Influence: The modern marketing commodity

Celebrity brands, public endorsements and personal blogs; these are the powerful marketing strategies which now hold sway with the consumer.

Many companies now use the majority of marketing campaign budgets gifting products to influencers in an attempt to create “organic” interest. Whilst frequently these items are just gifted, it is assumed by these businesses that the products will appear or be endorsed. The market now is dictated by the happening products we see carefully, yet casually, placed on our feeds. From drinks brands in the background of Instagram posts or snacks inconspicuously mentioned by celebrities and restaurants tagged in celebrity stories, is this the best ways to sell products in 2023?

Covid saw a change in how consumers are marketed products. Between forced lockdowns and increased screen time people now choose products which have been subconsciously endorsed by people we follow on the internet and see on our social media feeds. Magazine ads and billboards are no longer the best forum for marketing. The age of the “influencer” has begun. Now people are buying products because they trust opinions coming from influential individuals but how can consumers truly trust companies when this is just a new marketing technique?

Many people argue that this influencer marketing creates a fresh outlook on consumerism. No longer are product trends dictated by large corporations and instead direction is being dictated by young individuals. Many argue surely this is a positive. People believe that through personalising influence, companies are able to market to more niche consumer groups.

However, since these influencers are receiving financial incentives for their endorsement it creates the danger that these endorsements are not popular due to merit. Are the trendy restaurants we see on our Instagram pages popular due to good food and customer service or only because we have been told they are the place to be seen eating at?

Similarly, celebrities branching into the hospitality industry, whether that be restaurant partnerships or food and drink products, is a growing market with no signs of slowing down. Some worry that these celebrities rely solely on customers from fan bases. Perhaps this is creating unstable business models at the whim of popularity whilst playing into a continuous trend cycle. Will this reduce longevity of products? Reduce sustainability? The rate of celebrity brands being developed is increasing but are they here to stay or will they only be seasonal? Is this continually changing stream of influencing creating businesses only meant to last for one or two years rather than twenty years?

Endorsement of these brands redacts the need for marketing of a company and entirely relies on individuals. Consumers are no longer concerned with what they are buying and focusing on who told them to buy it.

Individuals like Gwyneth Paltrow and her wellness company Goop have been entirely successful due to building a following with implicit trust in whatever new product is recommended. But does this create an unhealthy consumer relationship? We are trusting one women’s opinion on healthcare with minimal education in the effects of these food and wellness products when previously we trusted science and doctor endorsement.

Good or bad celebrity endorsement and influencers are 2023’s most effective way to reach consumers, so should hospitality be focusing on utilising these methods? Businesses must both be mindful that whilst this is highly effective it is a fragile way to control product popularity. Will this continue as an effective way to make sales or will a shift in public perception of this subtle manipulation lose consumer trust?

Written by Lexie Cook, EP Business in Hospitality