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Impact of Social Media Influencers on Fashion Retailers in UK

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Impact of Social Media Influencers on Fashion Retailers in UK essay
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A review of relevant literature from a variety of sources was carried out in order to construct a theoretical foundation for the research. The main focal terms when gathering relative information for the research subject were: social media marketing, social media influencers, celebrity endorsement, word of mouth marketing, consumer response and fashion retailers.

This section explores the ideas of social media, social influence marketing/ endorsement and focuses on the two forms of endorsers – influencers and celebrities. The framework models allow an examination of their impact and features and make it possible to gain information regarding the link between both positive and negative consumer response to endorsements and social media. The exploration of previous research allowed for a gap in the literature to be identified and thus, the basis of the research to be created.

Social Media & Social Influence

In order to understand both social media and its power of influence it is key to discuss the concept of social media. The new age of social media is made up of thousands of platforms all allowing interactors to experience different things and take advantage of a range of features (Hale, 2015). Currently, social media is characterised by greater user interactivity and collaboration, more universal network connectivity and enhanced communication channels – provides a strong basis for conversations and interaction through the internet (Osterrieder, 2013; Zhang & Lin, 2015; Gonsalves, 2009).

Social influence is a key component of influencer marketing as it determines the way in which individuals make decisions, the level to which these are shaped by communication and self-perception of an individual in relation the influencer. (Straker, 2016) The sharing of information through online platforms is the fundamental basis for marketing today. (Gershbein, 2017) Bringing together both concepts birthed the notion of social influence marketing – a system which exploits social media and influential individuals in order to meet market goals. (Brown & Fiorella, 2013) Individuals are influenced by others, through marketing strategies such as endorsements, and this effectively impacts their decision-making process and purchase behaviour. (Campbell, 2004; Ahmed et al., 2017; Rehmeyer, 2007)


McCracken (1989) defines an endorser as an individual with a large public following who utilises this recognition in conjunction with a good or service in which they promote. (McCracken, 1989) In order to promote the high quality or innovative nature of a consumer good, experts can assess and recommend the features of a product to the general market: this is where endorsement marketing comes in to effect. (Pelsmacker, Geuens & Van Ben Bergh, 2013) Endorsement marketing can be exploited in numerous different ways, for instance an endorser will receive the product from the brand and after use will make their experience or opinion of the good public through platforms such as Twitter, Instagram or high-profile interviews. (Yarrow & O’Donnell, 2009)

A social media influencer can be anyone, it can vary from bloggers to make up artists or even fitness freaks permitting that they have the trust of their following and a niche. Their reputable position in the market does not only give them great influential power but also with a large following on their social media accounts. (Heidewald, 2017; Forer, 2017; Freberg et al., 2011) Celebrity endorsement is a more conventional form of endorsement compared to the more recent trend of influencer endorsers and its long-standing presence first emerged in the 1700’s. (Clark & Horstmann, 2013)A celebrity is someone “ who is known for his well-knownness ”[ad1] (Gabler, 2001) The high level of consumer engagement opens them to influence from celebrities concerning their purchasing decisions and consumer preferences. (Powell, 2010; Dzisah & Ocloo, 2013; Pramjeeth & Khupe, 2017) Realwire (2016) found that 79% of UK companies have opted to include celebrity endorsement as a tool in their marketing strategy. (Realwire, 2016) Many researchers have argued that social influencers have little to no influence over the older consumer market as they do not have a significant presence on social media. In light of this, celebrity endorsement is more likely to reach and appeal to a larger segment of the market. (Rubin, 2017; Weinswig, 2016; Impulse Digital, 2016)

Advantages of Endorsers

A company that uses a social influencer or celebrity as an endorser can create a more personal relationship between the brand and the consumer, using the influencers facial link to the brand. (Roll, 2014; Dwivedi, Johnson & McDonald, 2015) Numerous researchers also highlight the element of brand authenticity: noting it’s great importance to Generation Y consumers who seek sincere content and are deterred by commercially driven content. (Dwivedi, 2015; Lazarevic, 2012) In addition, the key differential factor between celebrities and influencers is that social media influencers are commonly perceived as just another consumer and in effect, are more relatable to the public. (Khamis, Ang & Welling, 2016; Schwab, 2016; Glucksman, 2017) This concept, combined with their reputable status tends to lead to them gaining more trust from consumers than celebrities (Popow, 2016; Amey, 2016) Furthermore, influencers tend to be perceived as being more credible and give an unbiased opinion on brands and fashion items. (Barker, 2017; Carlson, 2015) Gillin (2007) explains that influencers tend to gain their following and status through their personal experiences in the fashion area as well as knowledge they have gained from this. (Gillin, 2007) Influencers typically tend to share information about their personal-life as well as their preferences, tastes and opinions. Through this, consumers find tend to establish a more intimate level of relatability to influencers than celebrities – whom tend to keep various aspects of their life private. (Pulse, 2017; Tam & Mendez, 2016) The opportunity provided by social media platforms in which consumers can follow the photos, videos and written content posted by an influencer creates a sense of closeness. (Cossell, 2017) As influencers are often perceived as just normal consumers, there is more motivation for followers to reach out to and communicate with them, creating a level of trust and interest in the follower – a key element in influencing. (Edgecomb, 2017)

Endorsement and Brands

In the current fashion industry, the majority of brands and bloggers have already fully integrated social media into their marketing strategy and effectively are experiencing the advantages of this. With the ever-growing nature of social media – retailers have been forced to keep up – being present on these platforms is no longer a mere option but obligatory in order to reach the variation of consumers present on such sites and effectively to remain competitive. (Holt, 2016; Michaelidou, Siamagka & Christodoulides, 2011) Prior to the introduction of social media – marketing and advertising was primarily carried out through forms such as banners, and in-store promotions; however, the shift in the market and technological advancements have created a rapport-oriented approach (Demoss, 2014; Agrawal, 2016)The most beneficial aspect of this transition is that paid advertising of any kind tends to be viewed as invasive, troubling and annoying, often leading to consumers distancing themselves from the brand. (Ostler, 2018; Scheinbaum, 2012; Tikoo, 2017) Pitney Bowes (2013) conducted research which found that 83% of consumers have had negative experiences with social media marketing, as well as a further 65% claiming that they’d stop purchasing from a brand that they find to be a burden with their marketing. (Pitney Bowes, 2013) This evidence, combined with the aforementioned features have persuaded a movement in focus towards influencer endorsement. (Castronovo, 2012; Keitzmann, Silvestre & McCarthy, 2012) Furthermore, different researchers have verified that celebrity endorsement are more influential than advertising on social media. (Silvera & Austad, 2003; Tom et al., 1992) The majority of fashion retail brands are open to working with both categories of endorsers. An example of this is the recent collaborations of the online fashion giant Pretty Little Thing. The brand worked with Kourtney Kardashian in October 2017 to create an affordable yet stylish line. (Hourigan, 2017) Alternatively, they have also adopted the benefits of using a social media influencer to promote their range. The popular Instagram user Miss Rachel Alice has been used to wear, picture and post various of their clothing items as a promotional tool.

Additionally, the well-known footwear brand Adidas implemented a campaign with Selena Gomez as the face of it to drive consumer engagement as well as recruiting twenty-five social media influencers in 2017 to improve their market share. (Barker, 2016; Connelly, 2017)


Media Influencer Endorsement Latané (1981) constructed the social impact theory exploring the extent to which an individual can be influenced. (Latané, 1981) The emergence of influence endorsers was aided by this theory and it details that family and friends are more influential to individuals that strangers. As marketers are not able to dictate the extent of influence held by consumer’s close relations – they have utilised the next best thing – social media influencers. (Nowak, Szamrej & Latane, 1990; Jackson, 1987) The benefits of a celebrity wearing a brand or specific item has impacted numerous fashion retailers. For example, the American Socialite Olivia Palermo was spotted at Paris Fashion Week, in 2016 wearing Topshop’s newly introduced silk bomber jacket, within days, it was sold out. (Goldstone, 2017) This has recently become the case for influencers – for example, the fashion brand Lord & Taylor got 50 Instagram influencers to wear the same dress and post it on their accounts – which prompted an audience response for the desire and demand of this item rising. (Griner, 2015) Extracting suitable influencers from the extensive pool of innovative and forward-thinking pool of individuals is made easier by the offerings of numerous online tools such as BuzzSumo or the most popular option – Topsy. (Llewellyn, 2016; York, 2017; Matia, 2016) It is also a viable option to consider cooperating with a variation of organisations who specialise in producing the best match of influencers for a brand, such as: Influenz, InstaBrand, Hypetap or TRIBE (Gordon, 2017; Ainomugisha, 2016; Inluenz, 2018; TRIBE, 2018) These tools allows the measurement of social media analytics to highlight the most influential presences on social media. From this, the brand can make decisions based on either popularity, activeness or image without having to employ their other resources such as time and people on skimming through social media. (Force, 2016)


Characteristics Granting that tools and specialist companies can be utilised to facilitate the selection of influential individuals in the preferred industry – literature offers a conjectural breakdown of the desirable characteristics that a brand should utilise as a benchmark in their process of choosing an endorser. (Erdogan, 1999) Existing research has emphasised a range of relevant models that determine the characteristics of endorsers as well as assessing their effectiveness in relation to the extent of which they meet each category. Theories developed in this topic area have highlighted several models that relate to characteristics of endorsers and forecast the effectiveness of their involvement. (Ing & Furuoka, 2007; Braunstein, 2006; Simmers, Damron-Martinez & Haytko, 2009) The aforementioned models are: The Kelman’s Model (Kelman, 1961), The Movement of Meaning Model (McCracken, 1986) The Source Credibility Model. (Ohanian, 1990)

The Three Models

The Kelman’s Model, as created by Kelman (1961) explores three key features of social influence; Compliance, Identification and Internalization. (Estrada, Woodcock, Hernandez & Schultz, 2012; Goodwin, 1987) The compliance branch of the model relates to the perception that an individual agrees with others, however, they keep nonconforming opinions to themselves. Identification details the influence on consumers of someone who is liked and respected. The Internalization aspect focuses on an individual accepting a view or behaviour and agreeing with this in both a public and private sense. (Kelman, 1961; Kotler et al., 2005) McCracken (1989) created The Movement of Meaning Model in order to highlight the significance of endorser characteristics. The model suggests that a celebrities’ status and involvement in society allows them to portray a certain impression. (McCracken, 1989; Kambitsis et al, 2002)

Furthermore, individuals within a society form their own perceptions of a celebrity and when this is collated it forms a general recognition that can then be linked to the product or brand through endorsement. The figure below displays the concept that celebrity image can essentially strengthen the brand and provide an attractive brand image for consumers to strive for. (Byberg, Hansen, Basic, 2015; Seno & Lukas, 2007; Ilicic & Webster, 2015) In effect, this will prompt consumers to assign their mental perception of these brands and celebrities to themselves through the purchase of the product in question. (Halonen-Knight & Hurmerinta, 2010; Miller & Allen, 2012)

Figure 1.1: Meaning movement in the endorsement process (Adapted from McCracken 1989)

The Source Credibility Model created by Ohanian (1990) determines how credible an endorser is through the consideration of three attributes: Expertise, Attractiveness and Trustworthiness, each consisting of three subsections (Serban, 2010; Corina, 2010; Sertoglu, 2014; Waldt, Loggerenberg & Wehmeyer, 2009) as displayed in the figure below:

Figure 1.2: The Source Credibility Model (Ferle, 2016)

The expertise segment focuses on the specific knowledge possessed by an endorser in their market; attractiveness is in relation to the physical appearance of the endorser and the trustworthiness branch studies consumers reliability in the source. (Pornpitakpan, 2004) Karasiewicz & Kowalczuk (2014) explain that an endorser who not only promotes a product – but actually uses it themselves, consumers are more likely to receive their opinions as sincere and credible. (Karasiewicz & Kowalczuk, 2014) Based on Ohanian’s model, it is generally believed that endorsers whom apply all three proportions will be highly effective in influencing consumer behaviour. (Ahmed et al., 2015; Johansson, 2017; Goldsmith et al., 2000)

Behaviour of Consumers

Existing research which explores consumer behaviour suggests that Word of Mouth marketing is the most effective form of marketing as it is not driven by the potentially bias portrayal of paid endorsers, but instead based solely on genuine consumer experience. (Danziger, 2017; Sweeney et al., 2008) The Nielsen report (2015) was a study which gathered that 83% of consumers trust the recommendations of friends or family as well as 66% stating that they trusted consumer opinions which were shared on online platforms. (Nielsen, 2015) Consumer trust in sponsorship has been referred to as “the cornerstone of the strategic partnership”. (Spekman, 1988, p.79). Therefore, this, coupled with consumers trust in recommendations reinforces the idea that influencer endorsements are a preferred and advantageous type of marketing. This is due to social media influencers being consumers of the brand and this effectively increases their relatability. (Flavian, 2006; Sirdeshmukh et al., 2002)

Moreover, 74% of consumers consider word-of-mouth as highly influential in their purchase decision making process (Bulbul et al. 2014) and this idea was further supported with 81% do online research prior to making a purchase. (Retailing Today, 2014) On the other hand, a survey conducted by Penn (2014) found that 43% of consumers did not feel that social media influence their purchasing behaviour at all. (Penn, 2014) Additionally, Gallup (2014) carried out research which concluded that only 30% of respondents felt social media had only ‘some’ influence on their buying decisions. (Gallup, 2014)

Problems with Endorsement

Erdogan (1999) clarifies that in contrast to the benefits of endorsement – there are still a range of potential threats in the implementation of utilising endorsers. Although celebrities can attract consumers through their link to a brand – there is an ever-present hazard that they may negatively impact the image of the brand through an action or behaviour. (Forbes, 2007; Till & Shimp 1998) In this case, the tarnished reputation of the endorser is likely to transfer to the image of the brand and impact consumer perceptions of this brand. (Erdogan & Baker 2000; Amos et al., 2008) For example, Kobe Bryant’s sex scandal led to his endorsement contracts with Coca-Cola and McDonald’s being dropped by both companies. (Badenhausen, 2004) It is a widely recognised worry that the consumer’s focus on the brand may be distracted by the celebrity/influencer. (Rossiter and Percy 1987; Cooper 1984) This is also referred to as “The Vampire Effect” or the “Overshadowing Effect”. (Dholakia, 2015; Erfgen, Zenker & Sattle, 2015)

Another problem that may arise due to using endorsers is the over-use of an individual’s image (celebrities or influencers). As consumers tend to identify with attractive celebrities, the use of an individual on various campaigns decreases the value of both the celebrity and the brand with regard to consumer perception. (Majumdar, 2010) In turn, this may also make consumers more mindful of the original purpose of endorsement and its exclusive benefit for endorsers: the endorsers financial gain. Consumer awareness of this incentive, may lessen the credibility of the celebrity or influencer. (Alperstein, 1991; Wolinsky 1983) Furthermore, a celebrity or influencer who receives a product for free or for a percentage of the general retail price as an incentive for endorsement must disclose this to the public. (Lizerbram, 2016) The failure to share this information can lead to legal action and negatively impact both the brand and the endorser. (FTC, 2018; Kuchler, 2015) It is common for consumers to detach from influencers or celebrities if they feel that their review or shared opinion is biased towards the brand based on the endorsement.

A study conducted by Cohn & Wolfe (2014) highlighted that consumers rate brand authenticity very highly with 81% of respondents viewing transparency from brands, their endorsers and influencer as a key factor in their purchasing decisions. (Cohn & Wolfe, 2014; Rabe 2016; Bright Local, 2017)

Negative Information and the Impact on Consumer behaviour

The previously stated concerns can create an element of cynicism and potentially deter consumers from purchasing an endorsed good. Numerous researchers deem negative information or publicity of a brand to be more influential in a consumer’s evaluation of a product. (Lutz, 1975, Herr et al, 1991) This idea is further supported by Richins (1983) who found that 85% of consumers who were not satisfied with a fashion product relayed their negative experience to an average of five individuals. (Richins, 1983)

Another study discovered that 54% of blog readers don’t trust sponsored content and are more likely to stop reading the blog in this case. (Lazauskas, 2014) This figure is of great significance in relation to a further 71% of individuals admitting to purchase from references contained in blogs as it highlights the scope of the audience reached by bloggers as well as the potential loss if consumers distrust a blog. (Ewing, 2012) Additionally, a study undertaken by Deloitte (2015) addressed the issue of brands manipulating online platforms through fake reviews or behaving deceitfully in which it found that 47 % of consumers will alter their purchasing behaviour and potentially boycott the brand. (Deloitte, 2015; Rubin, 2014) [ad1]Is there specific format for this?

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