Move aside Kim Kardashian – a new breed of social media celebrity more concerned with campaigns that make a difference than their own self-importance has arrived. Welcome to the brave new world of ethical influencers and what value they can bring to brands.
Rather than being motivated by the glitz and glamour of fame, ethical influencers, also known as woke influencers or wokefluencers, prefer to busy themselves with values, ethics and activism. So far so contrived? Perhaps, but hear us out.
It’s fair to say influencers can be easy meat for critics in traditional areas of the media. Youngsters with ambition and no perceivable talent, but an understanding of social media and smartphone cameras suddenly amass an army of followers, advertising revenue and brand endorsements. Shameless, right?
In reality there is more to it than meets the eye and we’ve come across plenty who fall into the influencer bracket of grafters who have worked hard to carve out a career authentically promoting their wonderful creative talents.
It’s why at Little Red Rooster we have a particular way of working with influencers and bloggers and why we’re not afraid to collaborate with them for the benefit of our clients – take the recent tie-up between Mad About The House and our radiator brand Bisque. After all, if the stars align then you shouldn’t be scared of dipping your toe in new waters.
However, there are certainly serial social media charlatans more concerned with Botox and bolstering their bank balance by any means necessary, rather than being objective, wise and entertaining disruptors the public can actually look up to – benefitting a brand in the process.
So in a modern climate of increasing attention and interest around issues of sustainability, sexism, race, morality and more, ethical influencers might just be a welcome breath of (naturally sourced) fresh air in the murky world of internet celebrity.
Take model Adwoa Aboah. If she were the sort to boast, she’d no doubt tell you about her 600,000 plus Instagram followers and the fact she has worked for a host of huge fashion houses.
However, she would much rather be known for founding Gurls Talk, a movement encouraging girls and young women to talk about sexism, life challenges and female empowerment. We’re huge fans, not least because these are topics close to our heart.Many forward-thinking brands share the same ethics, and so perhaps would be keen to harness the immense impact ethical influencers can wield… if, and it’s a big if, campaigns are handled respectfully, cleverly and carefully.
Our clients like steel water bottle brand Stay Sixty and Austrian eyewear label neubau are built on values of eco-awareness and sustainability. Other clients such as Bang & Olufsen have a clear environmental policy stating it strives to build eco-friendly products.
A great example of a PR campaign using an ethical influencer comes from UK cosmetics brand Illamasqua. It hired transgender model and activist Munroe Bergdorf as its new face. Bergdorf had been fired by previous employer L’Oreal for comments about race and gender it considered inflammatory.
Damaged goods? Not a bit of it. Illamasqua stepped in and snapped up Bergdorf saying the LBGT champion “represents diversity, and she’s not afraid of who she is”.
A brave move, but an arguably brilliant way of strengthening your brand ethos with a powerful, headline-grabbing statement that ultimately generates coverage and gets people talking.
Elsewhere, US Yoga brand Lululemon recently ran its first campaign targeting men. Rather than reaching out to a male Instagram #fitspiration model, it chose Ibn Ali Miller, an online activist debating masculinity and non-violence.
Another example of ethical influencers in this space includes DeRay McKesson, a key voice for Black Lives Matter and a personality with more than a million followers on Twitter (check out the ice cool handle he can call his own too).
So it’s all about being wiser, more connected, healthier, more ethical, eco aware and socially conscious and these are areas the smartest brands care about – and that’s the point, really. Working closely with a woke influencer can really strengthen a brand, but only if that brand is strong in areas that influencer is promoting otherwise you face a massive PR own goal. There has to be a synergy between the two or it simply won’t work.
It might sound obvious, but before recommending an ethical influencer to a client, we would ask them to consider how much their business would have to change in order for an ethical influencer to agree working with them. That’s what a diligent PR agency would do.