Purpose: This study aims to investigate influencer marketing and sustainability and how these fields are interrelated. The purpose is to understand how brands can leverage on influencer marketing in the communication of sustainable initiatives and contribute toan, until now, unexplored area of influencer marketing.
Methodology: The paper is based on 11 interviews with respectively three influencer marketing experts, three influencers and five companies that employ influencers as part of their marketing strategy. Moreover, two focus groups and an online questionnaire have been conducted to investigate the consumer perspective. Lastly, a content analysis has been carried out to assess the current portrayal of sustainability in influencer marketing.
Findings: When planning an influencer partnership around sustainability it is of high importance that the influencer and brand identities and images are aligned. Among several factors it is especially important that both parties have a clear sustainability focus and communicate their efforts in an authentic and transparent manner. It is found that consumers value concrete explanations when it comes to sustainable topics, making it crucial for influencers to avoid green buzzwords. Moreover the study’s findings show that influencers should communicate hedonic values about a brands’ sustainability initiatives, whereas the more utilitarian values should be provided by the brand itself. Our study concludes that in order to avoid green marketing myopia and greenwashing, influencers should portray consumer-oriented values and not merely sustainable values by focusing on personal and relatable scenarios. It is furthermore concluded that influencer partnerships about sustainability should be awareness-oriented rather than sales-oriented. However, long-term partnerships between brand and influencer are highly relevant in order to touch upon the entire circular customer journey.
Originality: This study extends the knowledge of influencer marketing by including the perspective of sustainability. Theoretically the study contributes to a deeper understanding of the Danish influencer marketing field as it explores new nuances of how influencers can be used by businesses. The paper provides recommendations and practical insights to how companies can use influencers for communicating sustainable initiatives whilst avoiding the pitfalls that come with sustainability communication.
|MSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
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