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Attractiveness, Trustworthiness And Expertise – Social Influencers’ Winning Formula?

Klaus-Peter Wiedmann, Walter von Mettenheim

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Purpose The importance of influencer marketing is constantly growing. However, little empirical research has examined influencers’ success requirements. This study aims to fill this gap by exploring whether the requirements of influencers’ attractiveness, expertise and trustworthiness are relevant for online influencer campaigns. An entry-level luxury fashion brand is the focus of the experiment. Design/methodology/approach A total of 288 participants completed an online survey evaluating the profiles of influencers who varied in terms of the three abovementioned requirements. The impacts of these requirements on brand image, brand satisfaction and brand trust as well as purchase intention and price premium were tested via structural equation modeling. Findings The results show that the most important requirement is trustworthiness, followed by attractiveness; surprisingly, the relevance of expertise is virtually nil. Research limitations/implications To date, practitioners are still struggling with the success requirements of influencer marketing. They have focused on traditional advertising models and numeric requirements such as the amount of followers. However, regarding merely these requirements can result in wrong decisions. Considering the two requirements, attractiveness and trustworthiness, in a stronger way can provide a remedy to this struggle. In future research, the relevance of the requirements in different involvement conditions and for non-attractiveness-related products might be investigated. Originality/value To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is one of the first to explore the success requirements that are directly related to influencers (e.g. attractiveness) rather than numeric requirements of their profiles (e.g. page rank) and the impacts of those requirements on brand image, brand satisfaction and brand trust as well as purchase intention and price premium. It adapts the Source-Credibility Model for influencers and shows that its requirements interact in a unique way that is counterintuitive and different from other endorser types such as celebrities or salespersons.