Imagine the year is 2020. It’s difficult, we know, but stay with us.
You’re a week into lockdown 1.0, adapting to your new routine and taking each day as it comes. The banana bread is baked, your sweatpants are on and Tiger King is streaming on Netflix. You check your phone. Oh, look! Gal Gadot has posted a video to Instagram. What’s this? A bunch of celebrities awkwardly singing a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” from the comfort of their mortgage-free homes while the rest of us queue up at Lidl for non-existant loo roll? Hmmm. There’s something not quite right here.
The video would later be branded “tone deaf” and “out of touch”, angering the hordes of internet users experiencing job loss and insecurity. And who could blame them? A band of millionaires imagining a “world with no possessions” while people around the world suffered a social, health and economic crisis was not what they needed. It was this attitude of rejecting disingenuous media that would continue throughout the year.
The role of social media influencers evolved in 2020, becoming crucial to the fabric of society.
WGSN 2021 key trend report
This mindset, however, is no new development. Pre-pandemic, the spectacle of celebrities and influencers on social media had already reached a saturation point. Then, as the world changed, so too did people’s attitudes and belief systems. After the collective trauma of 2020, people have reassessed their values as they focus less on what they have and more on what they can learn. People are no longer interested in lusting over a glamorous life they will most likely never achieve. They crave the sharing of ideas, the rebutting of unrealistic expectations, and frank discussions about mental health and social injustice. They want transparency, authenticity and cold, hard truths.
Enter the “genuinfluencer”. The term was first coined by trend-forecasting agency WGSN as one of their key insights for 2021. Genuinfluencers are passionate thought leaders who are more interested in spreading information than promoting products. They are experts in their fields and dedicated advocates, raising awareness for particular social causes in order to educate and motivate their followers. The days of contrived product pushing have been eye-rolled into the past. These are the voices of Generation Z.
This new type of serious storytelling will naturally and seamlessly integrate with influencers’ everyday lifestyle content… and will feel less like advertising and more peer-to-peer driven, with a focus on lessons learned over likes.
WGSN 2021 key trend report
Gen-Z is already a consumer machine, with their spending estimated at close to $100 billion. They are radical about inclusivity, acceptance, and protest, and notoriously glued to their phones, with nearly half of them making purchase decisions based on influencer marketing. They champion racial equality, trans rights and body positivity, and are focused on making a positive impact rather than exclusivity or gatekeeping. Gen-Z want to learn, and they want to teach. The traditional influencer model appears untrustworthy to them and now, in the brave new world of 2021, they expect, nay demand, authentic content.
So how can brands and businesses utilise the power of this new marketing powerhouse? By finding an influencer where important issues are their main platform, you can align your brand message with them in an organic way. What are your core values? How do you want to make the world a better place? Genuinfluencers can share truths, demonstrate transparency and spark meaningful conversation among customers. This is a brand new form of storytelling that will fuse smoothly with the creators everyday content. It will appear less like advertising and more like communication between peers, where education comes first and sales follow.
With the arrival of the genuinfluencers comes a shift in the marketing industry. Insightful content is now king, with consumers expecting authenticity that adds value to their scrolling, rather than one-dimensional posts that serve only as life distractions. Consumers are choosing the brands they support based on their beliefs, and they want to know what you stand for. After all, if 2020 was the year the world changed, then 2021 is when it opens up.