Can influencers still influence?

Taryn Malakou, Head of Clients at MullenLowe salt highlights the five principles of success brands should consider when looking to take a collaborative approach to advocacy.

Taryn Malakou

Head of Clients MullenLowe salt


Influencer marketing has become a dirty word. When you hear the word influencer, most of what springs to mind is everything from Love Island stars flogging teeth whitening products, questionable detox tea sponsorships, bots asking you to ‘DM to collab’, active wear pyramid schemes, and even snarky free-meal requests from influencers being plastered all over social by, rightly, disgruntled people in hospitality. 

The people have spoken, and they have had enough. Followers are increasingly calling out and cancelling influencers that sell-out. You only need to look the comments Maisie Williams received when she was announced as the new H&M Global Sustainability Ambassador despite fast-fashion brands coming under plenty of scrutiny for their social and environmental commitments and actions.  Or even the bevvy of influencers called out and cancelled for promoting travel to Dubai during the dark depths of COVID.

So, what’s a brand or a business to do? Particularly when at the heart of most purpose and sustainability briefs, there is a need to navigate complex, interrelated, connected issues that often require entire systems change. How do you truly engage people around these big ticket, all-encompassing issues through someone you have one engagement with for £400 a post? 

The answer is you don’t.

2020 taught us that social platforms have the power to drive meaningful change. But for brands and businesses, this sort of change at scale can only happen through partnerships and true advocacy.

You’ll know it when you see it. It’s when values align, influencers, experts, KOFs and NGOs passionately believe in what you are trying to do, and you’re both invested in each other beyond just the pay check. You’re in it for the long-haul as partners.  

Who better than someone who lives and breathes your target audience to help you translate your corporate commitments into something that resonates?

Taryn Malakou

A collaborative approach to advocacy

This coming together of brands and influencers is needed now more than ever if we’re to truly create meaningful change for society and our planet and help brands and businesses deliver on their commitments.

Who better than someone who lives and breathes your target audience to help you translate your corporate commitments into something that resonates? Not sure if those commitments and targets are meaningful in the first place? Pressure test them with an expert in their field, a true partner or NGO that will let you know when what you’re saying is really just table-stakes at the end of the day.

Done well, advocacy means engaging influencers, experts and KOFs early on in your strategic process to build trust, investment and frankly, better work. Good advocacy also means you re-engage them year on year as your purpose and sustainability commitments grow and evolve. Even through to working with them as a panel of expert advisors as one of our clients, Mondelez does with their Cocoa Sustainability Programme, Cocoa Life. 

If you can show you’re serious about the impact you want to make, and you’re open to hearing their feedback if they don’t think you’re doing enough, your advocates will stand with you in the face of any unwarranted scrutiny. They know who you are, and what you’ve been trying to achieve, rather than the fact that you’ve paid them for a post and then they never heard from you again, and then once your contract was up they just went in and deleted all the content anyway.  

Guest Author

Taryn Malakou

Head of Clients MullenLowe salt


Taryn specializes in brand purpose and sustainability at MullenLowe salt and has recently led work for PepsiCo, Mondelez, Unilever and Corona Beer in this space. Taryn thrives on helping brands find their purpose and defining how they can live and breathe it through social impact programmes and partnerships. Taryn is an advocate for the right combination of what a brand says and does as a way to truly mobilise and create a movement that galvanises their audiences to take action. An extended major in Marketing and a major in Sociology from the University of Sydney, Australia, makes her a true lover of behaviour change and a cracking consumer insight. She has also studied business, sociology and anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Related Tags