Like eating soup with chopsticks – the Ministry of Finance’s misguided influencer campaign

After the government body got a public roasting for using lifestyle and beauty bloggers to promote its budget, Right Hook's Wesley Gunter argues marketers have finally lost the plot when it comes to employing social media influencers

I’m sure you’ve read the news lately about the brilliant marketing strategy taken by Singapore’s Ministry of Finance to promote the country’s upcoming budget.

Firstly, this article is not meant to slam bloggers. As a marketer and owner of an agency, I work with them on a regular basis to promote my clients.

However, using fashion and lifestyle bloggers to promote a financial product to the masses is tantamount to eating soup with chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant. Just because everyone in the room thinks chopsticks is an effective tool, it’s not necessarily gonna work.

There are just so many things I want to rant about regarding this whole scenario from society at large to just how stupid it sounds but I’m going to just speak from a marketing viewpoint and silently scream to myself.

The numbers game

One of my greatest pet peeves about how marketing and public relations has evolved is how everybody loves pegging it to numbers and statistics. Not everything is an algorithm for Christ’s sakes. And PR is not sales.

You can’t just make a marketing decision based on numbers alone. Just because an ‘influencer’ has three million followers on her Instagram because she has silky smooth skin, she’s not going to be the best marketing tool for your product and audience.

As much as this may be common sense, many marketers have lost the plot and are sold just because of the number of likes and followers regardless of the influencer’s background and what they actually do.

Which brings me to my next point..

What’s the objective?

It’s not surprising that the majority of Singaporeans who eagerly anticipate what the government will roll out every year with the budget are above 30.

If you’ve got surmounting bills to pay, mouths to feed and probably an ageing parent with some illness to look after while earning a meagre salary, you’re going to take every bit of charity you can get. The budget is not just ‘freebies’ to some, it’s a matter of survival.

Now let’s shift focus to our adorable youth. The ‘disruptors’ of our society who wouldn’t bat an eyelid when it comes to splurging on that fancy meal or just going on a ‘sabbatical’ to ‘discover themselves’ in some far-flung destination.

This is of course a generalisation of our ‘spoilt’ youth as branded by the older Singaporeans which is far from the truth. But by looking at the ‘influencers’ selected by MOF they tend to fall into this ‘fluff’ category.

I’m sure there are many younger Singaporeans who depend on the budget to get by. It’s a shame that the ‘influencers’ used by MOF don’t seem to be a good representation of what younger Singaporeans would want from a government initiative.

Do you know what you’re selling?

So we covered the problem with using a wrong marketing tool for a wrong audience. Now let’s talk about the human element here.

If you wanted to sell nail polish to a bunch of teenagers, would you use 45-year-old retiree with a pot belly to do the job? Of course you wouldn’t. So why would you get a bunch of happy-go-lucky millennials, who spend their time eating at fancy restaurants and wearing little clothes, to have something useful to say about a financial product – one even the people that came up with the budget have trouble explaining.

I am all for ‘dumbing’ down something to make it understandable to your Average Joe. But how can you get someone that doesn’t even understand the fundamentals of your product to explain it to the masses? That’s like getting a guy in China who just learned the English language for the past year to teach a classroom of foreigners modern literature. Bottomline: No one is going to learn jack shit.

So in a nutshell the problem doesn’t lie with bloggers but the medium used.

It’s honestly pretty appalling to me how such a huge government body which is the authority on everything to do with money in this country can be so clueless when it comes to marketing their own product..

I’m sure the Ministry of Finance has enough budget in their coffers to hire a decent marketing and PR agency no?

Wesley Gunter is the owner and PR Director of Right Hook Communications. This article was first published on LinkedIn and reprinted with permission. 


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