Trends, news, and analysis: catch up on the week's biggest headlines with the Julius Works Blog's weekly roundup, your cheat sheet for staying in the know with influencer marketing.
News and Analysis
Kylie Jenner, a “World Record Egg,” and the frivolity of viral fame
Last weekend, Kylie Jenner lost the title of “Most Liked Photo on Instagram” to none other than… an egg.
The world_record_egg account was apparently created out of the blue by the "Egg Gang." No one knows if it’s satire, social commentary, or a genuine effort to launch something new (although they do have an online store with egg themed goodies). The account features a single post, an image of an egg captioned, “Let’s set a world record together and get the most liked post on Instagram. Beating the current world record held by Kylie Jenner (18 million)! We got this 🙌” Perhaps calling its conception immaculate is appropriate, as the post became so popular so quickly that it surpassed Kylie’s world record 18.2 million likes on a photo in just two days.
Kylie responded to her defeat at the hands of an anonymous egg with a video of herself cracking an egg over sizzling Los Angeles concrete. Check and mate, world_record_egg.
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Since Kylie took her crown as the queen of Instagram, she’s been besieged by memes, parodies, and more. Whether it was her controversial Pepsi ad or Forbes claiming her as a “self-made billionaire,” the zeitgeist did its best to dethrone her – but it was a simple egg that prevailed.
The Julius View
There are a number of perspectives one can take on the nature of social media influence, especially in 21st century Western society. Some see Kylie as the embodiment of all things wrong with the social media generation – the vanity, the vapidity, the absurdity. Others see her as a business-savvy and empowered woman who leveraged her influence into millions of dollars in endorsement deals, à la Paris Hilton.
No matter your view of Kylie Jenner, one thing is clear – of all the people or things that have tried to break her down or beat her at her own game, an egg was the one to do it. A picture of an egg from an anonymous account that started somewhere in the UK on a random Saturday night in January.
The dual nature of virality is such that anything popular on the internet is liable to be simultaneously admired and reviled. Consequently, even the most frivolous and inane forms of satire (like an egg) can meteorically rise above creative, well-thought-out content solely because it lampoons a popular thing. The “world_record_egg” tells the sisyphean story of clamoring for social media clout – you can push boundaries, be the best at your craft, or create the most unique content possible, and sometimes you’ll be beaten by a picture of an egg.
UK advertising watchdog cracks down on shady influencer sponsorships
According to Sky News, the Advertising Standards Authority has warned several hundred UK influencers about ad disclosure in their posts. Last year, the ASA announced it would begin contacting influencers who fail to disclose their sponsorships, in an effort to make the industry of influencer marketing more transparent and to hold influencers more accountable.
Last August, the UK Competitions and Markets Authority announced it would begin investigating influencer partnerships on the basis that an influencer’s partnerships were clearly defined and disclosed to their audience. Though the punishment for failure to disclose a partnership is still unclear (the FTC has already levied sanctions for failures to disclose, the ASA has yet to do so), that two separate government entities are exploring the issue speaks to a willingness to rein in misleading practices.
The Julius View:
When the FTC announced its disclosure guidelines in 2016, their warnings weren’t immediately heeded. However, when the FTC charged some leading brands for failure to disclose influencer promotions, the influencer marketing landscape was indelibly changed. Companies soon learned they could be threatened with legal action for failing to ensure their influencers disclosed sponsored partnerships.
Ultimately, both brands and their influencers are on the hook for transparency. As influencer marketing goes global, so too does its responsibilities. As the global economy becomes aware of the impact influencers can have on purchasing decisions, transparency is imperative to maintaining the momentum of the industry. Should social media users lose faith in an influencer’s authenticity, and their partnerships become opaque, the effectiveness of influencer marketing can be lost.
Gillette takes on “toxic masculinity” with a controversial commercial: The internet reacts
Earlier this week, Gillette published a short film entitled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” The commercial begins with several men, looking in a mirror as if to shave, while newsreels discussing bullying, sexual harassment, and toxic masculinity, play in the background. Then, a narrator declares, “Is this this the best a man can get? Is it?”
The commercial, via the narrator, unpacks a montage of vignettes displaying hyper-aggressive masculine behavior, like a boy being chased by bullies or a business executive “mansplaining” for a female colleague. The narrator lambasts the behaviors, proclaiming, “There’s no going back, because we believe in the best in men.”
After this point, several of the situations are shown being resolved by men holding other men accountable, and the ad even included clips of viral videos like a man breaking up a street fight and demanding both would-be combatants shake hands. The commercial endeavored to show that Gillette, a quintessentially masculine brand, is willing to take a stance on the current gender discourse regardless of any controversy it might create.
The Julius View
Following in Nike’s footsteps, Gillette boldly took a stance on a divisive and inherently political issue. Despite growing competition from companies like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s Razors, Gillette soldiers on. Perhaps they sought the boom in sales that Nike experienced after its controversial Kaepernick ad, or perhaps they genuinely felt compelled to take a stance even in the face of any negative press they might receive.
As Gillette’s ad renews an age-old debate about corporate social responsibility in the field of marketing and advertising, some think the ad fell flat despite its good intentions. Detractors cite the lack of positive responses, the predicted negative reactions notwithstanding.
Meanwhile, the battle lines have been drawn on Twitter. Influencers have taken to their feeds, some mocking the controversy, others stoking the flames. Here’s a few highlights:
The men who are losing their shit over this ad feel attacked precisely because they're the "bad guys" in the commercial. They know that, and we know that. But they still want us to have this debate on how masculinity is "under attack". No, assholes are under attack.#GilletteAd
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) January 16, 2019
I feel like the #GilletteAd having a commercial about "real men" and not having CQ doing the voice over is tone deaf and mentally unbalanced and makes them look like the exact thing they claim to be against.
— Colin Quinn (@iamcolinquinn) January 15, 2019
Well the backlash against @Gillette #GilletteAd isn't about men "proving their point" but men understanding that no matter how good they are, they'll still be called toxic for just being a man. And that's exactly what the feminist creator of the advert believes #Gillette
— Deepika Bhardwaj (@DeepikaBhardwaj) January 16, 2019
There’s no prescribed strategy for companies who feel compelled to take a stand. Success in this regard is dependent on a multitude of moving parts – market competition and segmentation, audience demographics, and more.
These factors are just as important as the delivery in determining success. It’s possible that Nike set a trend into motion with its seminal Kaepernick ad, and that we’ll see more ads like Gillette’s in the coming months and years. Success therefore hinges on whether consumers are willing to purchase from brands on the basis of a moral high ground, especially if they disagree, and how these morals are framed through their marketing strategies. One thing is sure: brands can use social media to effectively generate conversations.
What’s Trending This Week?
"Report: Amazon Offers Influencers Commissions up to 10 Percent" - Via Marketing Dive
"The Instagram-Husband Revolution" - Via The Atlantic
“Facebook’s Latest Stories Experiment Could Bring More People Together IRL” - Via Social Media Week