Often it is not immediately clear to the viewer of this content that it is a sponsored message. To gain more clarity for the consumer, advertisement disclosures are often used nowadays. These are small texts under a post such as #ad (short for advertisement) or #sponsor. In addition to this fairly inconspicuous way of sponsoring, influencers can also choose to explicitly mention and explain what has been sponsored to the content. This is also known as emphasizing the justification of sponsorship. Content marketers can make smart use of this to create more credibility and involvement with the brand.
Persuasion Knowledge Model
Seeing advertisements on TV or advertisements on your socials are often experienced as irritating. You are aware of the fact that these advertisements and advertisements want to influence you and that creates resistance. For example, the Persuasion Knowledge Model (Friestad & Wright, 1994) states that when you are made aware that you are dealing with a persuasive intention, you can protect yourself against the temptation that is generated. Think of the temptation to buy a product. So if there is an advertisement disclosure or emphasis is placed on the justification of sponsorship in a sponsored message from an influencer, you would oppose the persuasive intent of this message according to the Persuasion Knowledge Model.
Explanation ensures credibility
Yet the opposite turns out to be true. Research by Boer (2020) shows that adding an advertisement disclosure has no negative effect on the attitude or purchase intention of consumers. So for content marketers, it makes no difference whether or not the influencer mentions that it is a sponsored message.
However, if we look at content that emphasizes the justification of sponsorship, where the influencer really explains what is sponsored about the content, we see a positive effect (Stubb, Nyström & Colliander, 2019). A major advantage of this way of sponsorship listing is that it increases the credibility of the influencer and the message the influencer conveys (Stubb, Nyström & Colliander, 2019). In addition, it provides a more positive image of the influencer compared to sponsored messages where only an advertisement disclosure is used (Stubb, Nyström & Colliander, 2019).
And it’s not just saying something is sponsored that makes consumers’ attitudes more positive. It also helps when influencers say that they give their honest opinion despite being sponsored (Hwang and Jeong, 2016). We can therefore say that honesty provides more credibility and a more positive attitude. This credibility and positive attitude towards the influencer and the message reflects on the product being promoted by the influencer. This has a positive effect on the brand that the influencer has paid for the content (Boer, 2020).
This all sounds quite theoretical, but in practice we also see that honesty about sponsored content really has a positive effect on the attitude and purchase intention of consumers. An example of this is this video by Bij Bonnie (Boncolor at the time). In this video she has a paid partnership with the supermarket chain Lidl. At the beginning of the video, she clearly mentions that the video is in collaboration with this company and that’s why she goes shopping there with her boyfriend. Besides that she mentions it in the video, the description of the video also states that it is a paid collaboration. So Bonnie is very open about the reason for the video here and this has a positive effect on her viewers.
Her viewers call her credible and appreciate her being so open about the collaboration. One viewer even says they want to go to Lidl after seeing this video. So in this practical example, you can clearly see the effect of a sponsorship listing that emphasizes the justification of the sponsorship.
An influencer’s credibility is more important than being aware of the persuasive intent of the message. Content marketers should therefore mainly focus on making sponsored messages appear credible and be transparent about this to the consumer. So a good way to do this is to communicate completely clearly to the consumer what is sponsored about the message and emphasize the justification of sponsorship. This way of sponsoring leads to a positive attitude and a higher purchase intention of the consumer. In short, honesty lasts the longest. Also in the influencer world.
Roos Hopman is a student of Communication and Information Sciences at Tilburg University. She wrote this article for the Content Marketing course, taught by Dr. Christine Liebrecht and Ini Duenbeeck.
Boer (2020), Why consumers buy products promoted by Instagram influencers – SWOCC
Friestad, M., & Wright, P. (1994). The persuasion knowledge model: How people cope with persuasion attempts. Journal of consumer research, 21(1), 1-31.
Hwang, Y., & Jeong, SH (2016). “This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own”: The effects of sponsorship disclosure on responses to sponsored blog posts. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 528-535.
Stubb, C., Nystrom, AG, & Colliander, J. (2019). influencer marketing. Journal of Communication Management.
Video At Bonnie (2019), https://youtu.be/eJIiwli63v4?t=114