who stood up for the e-commerce site’s IPO with hashtags such as #WeSupportInfibeam and #InfibeamShining didn’t seem to not much about the IPO in the first place. In fact, a lot of influencers seemed to be thinking the exact same thing.
— Kiran (@MRK_herE) March 20, 2016
— loVeY (@preetlovey008) March 20, 2016
— Swagata (@Silky_Swagata) March 20, 2016
Most influencers shot 5 tweets on an average. Also, the Twitter bio pegged most of them as ‘tech enthusiasts’, ‘foodies’ and ‘TV Series lovers.’
— The Nikkss (@spiffynikkss) March 19, 2016
The hashtag soon got trending with a number of “influencers” saying same kind of stuff about the IPO while none of them appeared to be a finance enthusiast.
— Trends Of India (@Top10Hashtag) March 19, 2016
I guess it is safe to believe that the Infibeam scenario was nothing but a glorified version of Reliance Jio celebrity Tweets fiasco.
Influencers are endorsers or ambassadors?
In addition to the lack of official axioms and a governing body, influencer marketing is suffering majorly due to an identity crisis.
Would love to know if @ascionline covers paid tweets/social media updates without disclosures. Would be awesome if it did, and action taken.
— Karthik Srinivasan (@beastoftraal) March 22, 2016
For instance, endorsing means promoting a brand; a celebrity endorser promotes a brand in exchange for money. Brand ambassadors, on the other hand, use the brand, incorporate it in their lives and then officially speak about it.
Influencer marketing took off on the lines of brand ambassadors when influencers tried restaurants, gadgets, and then reviewed it, eventually speaking about it. Success of influencer marketing campaigns however led to last moment briefs and frazzled approaches, resulting in trending hashtags such as #InfibeamShining.
According to a report by Factor Daily, the influencers were paid a petty sum of INR 150 for a tweet that praised the IPO which for the recorded is pegged as over priced by finance experts.
Influencers v/s Journalists
Recently I was contacted by a travel start-up for a freelance content project. The website is in the process of establishing a footprint in India and the entrepreneur personally found it easier to approach journalists as opposed to travel influencers (who in his exact terms, “acted pricey”).
The fundamental issue in this start-ups’ marketing play was no difference of approach between influencers/bloggers and journalists. Influencers received the same press releases and catered to it as well.
The releases cropped up in the form of mentions, posts or blogs in exchange for pre-decided deliverables.
Where is the plan?
A number of influencers too are often seen blatantly mentioning brands, services and activities. Neither do the tweets have any authenticity but also fail to blend in the content strategy.
When asked individually, the digital industry usually stirs away from the idea of an added watchdog. However, with increasing social media marketing budgets, somewhere lead to malpractices creating a dire need for a system – official or otherwise.