Influencer marketing: beyond the hype

This article is part of a series of articles on influencer marketing. Read more.

Perhaps it’s because the ‘start of year’ optimism has yet to wear off. Or perhaps it’s because 2019 heralds the Year of the Pig, a creature known in the Chinese horoscope for its cheerful and generous disposition. Whatever the reason, I write to celebrate, not to decimate, the promise of influence.

2018 was the year we reached peak influencer. In Asia, influencer marketing exploded off the back of youthful demographics, high smartphone penetrations and the spread of social platforms. Seduced by the promise of reach and affinity at lower cost, brands and businesses are investing in influencers like never before.

Inevitably, as with all bubbles, the backlash has begun. With concerns around lack of transparency, buying of followers and manufactured endorsements, the credibility and long-term value of these ‘Z-list celebrities’ (the words of Facebook APAC’s head of agency Neil Stewart, not mine) is being questioned. Unilever has issued a warning against dishonest practices, and audiences are increasingly inured to the charms of identikit insta-poseurs with perfect lives.

Re-imagining the promise of influence