I understand, as a marketing student, the value of influencing people’s behaviour and therefore I know the value of opinion leaders for marketers. In addition, there is a huge opportunity for marketers to find new groups of customers by finding and then using opinion leaders. So a good marketer will search opinion leaders and marketers are obviously interested in trying to reach opinion leaders who are such influential people. Clever isn’t it?
However, even if it is an excellent way to market products it makes me wonder if it is unethical. I don’t want to seem naïve so I admit there is always something unethical about marketing in any case. Although using opinion leaders to market products is hard for me to accept from an ethical point of view. I think opinion leadership works usually the best in a group of young people because young people care about others’ opinions. And as we know, teenagers usually go for things that are mainstream. Therefore the people who marketers are “manipulating” are young and usually very insecure.
Opinion leaders are often charismatic people who could sell nearly anything to people. That’s why I’m worried. If opinion leaders can sell anything they can also sell stuff that isn’t good. Imagine for example a cool advert where a celebrity sells alcohol. Who looks up to celebrities? Especially young people. And what they might think when they see an advert like that? In the worst case scenario, they will think that they should drink because it’s cool. Now, are we on the same page?
Even though opinion leaders are not able to influence every single Homo Sapiens in the planet, there are always people who might not have their own opinions. In addition, if we want to act ethically right I think we shouldn’t try to influence people’s unconscious mind. Let people make up their own minds!