Is Influencer Marketing BS?
This was a question posed by Ian Randolph & Luca Tornese at this
years annual Nudgestock festival, an online seminar with presentations from many of the worlds
boldest thinkers, covering a range of topics from vaccines and COVID to marketing and mental
health, all with the underlying message of Creativity and Behavioural Science. While Randolph
and Tornese had one of the shorter lectures, it was still packed with various important points, and
had some key lessons that I think are important for brands and marketers to take into
The lecture began with a very simple fact, “4/10 consumers now scroll past and no longer trust
social ads. That is 40%.” Tornese then continues by analogising this statistic to bees, explaining
that when bees find a great flower patch, they’ll go back to all the other bees and do a ‘waggle
dance’ which in turn informs them about their discovery, shifting all the bee’s trajectory to go
towards the exact same flower patch. In other words, they have changed their behaviour and
been influenced. He emphasises that this can even be traced back to when we were cavemen,
copying and learning from those around us, in turn ensuring the survival of our species. Tornese
states “We have been wired to do this for hundreds of years, getting recommendations from
people we trust”. This is definitely one of the most key statements from the whole talk, the
structure of influencer marketing is built on consumers being enticed to buy a product because
it’s being recommended or talked about by a person they trust, and a person they follow by
choice, instead of a corporation or an ad on the TV.
He then goes on to highlight the decline in digital marketing, bringing it back to the statistic given
at the start. “It is no surprise to me that digital marketing is declining, and that 4/10 people look at
your ads. With the rise of smartphones and social media, we’ve been able to go back to our
nature and get recommendations from people we trust and connect with globally”. “Smart
Marketers have understood this shift” Tornese says. He then highlights that most companies
haven’t understood it, and instead try to use old and stale marketing tactics in an environment
where they really aren’t suited, causing them to come off as unnatural and inauthentic. “Influence
is built on relationships, it moves between people, and marketers need to understand the nature
of this relationship”. This is a great point, consumers and followers of these influencers are going
to be more aware than anybody of how the influencer usually acts and talks, if you are giving
influencers a product and a standard script to read off of, it’s not going to feel authentic and true
to their normal self, and their audience will be able to see through that straight away.
Supporting this point, we are now greeted by Ian Randolph. He begins by diving into what makes
a good relationship, and the behavioural science behind it. This is important as this can help
brands find influencers that are trustworthy to their audience at scale. He gives an example of
this, using a brand named Rosetta Stone. This brand worked with a variety of influencers and they
found that every brand can be defined by its value profile. In this particular case, Rosetta Stone’s
biggest values were things like Joy and Achievement, as they are a language learning platform.
The study found that 90% of high performing influencers shared these core values with the brand,
telling us that the likelihood of a partnership succeeding between a brand and influencer is much
less if they do not share similar values that resonate with the influencer’s audience.
Tornese ends the seminar by calling out for brands and companies to embrace the shift to
influencer marketing before it’s too late, asking companies that when they do it, for them to do it
the right way, putting people and their relationships first. “Make sure to look into the behavioural
science, to truly understand the nature of these relationships, put them first in your strategy, as
this is the only way to get results”.
Take a look at the infographic based on this question here: