Balloons in the Bedroom – A Commentary on Influencer Marketing

September 7th, 2018

I just read an article discussing Johnson & Johnson and content creator Scarlett Dixon’s Instagram post that is so clearly staged with a bottle of Listerine that it’s laughable. To the point that it makes you wonder if the bizarreness was intentional.

But why did it create an uproar? Well, with full makeup on, hair perfectly styled and heart balloons surrounding the bed, sitting atop a blanket that boasts a photo of herself, Scarlett is drinking a morning cup of coffee or tea with a strategically placed Listerine bottle on her nightstand and what appears to be a plate of tortillas made to look like pancakes (maybe they’re crepes?).

Do you keep mouthwash at your bedside and, if you do, where do you spit it out? Do you sleep with balloons surrounding your bed?  Maybe it was a birthday or early Valentine’s Day present.  Unfortunately for Scarlett, she’s received an insane amount of and, in some accounts, unacceptable criticism about her account and the staging of her posts.  But that begs the question: are the critics the target audience? Unless they are one of Scarlett’s (most likely) Gen Z/millennial female audience with an affinity for fashion – the answer is probably no.

Critic’s beef is that the situation portrayed is unrealistic. Influencer marketing is supposed to reflect how real people live and use certain products or services, and this is not how most people wake-up in the morning.

Yes, it can be difficult navigating a brand’s desire for obvious promotion of the product and the creator’s desire to provide their audience with content that is authentically them. If the audience feels “sold to” in every post, they may not engage with the content or they’ll click the ever-feared ‘unfollow’ button.

But wait a minute – what if Scarlett’s followers like the fanciful, creative and colorful photos on her account? What if that is why she has such a large following and her post featuring the Listerine bottle fits well with her other content and what her audience expects to see?

I decided to do my own research and scoured through Scarlett’s Instagram account. I will give her props – her photos are stunning and beautiful. It does look like she may even sleep with balloons surrounding the bed.  They’re even next to the bath.  So I am going to assume that Scarlett realizes that not every post reflects average, everyday experiences, but it does reflect her style which is incredibly important to bloggers and content creators.

So let’s let Scarlett be Scarlett and place any blame that we think should be had on the brand. But here again – Johnson & Johnson likely researched Scarlett before their agreement, and so would have been aware of her whimsical and sometimes not-so-practical imagery.

So, the next question is – are Scarlett’s followers Johnsons & Johnson consumers or desired consumers? If so, maybe they hit the mark and this fuss is a joke on the critics.

Yes, we have all seen those Instagram posts which are far from reality and intended to create a perception about a person, thing, place or idea. It may not be the best depiction of reality, which Instagram is becoming notorious for. But there is also an artistic element in showcasing an influencer’s brand – thus their alternative and sometimes more appreciated name – content creator.

Lessons learned from this recent uproar: maybe the first impression is incorrect and Johnson & Johnson / Scarlett London are not the losers here. Maybe they were smart in their partnership – just look at all the attention that resulted and the spiked engagement on that post.

I wish Scarlett well and say to all content creators – you do you.