As we near the close of another election cycle, we’re reminded of a new reality: the divide that used to exist between politics, brands, and their surrounding ecosystems is no longer there.
More and more, we see consumers calling on brands, influencers, and those with a voice or audience that can help enforce change. And while there are brands who have begun to establish their place within the issues and advocacy arena, others still want no part in politics, or have yet to find the right ways to take a stand.
This environment has caused a shift in the dynamic between influencers, their audiences, and the brands they work with.
We know that influencers increasingly use their platforms to engage with communities on the issues that they’re personally passionate about, as well as those that affect the lives of their followers. While some of these hot-button issues are undoubtedly polarizing, we actually see there’s more agreement across some of the major issues talked about today. According to Gallup, 66% of Americans support stricter gun laws, and 85% want abortion access to some extent.
These stats matter because they should encourage brands to align with influencer partners who take a stance, to help amplify their own views in an authentic way.
So, what’s the issue? For many brands, there’s still a question of alignment, particularly in partnerships with influencers who are extremely vocal on certain issues. And if issues don’t align with a brand’s values and beliefs – and its customers’ or even shareholders’ beliefs – there may be cause for alarm.
Beyond misalignment, brands who don’t take a stance on issues that intersect with politics may try to encourage their influencer partner to do the same. Do brands have every right to protect their voice and the values they speak to? Without a doubt. But this could simultaneously be silencing their influencer partners, and inherently go against the idea of true partnership. It also means brands are applying the old rules of the game -- but the playbook for influencer marketing has changed.
As the space has evolved, smart brands have started to recognize that influencer content isn’t owned, it’s truly partnered content. Today, when brands sign on with influencer partners, issues and value alignment need to be agreed upon early on and communicated about often.
And while there is undeniable risk associated with a brand appearing misaligned in values, there’s equal risk for the influencer. Influencer marketing works well because followers see influencers as a resource and a trusted member of their community. According to Statista, 54% of polled consumers ages 23-38 say they either somewhat or completely trust recommendations from the influencers they follow.
The reality is, brands that choose to avoid influencers who take a stance will ultimately have a much smaller pool to work with. Instead, brands need to find common ground with their partners and continue to have open conversations to address challenges and points of concern.
As we said, the old rules of influencer marketing no longer apply to today’s landscape, so it’s time to dig in, lean on experts who can help navigate this space, and invest the time and energy in building relationships with influencers who can help bring more credibility to your cause.