A consumer shift toward digital devices has propelled the influencer industry to fresh heights, with two-thirds of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies either maintaining spend at pre-pandemic levels or increasing it slightly, while a bullish 19% upped their influencer spend significantly.
The new report, by Duff & Phelps-owned Kroll, estimated that close to half of all companies in the sector will allocate up to 50% of their marketing budget on social media influencers post-coronavirus – despite many brand owners reporting negative experiences with influencers and fake follower concerns.
An FMCG influencer boom
Today’s report by financial consultancy Duff & Phelps is based on an anonymous survey of 917 FMCG marketing and brand managers across the US, Europe and the Middle East conducted in June.
Next year 46% of all of FMCG firms are projected to lavish 31-50% of their marketing budgets on influencers, way ahead of the 20% average recorded through 2018-20. 8% will place 70% of their marketing eggs in the influencer basket.
Kroll put the annual average spend per influencer among FMCG companies globally at $22,151, although there are significant regional variations with the equivalent UK figure, which stands at $18,602. This contributes to a strong sales-increase-to-expense ratio of 73%, way ahead of the 46% ’all countries’ average.
Individual FMCG companies typically hedge their bets by courting dozens of influencers at a time, with 45% of those quizzed reporting that they typically have between 51 and 100 on their books at any one time.
Once again UK companies are more restrained than their international compatriots, employing just 66 influencers from other companies on average – versus a global figure of 81.
‘Negative’ experiences and fake followers
The increase in spend comes despite 85% of FMCG companies reporting that their brand has been negatively impacted through association with an influencer, with 24% having been stung more than once.
Illustrating the potential damage of these missteps some 25% of FMCG firms report losses of anywhere between $100k and $250k from a toxic relationship.
Such experiences colour overall perceptions, with 69% dubious of reported follower counts and just 26% willing to give influencers the benefit of the doubt.
Intriguingly, the proportion of UK businesses trusting their influencers stands at a healthier 51%. This is likely to be related to more frequent usage of third-party verification specialists, employed by 32% of British businesses versus just 27% elsewhere.
Benedict Hamilton, MD of Kroll’s Business Intelligence and Investigations practice, said: “Companies spend years creating brands built on trust and loyalty, characteristics which are hard-won but can be quickly lost, and are difficult to regain. When a negative incident with an influencer occurs, the reputational damage that follows can have long-term commercial impacts. Companies need to do their due diligence and not just take an influencer at ’face value.’“
Looking ahead, Hamilton said: “We are seeing increasing demand from brands to investigate influencers’ online activity and identify potentially sensitive issues, including those posted many years ago, to allow brands to establish whether or not an influencer’s values match their own, and ensure they are making informed decisions about their influencer programmes.”