Hard to define an influencer

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Frame of Reference

In the following section, previous research regarding influencer marketing, millennials, and other relevant literature are presented, in order to understand how attitudes are affected. Followed by an investigation of several theories and a deeper description of ‘Elaboration Likelihood Model’ which will be used in this thesis to analyze the findings.

Influencer Marketing

There are various definitions of influencer marketing, for instance, “a type of marketing that focuses on using key leaders to drive a brand’s message to the larger market” (Byrne, Kearney & MacEvill, 2017, p.1). Li & Du (2011) also believe that an influencer is similar to an opinion leader, they define it as an influential person with a strong personal brand. Together with the two mentioned definitions, the authors believe that it could be specified even further to describe influencer marketing in an online environment. Therefore, in this thesis it will be defined as follows; influencer marketing uses a person who has built up a lot of followers on a social media platform such as Instagram or blogs. Furthermore, the person is also being seen as trustable and brands use this person to spread product- and brand awareness (De Veirman et al., 2017).
Previous research has shown that influencers are more likely to be seen as credible and trustworthy compared to a paid advertisement, due to that it fits with the other content on the platform (Abidin, 2016). The authenticity leads to lower resistance towards the message communicated (De Vries et al., 2012). The fact that consumers can choose which influencers to follow, they allow which influencers to influence them, and that the consumers trust their influencer and their opinion should be seen as relevant within the subject (Hsu, Chuan-Chuan Lin & Chiang, 2013). De Veirman et al. (2017) state that one major challenge for brands still is to identify and choose the right influencers. In comparison to direct marketing, influencer marketing uses the power of Word-of-Mouth (WOM) to market their products or services indirectly (De Veirman et al., 2017; Araujo, Neijens & Vliegenthart, 2017).
According to existing literature, Electronic-Word-of-Mouth (eWOM) has greater effects on consumer decision-making compared to traditional advertising (Goldsmith & Clark, 2018). Consumers have always valued other judgments higher than an advertiser and this is considered as one of the keys to influencer marketing (De Veirman et al., 2017). The difference between a celebrity and an influencer is that an influencer is more accessible but also much easier to relate to since the influencer often shares more of their personal life. This can be perceived as a personal relationship between the influencer and the follower and therefore, the follower is more likely to trust the influencer’s opinions (Abidin, 2016). Previous research presents that it is important that the influencer is both well-known but also appreciated by the audience in order to execute great campaigns (Amos, Holmes & Strutton, 2008).
De Veirman et al. (2017), have also shown that having more followers has a positive effect on the influencer, simply because in that case, they seem more popular. The same research tested the sensitivity of followers/ followees ratio when an influencer has a lot of followers but only follows a few. According to the result, this might have a negative impact if the influencer has a huge amount of followers but just a few followees (De Veirman et al., 2017). Another research has investigated the influencer’s role in public health. Recent research states that 32 % of participants get motivated and listen to advice for healthier food and 41% get motivated sometimes (Byrne et al., 2017). Even though most of the influencers do not have any dietitians’ education or certificate (Byrne et al., 2017). This shows that influencers have the power to influence other people with their content. Due to the increase of using influencers as a marketing tool, companies have understood this opportunity to market their brand and products to their desired target audience.

Millennials

This study will focus on millennials as the desired audience, due to their high involvement in the digital landscape. The millennial generation is the one after generation X and there are various definitions of specific dates to when the millennial generation is born (Lu, Bock & Joseph, 2013). However, the most common age span it belongs to refers to individuals born between the years of 1980-2000 (Lu et al., 2013). This generation who grew up in an environment, ingrained with social networking, such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, are known as digital natives. This generational segment is therefore heavily influenced by and reliant on the digital landscape, as well as the use of social media (Parment, 2008; Valentine & Powers, 2013). In comparison to the preceding generation X, millennials are more inclined to use their mobile to connect with brands and for social networking (Moore, 2012). Moreover, this generation has received extensive attention since it is a large and influential consumer segment with high purchasing power and large consumption (Bush, Martin & Bush, 2004; Cui, Trent, Sullivan & Matinu, 2003). Additionally, marketing to this generation creates a profitable opportunity for companies as they, in turn, can influence purchases of their friends (Lu et al., 2013).
People belonging to the millennial generation have been described as being highly educated, individual and mature with a technological understanding (Syrett & Lammiman, 2003). Moreover, previous research shows that the millennial consumer is more critical towards companies that are not environmental friendly (Lu et al., 2013; Muralidharan & Xue, 2016). Millennials tend to create brand loyalty when they have an emotional attachment and tend to act disloyal to brands that do not satisfy that need (Veloutsou & McAlonan, 2012). In comparison to other generations, millennials are said to be more organized and have a balance between life and work. Most of their purchases are made on clothes, jewelry, health and beauty products (Barbagallo, 2003). They are also interested in distinctive brands with traits similar to their own, to enhance their self-expression (Gupta, Brantley & Jackson, 2010). Besides, their need for uniqueness in purchase intentions, previous studies have shown that endorsement can be used as a marketing tool to attract millennials interests (Qian Ying Soh, Rezaei & Gu, 2017; Branigan & Mitsis, 2014). When companies use influencers as their marketing strategy, this could imply attitude changes among millennials.

Attitudes

Attitudes can be regarded as evaluations people hold about objects, people, and themselves. The evaluations can be formatted on various experiences such as behavioral, cognitive or affective and these can guide behavioral, cognitive or affective processes (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986). Attitudes also include the tendency of finding an object favorable or unfavorable (Smith, Brief & Stevens, 2008). Attitudes are formatted when an evaluation is assigned to an object and are part of the cognitive learning process when an individual gains experience with an attitude object, thereafter a belief about the object is made (Smith et al., 2008). The formation can also be affective and occurs with associations between objects and feelings, they are enhanced through repeated associations (Smith et al., 2008). Attitude change and persuasion have been studied by Petty and Cacioppo (1986) who state that motivation and ability are required to attend to persuasive agreements and process those (Smith et al., 2008). Depending on the motivation, information is processed either centrally or peripherally. Further research also states that attitudes are relatively resistant to change and a change in attitudes is more likely to occur when information is processed centrally (Smith et al., 2008).
An exploratory study on consumers’ attitudes toward relationship marketing and its influence showed that a majority had a positive attitude towards relationship marketing (Jones, Reynolds, Arnold, Gabler, Gillison & Landerm, 2015). The attitude is likely to impact consumer responses favorably when such marketing is used. Relationship marketing can be defined as every marketing activity that is directed to establish, develop and maintain relational exchanges, such as loyalty (Jones et al., 2015). Since influencer marketing also is regarded as relationship building, a connection can be noted between the two and that positive attitude affects influencer marketing as well. Furthermore, Duffett (2017) distributed a survey, examining the influence of social media marketing on consumers’ attitudes. The results of this study showed a positive attitude toward this marketing tool as well. As most influencer marketing is communicated via social media, this study shows that consumers at least hold a positive attitude towards the marketing tool.

Recommendations through Electronic Word of Mouth

Electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) correlates to influencer marketing and can have similar effects (Liu et al., 2015). Tiago and Veríssimo (2014), highlights eWOM as an important factor for the digital development and for companies to adapt to a higher digital presence. Recommendation and reviews lay as a ground for WOM and alongside with the technical developments eWOM arise (Hussain, Ahmed, Jafar, Rabnawaz, & Jianzhou, 2017). EWOM can be defined as communication directed to consumers via the Internet, along with product recommendations and reviews (Litvin, Goldsmith & Pan, 2008). Instead of face-to-face conversations (WOM), people now use recommendations from anonymous sources, eWOM (Heinonen, 2011). Consumers are able to read other unknown customers reviews and comments about products, even though they have never met each other (Tiago & Veríssimo, 2014). EWOM became a very popular strategy after the recession in 2008 (Kirtis & Karahan, 2011). New ways to communicate had been developed over the two last decades, consumers are now connected all the time. Both how consumer communicates and gathers information has been changed. EWOM allows consumers to gather information about products in different ways from different sources and companies have followed this trend and developed a more digital strategy (Hennig-Thurau, Malthouse, Friege, Gensler, Lobschat, Rangaswamy & Skiera, 2010).
Previous research has shown that WOM recommendation is more effective compared to other marketing strategies (Weiss, 2014), due to the high level of credibility (Kim, Kandampully & Bilgihan, 2018). Furthermore, other studies have also proved that consumers buying behavior gets more affected by other consumers rather than traditional marketing (Kempe, Kleinberg & Tardos, 2003). For 70% of customers, WOM is the most reliable and trustworthy type of advertising (Jabr & Zheng, 2014; Weiss, 2014). It is through existing literature known that people tend to be more doubtful towards eWOM since it is anonymous and therefore less credible (Heinonen, 2011; Cheung, Lou, Sia & Chen, 2009). Previous studies express that credibility is one of the most important keys when people adopt eWOM (Cheung et al., 2009). Since eWOM reach a wider audience researchers and marketers have been curious to understand the doubts of credibility (Xie, Miao, Kou, & Lee, 2011), and all the benefits are well known through previous research (Kim et al., 2018). Two other important benefits for eWOM is the fact that it excludes the limitations on time and location as it is online (Cheung et al., 2009).
On the other hand, Chu and Choi (2011) state that the ability to express opinions and share experiences on social media has reduced the anonymity and people, therefore, tend to see those expressions as more reliable. Jabr and Zheng (2014) found that reviews from opinion leaders improve sales. A trustable blogger, acting as an opinion leader to promote products or services, is a successful eWOM strategy (Hsu et al., 2013; Cheung et al., 2009). EWOM has been argued to be a part of influencer marketing, in terms of how influencers use their voice to spread information about a product or a brand with the purpose of affecting consumers buying behavior and attitudes (De Veirman et al., 2017). Earlier, eWOM has been thought to be non-paid ads independent of commercial influence, while influencer marketing is sponsored ads. Therefore, there are clear similarities but also obvious differences. Altogether, eWOM is a valuable marketing tool and especially in terms of marketing to millennials. Aquino (2012) states that recommendations and reviews are a large contributor required for millennials to make a purchase and highlights the importance of visual and contextual presentation of information, for millennials to process it intuitively.

1. Introduction
1.1 Background
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Purpose
1.4 Research question
2. Frame of Reference 
2.1 Influencer Marketing
2.2 Millennials
2.3 Attitudes
2.4 Recommendations through Electronic Word of Mouth
2.5 Trust and Credibility
2.6 Consumer Loyalty and Brand Loyalty
2.7 Elaboration Likelihood Model
2.8 ELM Connected to Influencer Marketing
3. Methodology 
3.1 Purpose of Research Strategy
3.2 Focus groups
3.3 Sampling
3.4 How Interview Questions Were Formulated
3.5 Influencers
3.6 Setup and Execution of focus groups
3.7 Data analysis
3.8 Ethics
3.9 Summary of Methods
4. Empirical Findings 
4.1 Findings from Interview guide
4.2 Hard to define an influencer
4.3 Trust and credibility
4.4 Gender differences among participants
4.5 Personal bond
4.6 Attitudes towards influencer marketing
5. Analysis 
5.1 Millennials and Influencer Marketing
5.2 Attitudes
5.3 Trust and Credibility
5.4 Loyalty
5.5 Elaboration Likelihood Model Applied
6. Conclusion 
7. Discussion
7.1 Theoretical implications
7.3 Limitations
7.4 Suggestions for future research
9. Appendices
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The Impact of Influencer Marketing on Consumers’ Attitudes

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