Do Influencers Really Influence Motorcyclists? Part I

By: Syed Shiraz

When was the last time your initial, or even the final, decision of buying a particular motorcycle was influenced by a picture of that bike with a girl on it? I can almost hear all of you shouting “NEVER!” in chorus, and you’d be right. But what if I asked you if it’s a beautiful rear-three-quarters photograph, at a racetrack, and that female is wearing a backless top, revealed purposely by the completely-off jacket of her sponsored/borrowed one-piece leather race-suit? No? Still not tempting enough to leave everything and run to the showroom? Okay. But what if her facial expressions—whether she is looking at you sensuously, or purportedly experiencing an orgasm with her eyes closed—signify what an erotic experience that bike is? I guess your answer would still be in the negative, irrespective of your gender.

Unfortunately, a few bike and car manufacturers don’t agree. They are still falling for the obnoxious trend started not too long ago by the manufacturer of the world’s most unreliable motorcycles. You might have already read how this manufacturer’s PR team had blatantly, and unethically, lied about there being less number of bikes at the ride event of its all-new motorcycle back in 2016. If you remember, the PR team had invited fashion/lifestyle bloggers and photographers, gadget reviewers, Instagram celebs, and a few tow-truck drivers too, but not a decade-old motorcycle-only blog at the media ride. They still haven’t been able to provide us a test bike, which says a lot about their lack of confidence in what they had been touting as their best product yet.

By the way, the main perpetrator of this mayhem has joined the PR team of a Japanese motorcycle company, but, thankfully, the core Corporate Communications team (that puts such PR reps in place) of this manufacturer is not filled with blithering idiots who would agree to his self-serving shenanigans. Yes, I did say self-serving because the sole reason behind the chap’s promotion of influencers is that he is on the path of becoming one himself! The description on his Insta profile saying otherwise is just too predictable and fails to mask his ambitions.

It’s not that hard to see, really, that influencers don’t influence anyone. They may influence a few foolish PR and Corp. Comm. execs., but not the end user. In fact, at best, the end user is as much influenced by such influencers as a toddler by a condom advertisement.

However, you, dear reader, don’t have to take my word for it, as I am not a marketing expert. Elinor Cohen is one, and this is what she said recently on the subject:

It’s time to address the elephant in the room: Influencers don’t really influence anything or anyone!

But why is it important for you to know all this? Well, simply because the entire automotive industry, including us motoring journalists, is accountable to YOU, the reader. Therefore, you should know what really happens behind the scenes. You should know what delays us getting our hands on a test unit immediately after its launch. Moreover, it will help you in identifying the BIG difference between Journalism and Marketing. That difference, sadly, has been reduced to a blurry line, thanks to a few unscrupulous souls on both sides (PR as well as journos).

Therefore, let me take this opportunity to hammer the difference clearly in the thick skulls of a few PR and corp. comm. reps gone astray. Marketing is all about what you THINK of your product; journalism is all about what your product REALLY IS.

If you’ve made a fantastic product, you’ve got nothing to worry. But, even if your product is not that great, you should use the critical feedback from the independent assessors (read: “reviewers who know their job”) to improve your product – that’s what the secondary aim of a review is! The primary objective, of course, is, and will always remain, to bring the absolute truth about the vehicle out in front of the prospective buyer.

I reiterate: A media review is essentially a third-party (the company and customer are first and second parties, respectively) assessment of your product, and like all third-party verdicts, a media review is also ideally supposed to serve as the last word.

Of course, such PR and corp. comm. chaps already know that difference, and that’s precisely why they bring in the influencers who would only have good things to say about the product! But they don’t realize that this influencer bubble is temporary, and will burst sooner than they expect. And burst it will, because ALL such influencers, including the aforementioned model, know zilch about motorcycles. Don’t believe me? I wish I could post the screenshot here, but a little hardwork will enable you to find her brilliant answer to one of her followers, who, unlike the majority of her followers, committed the mistake of asking her about the motorcycle. His question was: How’s the braking? And her answer? It was: “That I can tell you only after I’ve ridden the bike on road; as of now I have ridden it only on the track!”

What’s even worse is the fact that she was invited to ride it on the first day with folks from category A media (electronic and print media)! All others got to ride the next day, and that too for a lesser duration. Is that her fault? Hell no! The manufacturer is to be blamed completely, period. Anyway, the consumer is not foolish and will know the truth eventually. THAT’s when the bubble will burst taking away all the perceived credibility of the influencers, along with the manufacturers’ too.

And that’s why I loved Cohen’s knockout punch, which, among other hard-hitting facts, was: “Influencers are all about follower numbers, while thought leaders are about expertise and knowledge”. In other words, she said that a company gets nothing by showcasing its product to thousands via an influencer. However, it stands to gain a lot if it gets independent experts to talk about its products. Now that should call for serious introspection for some people…

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