Study: Influencers’ Success Is Due To “Envy” & That’s Why It So Often Backfires

Study: Influencers’ Success Is Due To “Envy” & That’s Why It So Often Backfires
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A new report from Macquarie University has found that the key to many influencers’ success is “digital envy”.

The study (which you can read here) came with the rather long title of Effects of digital envy on brand word-of-mouth (WOM) and peer appraisal and was co-authored by Associate Professor Lawrence Ang at the department of marketing at Macquarie Business School.

In his pre-COVID research into social media envy, Ang found envy is key to influencer success, but harnessing the wrong type of envy can have a negative impact

“Whether influencers are still ‘influential’ will depend on the product category. If you are a travel influencer in the COVID-19 era, then you are in trouble. If an influencer is still seen to be travelling when no one else can, envy can quickly turn to shame,” Ang said.

“Envy can swing both ways and the effect of these different types of envy on the marketing of brands or products is stark. It works like this: If I like you and you like a certain beer, I will like that beer. Or vice-versa – hate the person, hate the beer.

“Change and controversy are crucial to their success. Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner are always in the news. They always have something new happening because change gets attention. They manufacture changes to draw us into their worlds, and their products. And the more controversial, and therefore noticeable, the better.

“One of the most-celebrated deals that reflected this new reality was the lifetime contract worth $US1 billion between Nike and Portuguese soccer superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, signed in 2016,” Ang said.

The report noted: “Envy is an emotion that follows upward social comparison. It occurs when a person covets but lacks what another possesses. Envy is now becoming prevalent on Facebook. A 2×2 experiment was conducted on the swimwear category.

“It found that the two types of envy (deserving and undeserving) and brand familiarity (known and unknown brands) have different outcomes for brand WOM, peer appraisal and intensity of the envy experienced. The deserving condition generates more positive brand WOM, peer appraisal and a higher intensity of envy than the undeserving condition. For brand WOM, the effects of a known brand is stronger.”

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influencers Macquarie University ssociate Professor Lawrence Ang

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