The darker side of influencer marketing

The Joneses movie with Demi Moore and David Duchovny is a shocking portrayal of the extent brands will go to influence and manipulate unsuspecting people into buying their products.

The Joneses portrays a fake picture perfect family where each member of the ‘unit’ is super cool, attractive and aspirational to others. The family relocates to a strategically important suburb (as identified by the company representing the brands) and slowly start to infiltrate its core society. They target the most influential and vulnerable people who are ‘suckers for keeping up with the Joneses’ – monitoring the increase of sales through an online dashboard. It’s fake. It’s a game.

The questions is. Do brands deploy these tactics in real life? The simple answer is yes. For decades, famous sports people, movie stars, news anchors and professionals have received sponsorships paid in cash and/or free products to be seen and talked about. Sitcoms, documentaries and movies are laden with product placements. Essentially people and spaces that attract attention have been interfered with commercial influences.

Today, there’s a plethora of word-of-mouth and viral platforms/ applications targeting influential consumers who may not necessarily be celebrities but have significant followings on their twitter, blog and social networking profiles.

Is it wrong to influence people for commercial gain? Only when the intention is to deceive or hide the underlying motivations – such as in the case of the Joneses which has you cringing throughout the film in the lead up to when their disguise is eventually unveiled. It’s at this point that the community or individuals become bitter, cheated and angry.

The reality of the matter is that friends don’t like to be sold too or influenced in an inauthentic way. There must exist transparency so people at least have a choice to engage or not – such as the case with the neighbor selling beauty products.


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