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The Ethical Issues Steeped In Influencer Marketing

And everything that is wrong with self commodification

BY Beryl Karimi-La Patrona

Jan 03, 2023, 04:28 PM

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Influencer marketing has taken over and revolutionized the marketing world. Every brand has moved to social media marketing and while that has been great for people with a lot of followers it has pushed them past morally acceptable boundaries. 

They have to maintain relevance and numbers to get gigs and they have proven there aren't any lines they won't cross to get enough clout on social media. 

Commercializing Loss

Commercializing the faces of our children is a practice that is as old as time but now we commercialize them before they are born, while we are giving birth to them, and even when we lose them before we birth them, we see the loss as a money-making opportunity. 

Earlier in 2022, a Kenyan influencer struggling with pregnancy-related hypertension had to terminate a pregnancy in exchange for her life. 

Losing a baby is the sort of thing that drives most women to depression and you have to wonder if influencers are as human as the rest of us because this woman filmed the whole experience and shared it on social media with thousands of followers. 

The hospital she was in, and the gynecologist who was attending to her throughout her pregnancy, use influencers for marketing their business. Sometimes they go as far as staging fake birthing scenes with pregnant influencers and you have to wonder what ethics say about that.

What is acceptable and what is going too far to the point of downplaying the sacredness of creating life?

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Eric Omondi

In 2022, a few months after the experience that introduced miscarriages as a marketing gimmick, a renowned Kenyan comedian, Eric Omondi, filmed his girlfriend while she was actively going through one. I do not know what the end goal of this was but it was one of those things that weren't received well by the internet. Everyone thought his actions were in bad taste and rightfully so.

Working With Brands That Have Harmful Business Practices 

In 2018, Kenyan women came out in droves to talk about their "Always" experience. The hashtag #MyAlwaysExperienced caused the company a huge PR nightmare. It has never been forgotten until today because the substandard sanitary products they were allegedly shipping to Africa had been quite detrimental to the vaginal health of women. They had caused them burns and infections whose source they understood when people started speaking up.
Like any other company trying to survive a PR crisis, they invested in advertising and influencers to salvage the situation. Most of the influencers who took up the job to restore their image were women and they were women who were privy to the fact that these sanitary towels had caused women harm. That harm done to women was not as important as the cheques they cashed in for advertising. They even went as far as donating some of those pads to school-going children.

Balenciaga 

Towards the end of 2022, Balenciaga, an international brand, faced its PR nightmare because of a campaign promoting child pornography. They are canceled at the moment, yet another Kenyan influencer, Diana Marua, chose to wear their sweatshirt in one of her Instagram videos. When Kenyans on the internet came for her, she claimed ignorance.

While it may be true, we cannot ignore the fact that influencers everywhere across the world always put profits above ethics. Kim Kardashian, a mother of four, was working with Balenciaga before the scandal and she is yet to distance herself from them officially. I do not know how long it's going to take before she is spotted in one of their outfits again. 

Where do we draw the line between monetary gain and ethics? Is it fair to hold influencers accountable? Like many of us, they are just trying to make a living. I recognize that capitalism doesn't give us many choices in life, but does that mean it isn't possible to maintain ethics within a capitalistic society?
 
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