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EMAC 2023 Annual

How Can Brands Work with Influencers to Create Authentic Branded Content?

Published: May 24, 2023


Barbara Duffek, Imperial College Business School; Andreas Eisingerich, Imperial College Business School; Omar Merlo, Imperial College London; Guan Lee, Imperial College London, Unilever


This study explores influencer and brand authenticity, examining how consumers perceive branded content when either the brand or the influencer has a high or low degree of authenticity. The authors generate new theory on influencer marketing and offer managerial recommendations on how brands can work with influencers to create authentic branded content. We conducted exploratory in-depth interviews with consumers, influencers, brand managers, and intermediary agencies to triangulate how each group perceived the authenticity of influencers and their branded content. We define influencer authenticity and discuss how brands can leverage working with authentic and inauthentic influencers to build brand awareness, positive brand associations and engagement. We examine the tension between influencers’ and brands’ authenticity through principal-agent theory. We explore how intermediary agencies can be used to manage the tension of authenticity inherent in the influencer-brand relationship.