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Lessons from the ‘catastrophically bad’ Singapore Ministry of Finance influencer campaign

Last January, Singapore’s Ministry of Finance (MOF) roped in 50 influencers to post about the annual national budget in an attempt at getting young people engaged.  This initiative which provoked a wave of negative feedback at the time, was the starting point for a debate on ‘Is there a place for influencers in finance marketing’  at the Mumbrella Asia Finance Marketing Summit.

On the panel were digital content creator Chelsea Teng – one of the influencers roped in by the MOF; The New Savvy CEO Anna Vanessa Haotanto; Ogilvy Asia-Pacific head of PR Andrew Thomas; Whalar Asia-Pacific CEO Matt Sutton and moderator Moore’s Lore Media founder Neal Moore.

The idea of roping in influencers who mostly operated in the beauty and fashion space, to start a discussion about the budget was held up as a an example of a very poor deployment of influencer marketing.

Teng confessed to being taken aback by the backlash, having opted in from a desire to branch beyond travel and lifestyle content. She said that she had followed an online brief from an agency with no real knowledge about the KPIs.   

Ogilvy’s Taylor said: “I imagine somebody decided: ‘Lets get young people to understand the budget.’ It’s an easy trap to fall into – they are a young demographic, homophily – birds of a feather flocking together – and so, ‘we will get like-minded people to talk to them’.

“But then, the audience doesn’t buy it, since it’s not the message they expect from a content creator, or from the MOF. So they immediately cut off. And are outraged that they are assumed to be so stupid.”

Describing the MOF budget campaign as “catastrophically bad from start to finish”, Whalar’s Sutton said: “The most important thing is authenticity. Here we had 50 very similar looking beauty and lifestyle influencers who had an audience who were interested in beauty and lifestyle products. 

“There was no narrative about needing or wanting to save. And bang out of nowhere there was a post about saving for the future. You need to matchmake very specifically to storytellers who can fulfil on the communication strategy.”

Haotanto whose firm specialises in content that simplifies the world of finance wondered why influencers who specialised in the sector had not been approached. She said: “It should not be about approaching just about any influencer with a lot of views, but which results in no change in mindset.”

The panel were in agreement that it made sense to meet and closely work with an influencer as opposed to the “Amazon style click to buy” systems that were growing in popularity.

Asked for advice on collaborating and working with influencers, Sutton said: “Select the influencers you are working with carefully for a deep strategic relationship and treat them as your neverending storyteller.”

Haotanto said: “You need to have a heart for the message – don’t be lazy.”

Thomas said: “Your influencer campaign is part of your brand expression and a relationship you are building Think about all the different aspects of that. And don’t be surprised when it doesn’t go the way you want it to go.”

Teng said: “I think it’s important to meet up with the client if timelines allow. So you align the campaign brief properly. And also make sure that the influencers have the right authenticity. There’s a lot of negativity about fake likes.”

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