Chris Taylor, director of the beverage management program at the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership, said White Claw sales seemed to skyrocket overnight in the summer of 2019. I watched with awe.
As a new entrant to the relatively unknown hard seltzer category, this was completely unexpected and had virtually nothing to do with the company’s own marketing strategy. White Claw’s rapid success was almost entirely due to social media influencers.
“He came up with the slogan, ‘No law when you’re drinking Clowes,’ and that’s where it started,” said Taylor, an associate professor at Hilton College. “The last thing companies want is alcohol products related to breaking the law, but they are starting to sell out everywhere.”
Influencers with millions of followers flooded social media with the slogan and even adopted it on their T-shirts. It generated enthusiasm for a product that had never been on the beverage industry’s radar.
Taylor had never seen anything like it. Furthermore, there was no one else. He, along with his College of Hilton researchers Courtney Norris and Scott his Taylor Jr., set out to investigate and explain this new phenomenon they dubbed “rogue marketing.”
According to researchers, fraudulent marketing occurs when unrelated individuals create informal messages about a brand and post them on social media, which then go viral. The posts are not funded or endorsed by the company that owns the brand, but their word-of-mouth status provides free and unexpected advertising.
In a study published in the International Journal of Wine Business Research, the team surveyed 210 people and found that they could tell a big difference if the message they were seeing was from a company or an influencer. I could not do it. According to researchers, this means companies must consider deceptive marketing in their business strategies.
“I think this is something that companies really have to consider in their marketing plans,” says Taylor. “They need to monitor it and discuss how to counteract it if necessary.”
From 2018 to 2019, sales of low-alcohol, low-calorie hard seltzer increased nearly 200%, worth nearly $500 million. A major reason for its popularity at the time was that ready-to-drink cocktails offered greater convenience, allowing consumers the freedom to enjoy cocktails without being confined to a bar.
The influencer then ditched the slogan and saw a 1000% increase in sales in just a few months. Something outside the company was driving sales. Growth and profits were phenomenal, although not in the way the company had hoped.
“It was this little product that nobody thought anything about until all this deceptive marketing happened,” said Chris Taylor.”And they’re still here today.” From Shiner to Anheuser-Busch all producers he has five different brands of hard seltzer. It is now flooding the market. ”
Fraudulent marketing is also affecting the luxury car industry. Influencers on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram have made flashy cars part of their brands, but this is causing problems for companies that don’t target that audience.
“Ferrari have a lot of rules like when someone buys a car you can’t paint it, so it’s really a struggle,” said Taylor. “But these YouTubers and Instagrammers are wrapping cars with inappropriate markings and it really changes the way people see these brands.”
Taylor says it’s all about a company’s name and brand equity built over years through carefully cultivated messaging. Brand damage caused by uncontrollable external factors can cause irreparable damage to a company’s long-term bottom line, despite short-term gains.
The Hilton College team was the first to identify and investigate the fraudulent marketing phenomenon, but we believe this is just a framework for future research to truly understand its positive and negative impacts.
“We’ve only scratched the surface in this exploratory study,” said Taylor. “But with the proliferation of social media influencers, I believe this is indeed a global trend and will continue.”