Transparency in an Influencer World

You’ve likely heard of the 6 key principles of persuasion that people respond to in human behaviour: Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus. All are used in Digital Marketing strategies and the ad industry as whole.

When you look at Influencer marketing, it taps into a unique space in the social ecosystem, using both ‘Authority’ and ‘Liking’ to drive a desirable outcome.

  • Authority = influencing others by the opinions of credible, knowledgeable experts
  • Liking = others tend to behave favourably towards people they like

Influencer Marketing is not new but has been catalyzed by the rise of social in recent years.

Lately you’ve witnessed the pure strength of influencers as shown in the popularized documentaries surrounding the Fyre Festival. A simple orange square yields enough power to generate massive amounts of virality with no shortage of reach, engagement and of course, revenue.

Fully tapping into the power of influencers is no easy task though. There is a right way to do influencer marketing, and a wrong way. The latter makes the brand come across what is best described in meme form of the pandering Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock:


It’s no argument that Influencer Marketing works and works extremely well. Digging deeper though, there can be serious consequences for advertisers and brands who fail to adequately disclose these relationships to consumers. I would like to focus more on the this here because a brand engaging in non-compliant influencer practices is much more detrimental than just being uncool.

The Canadian Competition Bureau have recently clarified how competition and advertising law in Canada applies to Social Media Marketing tactics in its latest volume of the Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest. Here is a checklist for both parties:

Canadian Advertisers – What do we need to know?
  • Advertisers/Brands may be liable for representations made through influencers, even if the advertisers/brand was not involved in the wording or format of the post
  • Ensure that influencers clearly disclose all material connections
  • Disclose material connections in each post
  • Ensure that the representations are not false or misleading
  • Verify that influencers aren’t making performance claims on your behalf, unless based on adequate and proper testing
Canadian Influencers – What do they need to know?
  • Ensure that disclosures are visible as possible towards to reader
  • Disclose material connections in each post
  • Use clear and contextually appropriate words and images
  • Ensure disclosures are inseparable from the content so they stay together when shared
  • Base all reviews and opinions on actual experience
  • Avoid ambiguous references and abbreviations, such as “Thank You Company X!” “Ambassador”, “Partner”, “Company X”, “SP” or “Spon”

It is important to get this right. The disclosure of material connections is not simply a consumer protection or law enforcement issue, it’s also the reputations of all parties involved. The modern-day savvy digital consumer will quickly abandon a brand trying to pull the wool over their eyes, so it is more important than ever to foster the kind of goodwill allowing the brand, advertiser, influencer AND consumer to win.