What goes wrong when influencer marketing isn’t done right: The case against Norway

Social media is a great place to learn new things, connect with people and find inspiration. However, it is also a great tool for marketers to exploit the susceptible youth of today. This is mostly done in a subtle way and usually is presented through influencer marketing.

A case where influencer marketing has come into the crossfire in the increasing promotion of unhealthy foods in Norway. A survey showed that teenagers are being exposed to such unhealthy products via role models. These role models have a great influence and result in increased consumption of these products leading to obesity in children in the ages of 12-18.

Big Brands Behind It

The report which was published in February 2019 by the Norwegian Consumer Council has stated that the greatest impact has been through subtle content marketing. This has been found in particular by Norwegian Youtubers who will work with brands such as Coca-Cola and Fanta and incorporate them into their video content.

Coca-Cola has been a primary collaborator by creating its own Norwegian-based YouTube channel, ‘CokeTV Norge’. The channel will then invite popular Norwegian creators to appear on CokeTV. Some examples include Sara Høydahl, who shares her life as a vegetarian and Sander Austad Dale (Randulle) who plays Fortnite, all whilst promoting CokeTV. Fanta has also gotten involved by collaborating with Beatriz Never (BeasVerden) who creates content at popular Norwegian ski resorts.

The Current Challenge

Despite regulations and guidelines being set up against the marketing of unhealthy food and drink in 2014, control of influencer marketing is tough to enforce. Norway is currently falling behind several countries which have already put laws in place to prevent issues like this. In the UK adverts for food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar on non-broadcast media are banned. Laws of a similar type have also been put in place in countries such as Spain, Slovenia, Latvia and Lithuania.

From an Influencer’s Perspective

Not everyone who becomes an influencer necessarily wants to be a role model. For many in this position, the mass following happened unexpectedly. Regardless, all influencers are expected to act as a pristine example that would make any parent proud to have their children follow. This however is not the case, with many influencers receiving online hate for every minute action telling them they should ‘know better’ and ‘be ashamed of setting such a bad example’.

This is a heavy burden to carry, especially for those who did not go looking for it. Everything an influencer says or does is put under scrutiny, without knowing the full story. For influencers who create content as a full-time job, sometimes the decision to partner with a brand can be a purely financial one. This can lead to some irresponsible decisions, especially if the brand is offering a large sum in exchange for promotion.

In the case of Norway, the lack of legal enforcement around the marketing of unhealthy food and drinks can be seen as an enabler of this kind of promotion. Influencers will rarely understand the impact an advertisement of such products will have on their following. This begs the question, is the influencer really to blame?

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Moving Forward

This incidence has clearly shown that influencer marketing has its caveats. This does not mean that all influencer marketing is bad, but that more caution should be taken. Government action in combination with an issue of warning to brands involved is a good starting point to solve this problem. Reaching out to influencers partaking in advertisement of unhealthy products and increasing their awareness of their effects could also be of benefit.

Stricter regulation has been recommended by some, including Consumer Director, Inger Lise Blyverket. She states the need for a full independent survey on marketing of unhealthy foods: “There is a need for proper mapping which also includes social media channels such as Snapchat and Instagram.”

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