Are brands at risk when they have a spokesperson/ambassador? How should a brand react when an influencer says something out of line? Are brands taking advantage of outspoken people to gain influencers and is this the right way to go?
Join our Zync brand experts as we discuss these questions – and more – in this week’s episode of #EverythingIsBrand.
Recorded on March 21, 2022.
Brad Breininger: 0:00
Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week’s Everything is Brand. This week, we want to talk about some of the dilemmas that you’re going to face on social media so – let’s talk So as brands try to navigate social media, there’s a lot of roadblocks or issues that can arise. You know, everything from influencers going rogue to brands being misinterpreted on social, there’s a long list, but maybe we can get started talking about influencers. There’s been some recent news about some influencers, where brands have either stood behind them when they’ve kind of gone a little rogue or, you know, said things that the brand didn’t necessarily agree with. And some brands have separated themselves from others that have kind of done the same thing. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that brands are at risk when they have a spokesperson, especially with the ability for them to just speak so openly on social? What do you think?
Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 1:05
Well, I think they do. I mean, if there are no constraints, if there are no regulations? I think they do. And if you take a look at what just happened with Joe Rogan and his podcast, and it’s not even the COVID issue, I was just reading that he’s been facing some backlash, because he’s using the N word. I don’t know if we can say that out loud. But yeah, there’s so many so many things happening with that podcast in particular. And, of course, in this case, Spotify is getting so much backlash because of it that yeah, I definitely think so.
Brad Breininger: 1:46
Yeah, is it? And I guess this is one of the main questions in all of that, are they taking advantage of these outspoken people to get followers and build up the brand, but then when precisely what the person does that they expected them to do. When that happens, then they kind of want to run. Now, Spotify didn’t run. Spotify didn’t separate themselves from him. But are brands asking for their cake and wanting to eat it too, in that they kind of choose maybe more controversial folks who speak out. But at the same time, when that actually happens, then they renege on that and say, Oh, well, we don’t want to be associated with that.
Gabi Gomes: 2:27
I think the one that comes to mind is Kendall Jenner and Pepsi, with the whole Sasha’s laughing, because she remembers this,
Sasha Codrington: 2:35
I have this on my list as well.
Gabi Gomes: 2:39
But, you know, she wasn’t known for being an activist. But all of a sudden, she’s handing out a bottle of Pepsi to a police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest. There’s a disconnect there. And shame on Pepsi for not finding the right influencer and not having a little bit more – for being tone deaf really on what she was doing. Right. It’s a two way street between the influencer and the brand. I think you have to find an influencer that has the same values as that brand. However, influencers can go rogue. So what do you do? What is that plan? What is the damage control plan? Should an influencer go rogue, you need to have something and oftentimes brands are too late to the game to wrong or right, make a stand, speak up, take action, I think we’ve learned that along the way, brands need to stand by their core values, and not take any BS from it. Basically, you know, when when they have an influencer, that is gone rogue.
Brad Breininger: 3:46
Part of the problem is that you never really know where they’re going to go. So having that plan in place is the key to all of it. It’s like anything, I think that making sure that your PR team or that your media team is on it. Social media is a form of media. And the truth is it moves it 100 miles faster than most media outlets. And sometimes things happen more quickly than they would in more traditional media. And there’s not as many checks and balances on it because people are kind of just out there. And while that’s very good, and it kind of gets stuff out there quickly. And there’s not as many barriers to being able to put a thought or an opinion out there. There’s also a lot of bad that goes with that where you have people kind of saying things that maybe they shouldn’t say or weighing in on things that maybe they should shut up about. It’s a really difficult minefield and it it really falls on the brand and marketing team connected to the PR team to make sure that they have all of the plans and checks and balances in place.
Gabi Gomes: 4:47
I think you have to kind of follow an influencer for a while to get a sense of who they are. I don’t know if any of you on the podcast here have I often unfollow many of people that I follow if all of a sudden you know they’ve taken a turn some have become, you know anti vaxxers And you know fake news people that I cut them off others have not been authentic. I think that’s the biggest one that I kind of sniff out. I’ll Harken this to the birds papaya does a really great job. That’s Sarah Nicole Landry. She sticks to her guns on what her core is. And it’s about body positivity. It’s about, you know, female, at the core, that’s what it is. And she’s a content creator. Now, the brands that she partners up with, if you look at her feed, one of them is NYX. And she got into NYX very, very early on in that company. But it’s not all NYX we don’t see NYX being promoted left, right and center, it doesn’t feel forced down your throat. It’s very natural. And it comes across, she’s living her day to day life. And she’s sharing the good, the bad and the ugly, I think some influencers, you only see the good in it, and it’s too staged and so therefore, you know, you get a brand coming along and the clouds are perfect in the shot, the product placement is perfect in the shot that nixes the whole entire thing of having an influencer, because the influencer is supposed to be authentic. And that person’s incorporation. I have to laugh, because I don’t know if anybody remembers Oprah, Oprah, beloved, Oprah, we all love Oprah, Oprah, but when she promotes a Microsoft Surface laptop, but her tweet goes out from an iPad. That’s the biggest like, lack of, you know, authenticity there is and could we not just have asked Oprah, what product does she like to use? Like, why didn’t somebody and if it was not a Microsoft Surface, then that was not a good partnership with that particular influencer. And Apple should have just stepped up like that’s, you know,
Brad Breininger: 6:58
You know, Gabi, you bring up a really good point. And that is the whole idea of authenticity. I think another big social dilemma is this idea that a lot of these brand partnerships come across as fake or forced or almost like you’re following someone along, and then all of a sudden, they have a product partnership, and they’re reading from some script that someone gave them because the brand isn’t necessarily respecting the audience that this influencer has, or the personality that this influencer has created. I personally think that’s probably one of the hugest dilemmas, I’ve actually unfollowed certain people who have gotten into a promotion situation, because it felt so fake. And if it just felt like their whole feed, became this fake script that was kind of put in front of them. I think, I think that that’s a huge dilemma for brands that if they’re going to partner, they need to respect the authenticity of that influencer. And also the reason that they chose them.
Sasha Codrington: 8:00
You guys might know this reference, you may not – a bit of a different approach was a brand called Bon Appetit. The people who do the magazine, they kind of created their influencers in house by turning to video. So they had the different contributors to their website and their magazine, start recording when they were creating recipes. And they started creating different shows around the people that were already in the magazine. And so these shows started exploding on YouTube, they were doing a really fantastic job of editing and producing. And they became so popular that a good chunk of their team that was contributing to the magazine started having massive followings, the videos that they were putting out on YouTube started getting millions of views, etc, etc. And I think video probably became just as profitable as the traditional ventures that they had before. And that was something that was interesting because for brands instead of going out and partnering with someone that you don’t necessarily know a lot about to promote your product – this was going internally, it’s someone that knows the brand inside and out. It’s someone that’s worked there for years. And I’m not sure how they made the selections. I’m guessing it was based on personality and potentially some people were willing to work in video and some weren’t. But they had so much success in that – the only thing that kind of fell apart for them was that they didn’t properly compensate their employees. So these employees had taken on a different role. They had become really huge assets to the company bringing in so many views, so much revenue and the company wasn’t compensating them correctly. And they weren’t compensating them fairly. It came out unfortunately that from a diversity perspective, there was some really unfortunate things happening in their payroll and vast majority of that team that built up the video platform for them left. So all the sudden they lost a huge revenue stream, they lost the personalities that were tied to the brand. And those personalities went off and started partnering with competitors, essentially. They have now different video streams on competing like New York Times, etc, their own shows on YouTube, their own platforms and cookbooks. And so it was something that worked very well for a period of time and unfortunately, all fell apart. But I think there is a lot for brands to learn from that, that it doesn’t always have to be someone external, you can kind of invest in your own talent and bring up different personalities that way. But you also have to keep in mind that it is a big ask to put your employees out there publicly like that, it was a huge adjustment for them. And unfortunately, the company didn’t compensate and account for that quite correctly. But I think it’s a really interesting angle that brands could take in the future.
Brad Breininger: 10:52
Yeah. And I think something that you bring up Sasha, which is really key here, and I’ve heard this a lot, the whole influencer compensation is very hit and miss across the board. Whether it’s internal, like the example that you just talked about, or whether it’s external, I think that there are some brands out there that they just want to pay peanuts to bring some of these influencers on, I mean, some influencers are doing really, really well. But others, it’s a little shady, and brands aren’t necessarily treating this as a viable marketing channel. But they’re almost seeing it as you know, what if we can throw a few bucks at a few people and see if it moves the needle, then let’s try doing that. So I think that there’s a whole continuum of brands that are looking at influence on social in a very different way. And it could be partly because this is quite a new channel for a lot of brands. But it could also be that people don’t necessarily take social seriously. And I think that that’s another big dilemma is that some brands don’t take social serious enough. And if you look at what’s going on, on Tik Tok, and the power that some of these influencers have over and above some celebrities, brands really need to be taking social seriously.
Gabi Gomes: 12:09
I just wanted to add on, you know, I think some brands, basically with influencers, do a set it and forget it kind of attitude. And I think that’s the most dangerous thing that they can do. I think especially with influencers, when you have other people being brand champions, you need to have eyes on that. So this idea that marketing departments are Yep, we’ve signed up, you know, three influencers, they’re bringing in these metrics, check, check, check, check, check. I think, when you’ve got somebody speaking about your brand, to their audience, more so you’ve put them in a spotlight, you’ve given them the mic, you absolutely need to be watching, and listening to what they’re saying, as well as behaving like in general, in the public, you know, especially nowadays, you know, COVID, kind of, I think, brought that to the to the forefront in terms of giving everybody a mic. But what else are they talking about? And is your brand aligned to those things that they’re talking about? Yes or no? Might be time to reevaluate that influencer.
Brad Breininger: 13:13
That’s such a good point, Gabi. And I think that if people kind of took their whole social direction, as seriously, as they take maybe their digital marketing where they’re constantly looking at analytics and optimizing, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t be optimizing your influencer marketing. Like, I think really looking at it as a crucial digital channel that needs to be monitored and optimized the same way as any other digital marketing that you’re doing.
Gabi Gomes: 13:40
I think in a previous podcast, we talked about partnerships, and influencers are a partnership. And I think you’ve got to whether it is partnerships with other brands that are like you or whether it’s partnerships with influencers that have similar values as you they’re all partnerships, and they all need to be taken a look at closely.
Brad Breininger: 14:00
What do you guys think of the issue around Tik Tok in some of the newer platforms? I think that one of the things that we’ve seen on Tik Tok, for example, is that we’ve seen the rise of the non celebrity. Is this a dilemma that brands face I mean, there’s always been this fallback to kind of look for celebrities who have large followings. But there are some really influential folks who might have more micro followings, but they’re way more targeted and they’re way more specific to maybe what that brand is looking for. Do you think that the days of celebrities on social are waning a little bit and that it’s the rise of the micro follower influencer? What are your thoughts on that?
Gabi Gomes: 14:49
You got to stretch your budget. And if your budget is X amount, and you can only get whatever – I’ll use Kendall Jenner, back there again,
Brad Breininger: 15:01
She’s showing up a lot. She’s already a billionaire you you can’t afford her anymore.
Gabi Gomes: 15:05
Kim Kardashian, her sister, whatever, let’s go Kim, right? You can only get Kim for one post or you can do a multitude you can have like a number of micro influencers with smaller communities, you can couple that on with a digital marketing campaign. And a whole bunch of I think variety is definitely the way to go versus putting all your eggs in one basket for one celebrity. And I think you’re right, Brad, I think we’re going to see that come down a bit in terms of those stars having so much power, I think you’re going to see the rise of that young soccer player that’s, you know, in university and is the star athletes, and him getting him or her or getting more attention and followers and influence their rising stars versus ones that are already, you know, attached to big bucks. Financial planning – diversify, diversify, diversify. And it’s the same thing with marketing, don’t waste it all on one person whose big bucks, I would actually park that money into smaller influencers.
Christian Rosenthal | ZYNC: 16:07
Yeah, and I was just about to say that it’s not just about money. I think it’s about the audiences. Right? If you go to a I don’t know, one of the Kardashian sisters. Yeah, your post is being seen – in theory – by millions of people. But are they your right audience? When if you go to one of these micro influencers, and you selected properly select him or her properly, you’re talking about your audience, right? So it’s, it’s more of a targeted effort, instead of just going pushing your content to anyone, everywhere, kind of thing. Right?
Brad Breininger: 16:50
That brings up a really good point, Christian, and that is this idea that mass marketing doesn’t necessarily work, it might be good for maybe brand awareness, or if you’re launching a new brand and you just want millions of people to know about it quickly. But if you’re really trying to bring people down the sales funnel, if you’re really trying to get them to create action, you have to be way more targeted than that. So, you know, maybe you are doing something that goes across that entire gamut of how you’re using social in the best possible way. I think the dilemma that brands face is where are you in that continuum? Are you in the brand awareness building phase? Or are you in the targeted? Let’s take action phase? And are you using the dollars in the right place? And I think that that’s an ongoing dilemma for all brands. But I think that, let’s call it the Kardashian influence that is more of a mass market kind of direction, whereas the micro influencers are way more about moving people down the sales funnel for sure.
Sasha Codrington: 17:56
I would say there’s a middle ground as well, like I think micro influencers are one end of the spectrum and Kim Kardashian is the absolute opposite. And there are some middle ground influencers a little bit more that I’m seeing that they’d still have millions of followers, but they are a bit more authentic. They do have specific niches. And I don’t think you can underestimate how intense they’re influences on some of those particular markets. Like let’s say, I’ve seen her around 0 is Emma Chamberlain. She’s someone who’s been on YouTube for many years, and she’s quite young. And she’s established a presence in fashion and she started a coffee company, and maybe something else. But she’s been just speaking candidly about her own choices with fashion for so many years. And I think if you don’t see her you wouldn’t necessarily notice. But her influence on a certain pocket of age of women, of what they wear has been absolutely immeasurable. She created so many trends single handedly. And without ads, it was just her posting, oh, this is what I’ve bought. This is what I’m wearing out of the house to the store today. And she has, I think probably 15 million followers on Instagram. It doesn’t even have to be an ad. It’s just Oh, I’m wearing these pants today. And immediately they’ll sell out. And that’s something where I think brands, if you do have the budget, you can definitely look into these very established influencers, but they’re within the certain niche that you are and there is a lot to be gained there as well, but of course it comes with a price tag.
Brad Breininger: 19:33
Yeah, definitely. I think one of the other biggest dilemmas that brands face is what a lot of people call cancel culture. So if you’re aligned with someone who is ultimately cancelled, how do you come back from that? Do you support the person publicly? Do you distance yourself publicly? I mean, the Joe Rogan example that you brought up earlier, Christian was a little bit more, there’s some gray area in there. Because some people agree some people disagree, the brand could still go forward. There’s some gray area in there. But if someone is cancelled, and you know, society says, You know what, we don’t want to have that person aligned anymore. What can a brand do? I mean, what are the things that do they just completely distance themselves? What do you think?
Gabi Gomes: 20:20
I think we’re starting to see that more and more like I, hello, Twitter and Trump, how many people were basically going to put pressure on Twitter to nix him out of there. I think that’s just the nature of where we’re at. But going back to my point of the brands need to react swiftly to that. And if you don’t know where you stand on Trump, Russia, or any of those issues, now’s the conversation, now’s the time to be having those conversations internally. Because any one of these issues can pop up. And a brand needs to be ready to stand up and talk, have a stance, etc. As we go forward, that’s becoming more and more a thing for brands, right? Whether it be that social piece, the governance side of things, the environment side of things, brands are becoming – we’ve always said this Marko’s, notorious for saying that brands are like human beings, right? We need to have those values sorted out internally as a brand so that if something happens, and you need to speak on it, you need to pull the plug, you’re ready to go. And you’re not figuring out hey, where do we stand on, you know, Russia Ukraine issue?
Sasha Codrington: 21:32
Yeah, I would say there’s kind of two cases – like a lot of cancellations, shall we call them that we’ve seen a lot of them are based on something that that person tweeted 10 years ago. And in that case, I think it’s important that brands do a pretty significant audit of what have they said over the internet in a long period of time, because that has caused recent problems. I would say, most of the time, it’s something that someone has done or said years ago, that comes up again. And that’s something that I think it’s up to the brands to do their due diligence on the person in advance of any partnerships. I think consumers are generally more understanding if it’s the other case, which is let’s say they’ve not done anything problematic publicly over the last 10 years, but all of a sudden, they turn around and do something. I think generally, in that case, it’s when the brands can quickly cut ties, make some kind of statement. And I think in that case, consumers are more understanding of this isn’t someone with a long standing problem, this is something that’s just come up. It’s not something that’s integrated with this brand that they had a partnership with. That’s what I’d say is there’s kind of two cases one that I think is more up to the brands to do the work and the other is just the nature of of people and influencers, you have to be prepared for something to change.
Brad Breininger: 22:50
Yeah, I mean, I think it all comes down to context, what is the context, and I think the brand needs to be really aware of the situation that they’re actually in and not create some sort of blanket statement, where it’s like, well, we no longer agree with the views of this person, like put a little bit of effort into it, mister or miss brand, let’s figure this out and actually come out with a statement that takes into account the situation that you’re actually in. Because as much as you’re relying on your influencers, to be authentic, the brand itself has to be authentic. At the same time.
Gabi Gomes: 23:23
I think what we’re starting to find out is when brands don’t react swiftly to that you’re starting to see the people take action. Like I remember Ryerson, for example, Sasha, you know, and the name the Ryerson University, staff, students, everybody nixing it, and because the school basically didn’t take swift enough action on that, and a stance. So again, the reaction time to these things is important.
Brad Breininger: 23:52
Yeah, definitely. And I think that one of the most important elements in all of this is that brands have to be really aware, the power of social media is so large and so big, but it is constantly evolving where it was two or three years ago is not where it is today. Platforms come and go. I mean, you know, we started this whole thing with MySpace, and now Tik Tok owns the world. So it really is about understanding that social is not just a single thing. It’s a whole bunch of different smaller things. And you have to be aware of who’s on there, who you’re going after, what platform you’re on, what they’re saying, what else they believe. Make sure you do your due diligence, that’s a really great point. Make sure that there’s not gonna be any surprises as you go forward. And although there are a lot of great things to brands being on social, there are some key dilemmas that brands have to face and have to be aware of. And I think it’s less about being afraid to move into social because of what could happen. And it’s more about moving into social and then, you know, monitoring it and optimizing it and really making sure that you understand the ebb and flow and that you understand that the people that you’re aligning with, and that they really are in support of your brand. And as you go forward, ensuring that although you’re taking the power of social into your marketing plan, you’re also understanding that there could be some dilemmas and some issues that you may face as you go down that road. So that’s this week’s edition of Everything is Brand. Join us next time for a new topic, a new discussion and remember, everything is brand.