Influencer marketing research – what consumers really think

As you know, at Prizeology we work with brands and influencers to ensure they get the disclosures right – it’s part of our focus on compliance – but I was interested in what consumers think about influencer marketing, so I commissioned some research. You can download our white paper on the results of that research here. I’m pretty confident you’ll find it interesting.

Partly I wanted to know what consumers think about influencer marketing because I’m a consumer myself. I shop the look on Instagram more often than I should, and it’s often not clear to me whether influencers are being paid to promote the clothes they showcase or not. If an influencer does disclose they have been paid for a promotion it doesn’t mean I won’t buy that product – if I like the look of it I will, usually to the detriment of my bank balance – but the disclosure enables me to make an informed decision. However, I wondered whether other people felt the same.

Of course, I also had a professional interest in what consumers think. In my experience big brands are likely to be on board with disclosure, because they understand the potential reputational damage if they don’t get it right. However, sometimes we encounter some resistance from brands, who simply aren’t aware of the regulatory framework and are concerned that asking an influencer to disclose their commercial relationship will undermine the ‘authenticity’ of a promotion. Of course, once we explain the regulatory framework, they always take our advice (!), but I was still interested in whether disclosure does or doesn’t have an impact on people’s perceptions of a brand.

I couldn’t find the answers to my questions online so I called up various colleagues who work for both brands and influencer marketing agencies, and I was basically assured that the public is well aware that influencers are paid to promote products, so in fact, leaving the legal issues aside, disclosure isn’t really necessary anyway. I wasn’t satisfied with that, though, so I decided to commission my own research and, whaddya know, it turns out I was right not to be satisfied.

The Prizeology research on influencer marketing was carried out for us by the talented and very nice people at Vitreous World, who, between 30 January and 2 February, interviewed over 2000 members of the public. They used an online methodology, respondents had to be at least 18, and quotas for age, gender and region were used to ensure an accurate representation of the UK public demographic.

As I say, what they discovered was fascinating. I’m just going to give you one finding from the research – you can read our report for the others – but we identified that 61% of the UK public believe influencers don’t have to disclose that they have been paid to talk about a product. I was actually quite surprised by that figure – 61% of consumers think there is no obligation on influencers to disclose! That’s quite shocking, isn’t it?

OK, the regulatory framework is reasonably complicated and, yes, the CAP Code and consumer protection legislation do differ slightly in their approaches. I’d also agree that there could be further clarity around the rules, but at heart it’s very simple: influencers do have to disclose. If they don’t, not only is it morally suspect, but they risk breaking the law too. It would appear most people don’t know this. That needs to change.

In the interests of full disclosure, obviously influencer marketing compliance is a Prizeology specialism and if you’d like some advice we’d be pleased if you decide to contact us. Also, if you read our influencer marketing research and have any thoughts about it I’d be pleased to hear them.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist. She has a not-so-secret addiction to shopping the look on Instagram, and has the bank balance to prove it.

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