The daily downloads of the Dunkin’ Donuts app jumped 57% in September 2020. The jump, while noticeable, was not noteworthy. The reason behind it was: an influencer collaboration.
The coffee company partnered with Charli D’Amelio, a TikTok influencer, to create “The Charli.” One day after the launch of the new drink, all Dunkin’ Donuts cold-brew coffee sales surged by 45%, and the drink itself was sold by the thousands.
The answer to how one creator could have such a colossal effect is simple. The partnership was transparent and authentic. Long before the brand collaboration even happened, Charli was known to genuinely love and drink Dunkin’s coffee.
So, when the campaign was executed, it was not with some random creator with millions of followers. It was with a brand advocate who made the partnership natural and trustworthy.
It’s an example of the outcome of transparency in influencer marketing. It is also, unquestionably, the reason brands must demand it. However, the true force pushing for authenticity, integrity, and transparency is not brands. It comes from consumers, regulatory authorities, and data-driven influencer platforms.
The consumer side
Consumers always have had a lot of power. But after the pandemic, when a majority of them flooded the digital landscape, there was a molecular shift in power.
They began to expect more from the creators they loved and followed, valuing authentic content that served their interests. And when it came to sponsored content, they called out creators who promoted staged, inauthentic, or simply irrelevant products.
Today, 82% of users feel it is important for creators to disclose if they use a product they promote. 62% feel it is unethical for creators to shill for a brand they don’t personally use. When they are sceptical about a disclosure, they lose trust in the creator. Since losing trust from followers is equal to dwindling brand partnerships, it automatically pushes creators to be more transparent.
The regulatory side
The Advertising Standards Council of India’s (ASCI) Guidelines for Influencer Marketing, which were released in mid-2021, further prodded the consumer-side push. As a step towards shaping the niche and making it more honest, the self-regulatory authority made it compulsory for an influencer to openly tag sponsored posts.
To monitor violations, ASCI teamed with Reech, a French influencer marketing technology provider. It employs the Reech Influence Cloud, an AI-powered platform, to spot commercial posts that flout the rules or lack disclosure.
Both the consumer and regulatory sides push for transparency, which helps creators and users directly, but brands tangentially. On the other hand, the transparency that data-driven influencer platforms provide explicitly benefits marketers.
The platform side
One of the thorniest challenges for marketers in influencer marketing has been discovery. For a long time, brands had to trust creator-provided data because numbers on audience demographics, conversions, and average traffic were not directly accessible to them. It often led to partnerships with influencers that exploited brands with fake followers or bot-inflated engagement rates.
AI-based platforms bring transparency to these numbers because they have direct, consented access to data available on a creator’s social profile. Moreover, they vet creators for manipulated or fraudulent data before onboarding. So, when a brand relies on the platform to search for influencers, they get a clear and honest picture.
Moving beyond discovery, data-driven platforms eliminate another layer of ambiguity: evaluating campaign performance. With real-time metrics on views, impressions, reach, and engagement available to marketing teams, they don’t have to depend on creators to know how each post is performing.
The only side necessary
In the end, it doesn’t matter what or who is instigating the rise of transparency in influencer marketing. Given that everything is discoverable and measurable in the current digital era, verifying the accuracy of any claim takes mere seconds. Not to mention, transparency is what sways consumers.
For creators, being earnest and authentic translates to more followers and engagement. For brands, being honest and transparent translates to better reputation and sales. All in all, it makes the transparency evolution a necessity. Those who keep it a priority will be rewarded in spades.
Article is authored by Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng.