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Instagram influencers are often white and lead to brand criticism

Soma-influencer event.

Tracey Caruthers, The Trace Media

Last week, a clothing chain called Altar & d State released a "blogger adventure" in Denver with a group of Instagram influencers. The flowing sweaters of the brand out of faith, the skinny jeans and the snakeskin imitation boots.

The colors of the sweaters were different. But as far as the clothing models are concerned, things looked pretty boring. With the exception of a brunette, each of the influencers ̵

1; or users who work with brands to promote services or products – was blonde.

When the brand started posting about the journey, the reaction was quick.

"Something is missing in this photo," commented a commentator. "Diversity, did you hear about that?"

An Instagram post from the clothing brand Altar & # 39; d State.

Megan Graham

Another wrote: "Why is your Instagram account just a thin white woman? It's 2019. There are many more different girls to see, I like your stuff, but that's not it I wish there was more variety in your marketing. "

The Tennessee-based brand, with approximately 300,000 followers, has not responded to multiple requests for comments from CNBC on its Instagram page. But it responded to several comments in his Instagram posts that the company hoped this would be the first of many influencer events and wanted to hear from its commentators who influenced them to make sure we reach everyone, the one giving heart and one have an open ear beautiful soul. "

Altar & # 39; d State points to a larger trend in which big and small brands are addressed on social media – especially on Instagram – because they do not take into account the diversity of their influencers, especially in the" Influencer Trips " Take groups of individuals on vacation to sell their goods on a faraway beach or to pose in their clothes at a campsite.

And this type of content may soon become more visible than ever when Instagram is on Facebook A change that allows advertisers to promote posts from influencers, which extends the reach of those "branded" posts that are not just an influencer's followers.

Meanwhile, marketing dollars are taking new heights for influencers According to a recent report by Cheq, a cybersecurity company focusing on the field of digital security With global media, global influencer marketing is projected to reach $ 8.5 billion this year. But advocates of diversity and other observers question both the social and business consequences of hiring only thin, white, able-bodied, influential people. As some brands continue to appeal to people with the same looks, some customers are warning that they are less interested in buying from companies that do not seem to be interested in diversity.

Blogger Stephanie Yeboah wrote for Metro UK earlier this year about the "obvious absence and lack of women with color" in the Influencer Agency space.

"Using only white influencers to promote holiday experiences, beauty and skin care products, and fashion pieces tells the story that these experiences are only available to white people," she wrote. "Only white women use luxury skincare, only white, slim women go on vacation, only white women wear fashion pieces from a particular brand, they need to stop."

Lose Patience

Earlier this summer in Washington, DC Influencer and blogger Alicia Tenise Chew has posted a tweet.

"Black influencers are seldom invited to influencer trips," she wrote on June 20. "I started to take screenshots of every press trip I saw last month, and the lack of variety is so annoying (but not surprising)."

Four photos attached to the tweet featured groups of women representing a variety of brands, including clothing retailer Sail to Sable, shoe company Jack Rogers, furniture and decorating company Serena & Lily, a tourism group for Napa Valley as well as apparel and accessories brand Amaryllis Apparel.

The vast majority of women in the photos seemed to be white.

Amaryllis Apparel and Jack Rogers did not respond to a request for comment, and Sail to Sable made no comment at the time of going to press. Visit Napa Valley and Serena & Lily said in a statement that organizations value inclusiveness and "invite and engage influencers from all walks of life".

Tenise continued in another tweet that her missiv was not meant to attack influencers these trips, but a message to the companies that host them and invite the influencers.

"Black households have billions of purchasing power," she wrote. "And you ignore the market."

Tenise referred to a Nielsen report stating that while African Americans make up 14% of the US population, they make purchases totaling about $ 1.2 trillion annually. Make dollars. Nevertheless, she told CNBC in an interview that many brands do not think about including people with color in their events and influencer trips as they should.

Tenise sees some reasons for this. She said that marketing firms she interacts with tend to see higher positions, mostly occupied by white women. Colored people often do not play these roles and have no say, she said. The people in control of influencer campaigns are well-intentioned, but do not realize that they have prejudices, she said.

Ryan Berger, partner in the influencer marketing platform Hypr, said that when it comes to getting influencers to work, brands are still very much focused on the number of followers of an influencer, as well as on engagement and engagement how much you & # 39; I will post on behalf of the brand.

His company, which runs a data platform on influencers for brands and agencies, usually advises that a company finds micro-influencers that can serve as a basis to add one or two "big names", then add one or two "Amplifiers", which have much fewer fans, but have an audience that is excited about a particular topic.

Sail from June to the Sable-Influencer journey.

Megan Graham [19659003] Maya Kelley, an influencer, who has also seen a PR agency that has worked diligently in influencer marketing. Kelley would help brands fill influencer trips, such as launching a new product and speaking out. She recalls a trip in which a client mentioned she wanted diversity, and Kelley said she had carefully selected a group of 20 influencers with different backgrounds who also fulfilled the client's goals. Kelley did not name the company because it signed a confidentiality agreement.

She said that in the end, the client occupied white men and women with a Diversity Pick of an Asian woman. She does not think that's all made aware, she said.

"I think there is a certain kind of" model minority "," she said. "Maybe the customer wanted to tick a box … That's not really true, it's a box … so there's no pushback."

Kelley said she feels some brands are starting to make progress. For the moment, she said some of the employees feel "a little forced" about the way this particular influencer is portrayed or portrayed, or they may have lighter skin or racially ambiguous features.

Tenise also said that brands are predominantly people who represent a Western beauty standard, meaning they have lighter skin and are no heavier than four or six. But of course the reality goes beyond this aesthetic.

"I have a darker skin," she said. "If I'm not realistic about how the garment is worn on someone of my skin type, sometimes I just do not buy it."

Some brands are becoming more aware of this, she said. For example, with Madewell, buyers can search for an item in various sizes. This is a game changer for Tenise.

"I'm a size six, I can see a size six, I love it," she said. "I can see myself in this product, myself and my curves."

Tenise said she has stopped shopping at some retailers who are not trying to be inclusive.

Kelley said other consumers are coming too. [19659002] "As long as consumers get brands to engage more people with different backgrounds in their press trips, I think this will be slow," Kelley said. "People are louder when brands drop baseline lines with limited color gamut, people are more aware of that, and that's a good thing, the brands have no choice but to make real changes and not just pay lip service."

Katie Boué, who calls herself an outdoor lawyer and freelance writer, expresses her enthusiasm every time she is invited to a media trip, but also asks who else is on the list. She said that she was once invited by a brand on a journey and, since she was Cuban and Queer, she had checked her Diversity Box. She did not call the brand to maintain professional relationships.

Although she is Cuban and weird, "there's nothing about me that looks different in any way, shape, or shape," she said. Instead, she sent them a varied list of people who could take their place. The company chose none of them, she said.

That is, Boué said she sees a change.

A photo of REI's Instagram page.

Megan Graham

"I think the outdoor industry is really on the rise," she said. "Much of it is driven by consumer market research, [which is] showing people over the next 20 years that the population of people who spend money on outdoor equipment will not be whites, but will be diverse." 19659002] A forecast by the Federation of the Outdoor Industry a few years ago, for example, has identified the rapid growth in the population of the US Hispanic community and found that the population has a strong influence on mainstream culture] The sports business REI, for example "has received the critique brilliantly" and "heard where it had blind spots" and then "reacted in a way that is not just symbolic," she said. She said the brand is now picking variety in color, body shape, gender, ability and more. Boué has worked with REI as a model and author.

"You are definitely a role model for the industry," she said.

Acting Correctly

Arshia Moorjani, author of beauty content and entrepreneur, has hundreds of thousands of supporters on various social platforms. Diversity thinks of the Japanese beauty brand Shiseido in its influencer campaigns. She said she made a trip to Chile earlier this month to launch a new line with more shades for different skin tones.

"They had such a small shadow area in past product launches, but now they are expanding," she said. "They are starting to do justice to everyone."

Photo of a Shiseido trip.

Megan Graham

And earlier this month, underwear company Soma hosted their first influencer journey, not to an exotic beach, but to their Florida offices.

On a photo spread, the various influencers came together to talk to the company about new product launches, what they see and hear from their own audiences, and more.

Cristina Ceresoli, vice president of marketing, said Soma is trying to take age, style, style, ethnicity and other factors into account when selecting influencers to work with. It also examines an influencer's target group and chooses a mix of clients, business partners, nano-influencers and macro-influencers.

Soma has increased its influencer spending by 50% in 2019 compared to 2018, Ceresoli said.

"We would expect growth at this rate, or possibly even higher, by 2020," she said. "This is not an 'OK, we're on the way.'" We expect it to get bigger and bigger. "

This kind of marketing gives Soma a more direct line of how different audiences look at a product or what they're looking for.

"We know absolutely that if there is a social post or an influencer post that elicits strong response from influencer followers and / or customers, this is a strong directional signal that the product will be strong." said Ceresoli. "That's an absolute link."

Because brands quickly get an answer as to product contributions or the impact of social media in general: "They have an immediate feedback loop."

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