The Influencer Tax
The world used to be so simple — which is actually true for once because in marketing everything really used to be better before, or easier anyway (more on that later, at least from the perspective of taxpayers). Essentially between 1950 and 2007 all that mattered for brands was to feature in the three national daily and weekly newspapers and to have an agency that made a good TV spot available in order to appear on the three or four relevant TV channels and somehow stick around there with the message.
Then along came the web and we know how the story goes. In summary: new gatekeeper, attention economics, voluntary consumption, algorithms. Suddenly it’s no longer all that easy to be heard, it’s actually quite tricky. More than anything social networks have turned the marketing of products into alchemy — marketing managers no longer have any idea of how to reach their target groups when these prefer to watch Pamela Reif or those Musical.ly sisters. This is no longer a problem though with a Social Tax.
A Social Tax is payable by companies that have become disconnected from their target group
Companies floundering in the confusion of the web no longer have any idea of how to reach their target group and so just pay a tax to become relevant again. Even if most of them don’t stay relevant for long! As with any tax, it has to be paid annually (or monthly) if it is to appear briefly a second time on an Instagram feed or in one of the many hype blogs that have long since become the “gatekeepers of cool”.
Social Tax is primarily to be marvelled at in the world of fashion when long-forgotten brands crawl out from the (now) South-East Asian warehouse and suddenly reappear on the social radar because a well-known person or a well-known company is cooperating with it. A few select people and even fewer select companies have not lost their connection with their target group: quite the opposite. They know how to post shareable posts, how to set hashtags correctly, comment back, use like for like, but of course first and foremost make such exciting stuff that their content actually wants to be seen.
The Social Tax should of course really be called the Abloh tax or the influencer tax because Virgil Abloh is currently the face of this phenomenon of enduring influence. Coming from the Kanye clique, he is currently monetising his sense for the zeitgeist like no one else. For Nike he makes shoes and an entire sports collection; for Ikea furniture, bags and carpets. For Rimowa suitcases for one reason or another. The guys from Dandy Diary have written an article about him that says it all (”Jeder mit jedem / “Everybody with everyone”).
Back to the business perspective. There are mega-influencers like Kanye West’s wife, along with her 19 identical-looking sisters, or that blonde Italian woman who writes about fashion; but much hotter from the perspective of marketing experts these days are the micro-influencers who primarily stand out for being less successful then their mega counterparts, which means the coverage-interaction ratio is better of course. This is not about bashing anyone because people should be able to earn money how they want. However because hate makes a better read, we stick to the characteristic dog-eat-dog mentality.
And turn it into a little intellectual game! Because even the tech giants of this world (Musk, Zuck, Bezos, Pichai, Evan Spiegel, specifically excluding Travis Kalanick but Satya Nadella instead) are influencers today as well. Take a hopeless company that no one believes in any more and that is essentially sleepwalking towards insolvency: so Nokia. If Elon Musk took over as CEO tomorrow, or even better Mark Zuckerberg (because of Connecting People and because Elon Musk already runs so many companies), the company would attract a number of very talented executives who know what’s what and could safely get involved enjoying a large vote of confidence.
But they also bring an alternative stream of public opinion with them, namely their own followers on Twitter, Linked-In, Facebook and Instagram.
The media can report what they want, rejoice or groan, criticise, analyse, decode. In the end with its CEO the company gets a mouthpiece and publicity that the media compete with (Twitter is Trump’s alternative stream of public opinion). This phenomenon is Social Tax, too. It has to be paid by all companies that do not have a charismatic tweeting CEO and cannot use social media beyond PR banter. Take Theranos for example. If Elizabeth Holmes had not withheld information and if she had been able to muster the above-mentioned alternative stream of public opinion, would her fall have been so hard? Would she have fallen at all? Or a counterexample: would Tesla still be around without Elon Musk? Would it be so valuable?
In “Purpose Tour” we wrote about strategy no longer being about finding the “why”, but about reinventing it. This article can be viewed as the second part of identifying the “why” more quickly and making yourself exempt from Social Tax.
child is a strategy consultancy in Frankfurt that solves key digitisation issues in corporations through radical simplification.
Say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org