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Influencer Activism: Do brands Need to View it as a Threat Like Bournvita did, or is it the Time to Introspect?



Influencer Activism: Do brands need to view it as a threat like Bournvita did, or is it the time to introspect?

Social media has revolutionised activism. Raising awareness and rallying support for a cause is now easier than ever. Platforms like X and Facebook allow voices to travel far and wide, spreading concerns like wildfire – especially if the issue is truly concerning.

This has given immense power to influencers. Brands have embraced influencers to promote their products. But, the same power that elevates a brand can also bring it crashing down. Beyond sponsored content, influencers are shaking things up by offering organic reviews of products and services they’ve actually experienced. Unlike the past, consumers now have a platform to voice their honest opinions directly to brands, not just fellow users. Social media empowers influencers with large followings to act as a bridge between consumers and brands, making it easier for complaints and feedback to reach the right ears. That’s how a single negative review from a big influencer can tarnish a brand’s reputation, even if it’s been around for decades.

However, the ease of sharing information on social media comes with a downside: misinformation. False news can spread just as quickly as the truth, creating confusion and potentially harming individuals or brands. While some influencers do their due diligence and fact-check their information, others rely on superficial knowledge, potentially misleading their audience. So, what are the pros and cons of influencer activism?

Pros: Amplifying Voices and Driving Change:
  • Raising Awareness: Influencers can quickly and effectively spread awareness about important issues that might otherwise go unnoticed. Their reach can be particularly impactful in engaging younger demographics less likely to follow traditional media sources.
  • Grassroots Mobilisation: Influencers can galvanise their audience into taking action, whether it’s signing petitions, donating to charities, or participating in protests. This bottom-up approach can put pressure on corporations and governments to enact change.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Social media’s immediacy allows influencers to hold corporations accountable for their actions. Exposing unethical practices or misleading advertising can lead to significant public pressure and force brands to change their behaviour.

Cons: Authenticity, Expertise, and the Perils of Performative Activism:
  • Loss of Authenticity: Some activism might feel performative, driven by a desire for increased engagement rather than genuine concern. This inauthenticity can lead to audience scepticism and ultimately undermine the message.
  • Limited Expertise: While passion is important, complex issues require a deeper understanding. Influencer activists might lack the expertise to provide nuanced perspectives, potentially oversimplifying complex topics.
  • Echo Chambers and Confirmation Bias: Influencers often preach to the converted, reinforcing existing beliefs within their established follower base. This can hinder constructive dialogue and create echo chambers where critical perspectives are silenced.

Great influence comes with great responsibility. Let’s delve into how Influencer Activism impacted Bournvita, a beloved health drink brand that has been a staple since our childhood.

The Bournvita Case Study

In April 2023, popular Indian social media personality Revant Himatsingha, known online as “Food Pharmer,” ignited a firestorm on social media. Himatsingha criticised Cadbury’s Bournvita chocolate drink, a long-standing product marketed as a health drink for children in India. His video highlighted the high sugar content listed on the Bournvita packaging, questioning its suitability as a health drink.

The video, which garnered over 12 million views before being taken down, sparked a national conversation about transparency in food labelling and the marketing of sugary products to children. While the influencer’s action raised awareness about sugar consumption, the debate exposed the complexities of influencer activism.

The Impact on Bournvita:

The Bournvita controversy significantly impacted the brand’s image. Initially, Bournvita’s response of sending a legal notice to Himatsingha was met with public backlash. Many consumers perceived this as a defensive tactic aimed at silencing criticism. However, facing mounting pressure, Bournvita eventually acknowledged the concerns. The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, likely influenced by the social media storm, directed e-commerce platforms to remove Bournvita and similar drinks from the “health drink” category. Furthermore, Bournvita reformulated its product, reducing the sugar content by 14.4%.

A Missed Opportunity?

While Bournvita eventually addressed the concerns, the initial defensive approach might have been a missed opportunity. Embracing transparency and opening a dialogue with the influencer and the public could have fostered trust and mitigated the damage. This incident highlights the importance of open communication and collaboration between brands and influencer activists to create positive change.

Insights for the Future: Lessons Learned
  • Transparency is Key: Consumers value honest communication. Bournvita’s initial defensive approach backfired. Open communication and addressing valid concerns are crucial.
  • Influencer Power: Influencers can significantly impact brand image. Brands need to be prepared to navigate influencer criticism and engage in constructive dialogue.
  • Regulatory Landscape: Stricter regulations for food labelling and marketing might be on the horizon. Brands need to adapt to evolving regulations and consumer expectations.
  • Proactive Approach: Instead of reacting to criticism, brands can proactively address potential concerns through responsible marketing practices and transparent ingredient labelling.

So, Big Brands Beware ! Large companies with established market share can’t afford to be complacent about their brand image. Consumer sentiment can shift quickly, and brand advocacy can easily turn into criticism. Social media empowers consumers to hold brands accountable, so commitment to ethical practices and responsiveness to concerns are crucial for lasting success.

Also, Influencers’ misinformation can misfire as well ! With readily available information at everyone’s fingertips, influencers have a responsibility to be well-informed. Vague statements and unfounded claims can quickly erode follower trust. Conducting thorough research before promoting a cause or product builds credibility and fosters a more responsible online environment.

We are always on the side of Gr8 and white marketing practices. Are you with us? For more such articles, stay tuned to your Brewing Partner!