I really enjoyed hearing some great insights from a recent webinar organised byThe Business of Fashion on "The Influencer Economy", which explored the role of the "influencer" as social media evolves.
This is a massive consideration for many brands, particularly in a post-pandemic world. The role and importance of the influencer continues to grow and play an increasing role in the brand strategies of many of our clients. Gone are the days where consumers learned about brands from the brand owner themselves. Now consumers (or influencers) are key to telling the brand story, and their role in a brand's image can be pivotal. The influencer market is estimated to be worth around 22 billion dollars from next year, so this trend really isn't going anywhere. In addition, there's been a massive rise in, not only celebrities and well-known people beings 'suitable candidates' for brands when selecting their influencers. The changing landscape is seeing the power of, dare we say it, ordinary people with day jobs being able to garner large audiences and followings and therefore being the perfect candidate for brands. With credible and relatable stories that have that extra layer of authenticity, we're seeing a rise in the influencer who's main job isn't just to sell and influence! Brands are now shifting focus to partner with people who are aligned with their brand story instead of merely people who are famous for, well, being famous.
Choosing to advertise via an influencer is an incredibly strong consideration for most brands, where we see the importance of 'word of mouth', footfall or expensive marketing campaigns decline and the more focus being placed on selecting suitable influencers who are aligned with their brand story and can 'influence' on their behalf via social media. Marketing / PR / branding / performance budgets are being crunched across the board and it seems that THE dominant way of brand advertising is via the influencer. Exploring this way of marketing definitely is a key (and if not - why not) consideration for many brands!
Whilst there are many considerations for brand owners, how do influencers protect rights in, for example their name, when they become well-known in their own right? There are some very interesting considerations here from a trade mark perspective - particularly taking into account that case law suggests that they cannot rely on the UKIPO to catch bad faith applications of trade marks using their names without consent, at the examination stage (see: Appeal No. BL O/264/22 (Global Trade Mark Services Ltd - whereby it was held that the UKIPO was incorrect to refuse a number of trade mark applications on the basis that they contain the name of a famous person, and therefore had been filed in bad faith). The decision flagged here suggests that a key consideration for influencers / well known people may be to actively monitor the UK trade mark register and be ready to oppose any trade mark applications containing their name on the grounds of bad faith (N.B. that there are different considerations to be taken in the EU and wider afield).
It will be very interesting to see how the 'influencer economy' continues to evolve in the next five-ten years!
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