Drivers and Outcomes of Consumer Perceived Brand Authenticity of Social Media Influencers: An Exploratory Study

Pascale Vigener & Ranim Helwani

Student thesis: Master thesis


Despite the increasing relevance of Brand Authenticity (BA) in the marketing and branding literature, research in the context of human brands is still limited - especially with regard to Social Media Influencers (SMIs), who represent a newly recognized type of human brand. The underlying study fills this gap by developing a conceptual model on the drivers and outcomes of consumer perceived BA of SMIs. Based on a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted with millennials, along with selected secondary data, we propose that consumers’ BA judgments of SMIs are highly subjective, context-, and goal-dependent processes. We find that consumers’ BA perceptions are influenced by indexical, iconic, and existential drivers, which are moderated by their goals and level of scepticism towards SMIs and Influencer Marketing. Results also suggest that BA perceptions of SMIs lead to positive psychological and behavioural consumer outcomes that are reciprocated to the SMI in terms of trust, loyalty, positive word-of-mouth, and differentiation. Further, this study outlines practical implications for SMIs and practitioners of Influencer Marketing. For SMIs, we highlight the importance of actively engaging in the management of their BA perceptions in order to leverage on the identified benefits. For marketers, we recommend carefully choosing authentic SMIs to maximize the effectivity of their campaigns. Finally, we provide initial evidence for the loss of perceived authenticity among SMI brands, making BA of SMIs an increasingly important topic for future research.

EducationsCand.merc.smc Strategic Market Creation, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages308
SupervisorsStefan Markovic