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You can’t buy influence, so let’s stop pretending you can

Go ahead, pay Kim Kardashian a small fortune to mention your brand in one of her many, many posts. You never know, if your goal is to gain awareness, it might just do the trick. She does have impressive reach.

But let’s just be honest about what this is. Paying Kim Kardashian to endorse your brand is not some sort of new, clever Marketing technique. And it’s not influencer Marketing. It’s advertising, plain and simple. To view it as influencer Marketing, kind of misses the point. You can't buy influence. Indeed, advertising authorities, at least in the UK, are very clear on this. The ASA says that if you pay a blogger or vlogger and you control the message, then it’s an advert and you have to say so.

When you pay someone to say stuff about your brand, you cross a line. You’re no longer trying to earn a positive brand write-up, you are simply buying it. And while good, old-fashioned brand endorsement can work incredibly well, let’s not pretend it’s something it’s not. When Kim’s fans hear her gushing about a new hair care product that has transformed her life, they know she is being paid a fortune to say nice things, but it won’t stop many of them going out and buying the product. Advertising still works after all!

The minute you pay an influencer anything, you are no longer influencing. Influence should be earned and influencer Marketing should be based on honesty and transparency. Consumers are not stupid. They can spot a sponsored post a mile off. So let’s stop talking about “sponsored posts” in the same breath as influencer Marketing and call it what it is, celebrity endorsement or better still, advertising.

Not so long ago we talked about earned, owned and bought media. Then along came influencer Marketing and mixed things up a bit. There are lots of new companies opening up and advising brands specifically on influencer Marketing. But isn’t influencer Marketing simply PR by another name? I think most of us in the PR industry have been doing influencer Marketing for years and years. And we know that earning influence doesn’t come overnight from a sponsored post.

You can’t buy influence, so let’s stop pretending you can.

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