Influencers Smoked Out Over Nicotine Products

Influencer marketing has grown in its importance, not least because of its strong peer-to-peer element, which is designed to harness the reality that people will trust what their friends say about a product or service more than a celebrity who is paid to endorse it.

However, when using methods such as student influencer marketing, it is important to consider whether the method of delivering the message is in line with the product and the potential customers it is aiming at, as well as what it says about the influencers who choose to endorse it.

This is certainly true when the product itself may be controversial. This week, British American Tobacco (BAT) was in the firing line over its use of young influencers to promote Velo, a new brand of flavoured nicotine pouches.

Among the 26 influencers involved was DJ GW Harrison, rappy Bru-C, former Made In Chelsea star Alex Mytton and racing driver Archie Hamilton. Between them, the 26 have 2.2 million followers, mostly young people.

All this can be considered in the context that tobacco companies have always sought to get people to start smoking young, so they can become lifelong customers for the addictive products. In the past this has led to curbs on advertising that could be seen by children, such as on billboards, on TV or in sport.

Earlier this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that BAT had also been recruiting influencers for similar purposes in other countries, ranging from Sweden and Spain to Pakistan.

Last week, law firm Walker Morris listed a range of considerations those thinking of hiring influencers should take into account. Among these was how to choose them wisely, since there are individuals whose behaviour could be damaging to the brand.

Ironically, the example they quoted was of an influencer smoking while promoting a teeth-whitening product. But when choosing influencers, it is always worth considering whether the kind of products they might have previously endorsed could be out of step with your brand and its values.  

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