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Scarlett London proves why influencer marketing needs a breath of fresh airDate Posted: 13 September, 2018
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week or so, you’ll be aware of the recent ‘outrage’ caused by some tortillas, balloons and a bottle of Listerine.
As a reminder, lifestyle influencer Scarlett London (Scarlett Dixon to her friends) recently uploaded a sponsored post in collaboration with Listerine showing the (unnervingly perfect) start to her day.
Unfortunately for both the brand and Scarlett however, the staged nature of the photo sparked controversy among internet users, media, MPs, and everyone in between.
The issue people had with the post was the lack of authenticity. Many took huge offense to a girl starting her morning with balloons, tortillas masquerading as pancakes and a bottle of mouthwash on her bedside table. It’s not new news that Instagram doesn’t always reflect real life, especially when it comes to the visually satisfying/infuriating life of influencers. This post in particular however totally tipped the Richter scale of ‘OTT’.
For reference, here’s the comment that kicked everything off:
So, who is to blame for the obvious flaw in the influencer business model? You would be right to assume the influencer business model itself. However, as you’ll see by the torrent of abuse floating around in the online sphere, the influencers sadly seem to be facing the brunt of the blame.
Although influencer marketing is on an upwards trajectory, it’s still often misused. Scarlett London and Listerine have inadvertently put influencer marketing under the microscope, and marketers should be using this as a case study to understand what went wrong. The obvious flaw being the misappropriation of influencers.
The difference between an influencer and a celebrity ambassador, aside from one being substantially more famous, is that an influencer is seen as a trusted source. Brands work with influencers to garner respect for the brand through authentic content. This is different to working with a celebrity, who are used to generate share of voice through more aspirational content.
There’s no doubt that if Kate Moss was in Vogue with a bottle of Listerine on her bedside table while she adorned herself in balloons, pancakes and fluffy pink bedding, we would see little to no reaction.
As the line between influencers and celebrities is becoming increasingly blurred, so is the content. The unfortunate result will be more posts like Scarlett London’s. Influencers will continue to produce work that is way over the top, to the point of being comical or, even worse, misleading.
To use influencers in a way that isn’t likely to spark such controversy or land you in the deep end with the ASA, brands need to take responsibility and review the content more effectively. This is not only to protect the brand but also the influencer, who will undoubtedly be young and a target of online abuse.
There are many nuances when it comes to the influencer/celebrity landscape and no one-size-fits-all business model. However, brands need to recognise that authenticity is everything when it comes to influencer marketing. Although Instagram is becoming more and more aspirational, the importance of a polished, perfect and heavily filtered aesthetic should never outweigh the need for realism.
By Sophie Goldstein.
To hear more from Sophie, get following her on Twitter at @sophieg0ld_.
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