Increasing Attacks on Brands’ Market Value: Time to give up on Marketing Influencers? – Sunday Odiaka
It is certain that at the time, Nina Chinonso Onyenobi, was recruited as an ambassador of a body enhancement brand, positive expectations were very high. Onyenobi, widely known as Nina Ivy, has clearly reached milestones that make her a perfect fit for the brand’s tone and personality. She rose to prominence as one of the country’s leading marketing influencers through her role in BBNaija, a popular reality TV show. She also owns a beauty brand. She further has appreciable social media following as well as broad appeal to younger demographics.
Onyenobi, ordinarily, as the face of the beauty brand, is supposed to be creating and championing its positive image. But, just a few weeks after the deal was signed and sealed, she, reportedly, went under the knife elsewhere, sparking off heated online debate. Therefore, the consensus reached by many social media users and the owners of the brand was that her action amounts to both betrayal and devaluing of the brand. “How in the world do I explain to people about the damage you have done to my brand? Barely three weeks after you signed a deal with me, you went ahead to use the money to do plastic surgery. Why didn’t you finish the deal as promised since you already collected money from me? I paid you millions of naira,” reads an online statement credited to the owners of the brand. Onyenobi, however, maintains that her action does not amount to breach of the contract. “I never signed a contract not to have my body done before getting signed by any brand. In fact, I always tell my manager to tell them I am getting surgery,” she claims, in www.today.ng.
The reality is that Onyenobi has been added to the list of celebrities whose actions are clearly threatening the existence of some brands. Recall that Cristiano Ronaldo recently ignited a disturbing trend among some players and managers at the ongoing Euro 2020. The Portuguese super-star replaced two bottles of Coca-Cola, placed in front of him with water, during a pre-match press conference. Manuel Locatelli, Italian star, quickly copied the style, placing down his bottle of water before placing two bottles of Coca-Cola out of view. Luis Enrique, Spain boss, boldly directs, in www.mirror.co.uk, “It’s Coca Cola Zero. It’s the sponsor? Don’t drink Coca Cola, kids.” Paul Pogba, French soccer celebrity, further removed a bottle of Heineken beer, during a post-match press conference. Coca-Cola and Heineken are official sponsors of Euro 2020.
For Ronaldo, available reports revealed that as a health-conscious star, he maintains a strict diet and fitness which include avoiding high-calorie products. Pogba’s action, on the other hand, was tied to the fact that he is a practicing Muslim hence, disassociates himself from alcohol. In fact, the cited reasons appeared to have been accommodated in brand management space. “…celebrities have a moral and ethical responsibility of the product they endorse. It is for this reason that many actors…refused to endorse tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, given their ill effects on health,” notes a report cited in www.protiger.com. Some netizens, however, accused the Juventus star of hypocrisy, following the re-emergence of some old adverts starring him. The advertisement reportedly shows him superimposed on Coke cans branded in simplified Chinese. “Ronaldo came once to a breakfast with a Coke in his hands,” Jan Aage Fjortoft, former footballer, reportedly, recounts a story that his compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskajer told him.
Interestingly, in the face of these persistent and mindless attacks, most experts boldly submit that brands must not underestimate audience-engagement and conversion powers of celebrities. “…businesses in the food, beauty, fashion and travel sectors, Ismael El-Qudsi, social media expert, suggest, in www.forbes.com, are ideal match for influencer marketing.” A report, in shoppinglinks.com, stresses, “By making brand ambassadors as part of your influencer marketing strategy, you gain the benefit of repeat exposure, a more credible endorsement, and constant brand messaging, all of which can help you increase sales and see a greater ROI on your efforts.”
Drastic changes in the media space are also fueling calls for brands to sustain the use of passionate advocates in grabbing sizeable exposure and market share “…out there in the virtual world…Brand Ambassadors live and express their opinions and impressions of us-giving us credit, expressing satisfaction and gratitude, encouraging others to try or benefit from using our product X,” reads a report in www.meltwater.com. Mark Stringer, brand management expert observes, in www.thedrum.com, “Prior to social media, celebrity partnerships were more traditional, for example, appearing in TV adverts. Now, we’re seeing true partnership thinking which really came about through social media.”
But, are celebrities justified, attacking brands’ long-built legacies? Are they simply deriving joy in placing brands’ reputation in tough spots? How will brands effectively take on celebrities who deceptively endorse or accept to be brand ambassadors just to fill their own pockets? How can brands identify as well as translate seen and unseen flaws in signed deals into competitive advantage? What exactly should be the major missing links? Giselle Boxer, social media specialist, reportedly observed that some brands do not properly select or define their goals for their ambassadors. “Brands know that they should be doing influencer marketing, but don’t know how to do it properly.”
Aaron Brooks, reportedly, agrees, “…brands who rush into influencer marketing, without doing due diligence and setting realistic targets will find themselves with an ineffective campaign.” Melissa Weston, marketing expert, therefore reportedly advises, “…when we choose people to represent our brand, it’s super important that these brand values match on our sides, in order to make the partnership authentic for everyone involved-ultimately the end consumers.” Caroline Paris, another marketing expert, reportedly adds, “Brands should work with ambassadors and collaborators, the passionate people who know their stuff and truly like a brand and what it stands for, not one off ‘influencers!’ It is further imperative that brands invest extra time in ensuring that every legal document is properly signed before brand ambassador partnership with any celebrity is sealed. David Randall advises, in amp.theguardian.com, “while this can feel like an arduous and lengthy part of the process, it is a great opportunity to align everyone’s expectation as to what the partnership will specifically involve.”
The endorsing celebrities must equally guide against broken trust by honouring commitment made to any brand. In fact, experts agreed that whatever benefit or damage, any brand gains or suffers, extends to them. “Companies will love you as long as you are adding value to their marketing. As soon as you become a detractor (no matter how true your words) they will drop you and not look back,” notes a report cited in memeburn.com. “The celebrity…must not just be driven by the benefits of a juicy deal but must consider whether the business ideals match his/her own in order not to lose credibility among the fans who sustain his/her celebrity status,” another report, cited, stillwaterslaw.com, guides.
Meanwhile, brand ambassadors are widely believed to be individuals who will have big impacts on brands’ image. Some experts however argued that they must not necessarily be the big or famous names. “But even if you’re a small business without the millions to hire an A-lister to promote your product, you can still hire a celebrity (albeit further down the chain) to help elevate your brand,” notes a report on amp.theguardian.com. Another report, cited in shoppinglinks.com, reads, “Ambassadors with brand-first mindset will help you boost sales and strengthen customer loyalty even more than mega-influencers with impressive audiences.” Another report cited on blog.bookingagentinfo.com, affirms, “a brand ambassador doesn’t just make a few Instagram posts and call it a day; rather, they’ll actively promote your brand to their audience (and your potential customers).”
Odiaka, a media practitioner, writing from Lagos, can be reached through: firstname.lastname@example.org