I’m not sure why, but I found myself thinking about an episode of The Flintstones recently. It’s one where a band performs on the show, and I was trying to remember the song they played. Thank heavens for the internet — it was incredibly easy to find the clip. It was originally aired in 1965…the band and the song were not just made up for the show…it was the Beau Brummels and the song was “Laugh Laugh.” Well, on the show, they were the “Beau Brummelstones” since everyone’s names ended in “stone” or “rock” or some geological variant.
What I hadn’t remembered was that while the performance is happening, the scene cuts away to Wilma and Betty, watching their television and swooning over the singers. “Oh, I just adore the Beau Brummelstones,” Wilma coos. “Don’t you, Betty?” “Yeeessss,” Betty replies. “Especially this number! It’s from their new album!”
I had never thought about it before, but Betty was a stone age influencer.
While we tend to think of Influencers as a recent phenomenon, influencers have been around, well, as long as humans have. Spokespersons, and in some cases, “spokescreatures,” have been selling stuff for hundreds of years. Over recent decades, we’ve seen our share of fictional characters (Tony the Tiger, Flo from Progressive), celebrity endorsers (Michael Jordan, George Foreman), Reality TV stars…all sharing with us about products and services that we need in our lives.
The thing that feels different is the subtlety of the shill when it comes to modern-day influencers. Before the existence of social media, the framework of an advertisement was a bit more obvious. It’s as if we humans know when we’re being marketed to when we see a commercial, a banner on a website, an ad in a magazine, but the line is blurrier when we see someone who we may know just on Instagram, who feels like someone we can relate to very personally, who is sharing their experiences about a product with us, as though they just happened to discover it and their life has changed for the better.
This possible lack of transparency has led to regulations being enacted, and a move to ensure influencers disclose their relationships. Yet, studies published in the Harvard Business Review  reveal a lack of concern by consumers about the connection.
Still, companies need to think seriously about the trust that their customers have in them via influencers, and how tenuous that can be. While a huge celebrities may have a very vested interest in maintaining their public persona and image (and have many, many people employed to help them maintain that), there are plenty of influencers who can end up causing any good will they’ve built for their sponsor to vanish — an ugly past surfaces, they make a stupid mistake — anything can happen.
There’s no doubt that Influencer Marketing is a powerful tool that is not going away. According to Linqia’s “The State of Influencer Marketing 2021” Report, 71% of enterprise marketers planned to increase spend on influencer marketing in 2021 over the prior year. The Influencer Marketing Industry is Expected to Hit $13.8 Billion (with a B) by 2022, according to the Digital Marketing Institute.
Best to make sure that the influencers that you put your trust in are deserving of that trust.
 Alice Audrezet and Karine Charry, Do Influencers Need to Tell Audiences They’re Getting Paid?, Harvard Business Review, August 29, 2019