Influencer Marketing: Does It Work In Malaysia?

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Influencer Marketing: Does It Work In Malaysia?

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“It is the way of the future. There’s no doubt about it – it’s here to stay for a long time.” –Cassidy La Creme, recording artist, host, and YouTuber

Australian-born Malaysia-based social media influencer Cassidy la Creme made that confident statement in an interview in the POPCON office, minutes after a successful corporate meet-up session had been held in which she was featured as a speaker.

Let’s travel back in time for a brief moment to 10 years ago. Traditional marketing strategies were flourishing––loud, colourful, and flashy advertisements were seen and heard through television and radio; a large portion were printed on newspapers as well.

People were attentive to these channels as it was the only thing they knew and were familiar with. That’s why the advertisements were so effective in the first place. The public saw them, were influenced by them, and bought or used those products or services. It was a simple cycle that worked, and brands saw no need to change their strategies.

But times have changed. Social media has solidified itself as a necessity in our lives, creating a dependence on our computers and phones. We take in everything from 15-second videos to 2 hour-long movies on those devices.

Traditional marketing strategies are failing to catch audience’s attention. We’re more distrusting of information presented to us and start to turn a blind eye to lifeless advertisements that have begun to lose their credibility. They’re seen as just another ploy for brands to turn a profit.

Enter Influencer Marketing.

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“We can be seen as ‘a little crazy’ but keep in mind that we’re still business people.” –Cassidy La Creme

An influencer is a person who has the skills and capabilities to change or influence the public’s perception on something, mostly accomplished through social media. Influencer marketing, therefore, is a strategy involving the use of influencers to promote or market a brand.

By no means is influencer marketing a new phenomena. It’s been around for a long time, but only now are marketers recognising its full potential and a viable alternative to expensive and increasingly ineffective marketing strategies.

As mentioned previously, the public has become desensitised to traditional marketing strategies. Television ads are more entertaining than convincing. Celebrity endorsements occur because they’re paid to do so, not because they actually enjoy the product. Banner ads have become a nuisance; splash ads are unendurable. People ignore them instead of getting interested.

Influencer marketing, on the other hand, breaks all those barriers.

The main reason for that is influencers are human beings, and they present themselves as human beings. The public is looking for authenticity in today’s untrustworthy world, and influencers are giving them just that. Influencers establish a genuine connection with their followers, communicating with them like how a friend would. In return, that’s what gets them high engagement rates on their social media platforms.

Influencers are generating an image of integrity for themselves. In a marketing perspective, this means that when they promote a product, their followers are much more likely to trust their words and purchase that product. Studies have shown that 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations before making their decisions. (1)

Mistakes That Brands Make.

Essentially, what marketers are trying to do with influencer marketing is to use the influencers’ reach to advertise their products and increase brand awareness. However, some brands go about doing it without fully understanding influencer marketing.

1. Brands assume that the larger the social media following, the greater the marketing and branding reach.

Micro-influencers (influencers with around 4000-5000 followers) are proven to have a greater rate of engagement with their followers, whereas macro-influencers (influencers with millions of followers) might not be able to say the same. When an influencer grows too popular, people start to see them as a celebrity instead of a friend, often distancing them as a result. On the other hand, micro-influencers tend to be more open with what they post. Their followers get to know them as relatable human beings. This helps to boost their credibility and increases their engagement rates.

Influence ≠ Popularity.

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“They (their followers) trust us because we’re still human to them.”  –Cassidy La Creme

2. Brands expect an instant, massive increase in sales after only one post an influencer does for the brand.

It’s not a one-and-done transaction––it’s an entire campaign that takes a lot more time, honesty, and trust compared to traditional marketing strategies. There is no guarantee that people will immediately purchase a product after seeing only one post about it.

In a case study Cassidy provided us, she brought up the red headscarf she’d worn on the day of the event. The brand that gave her the headscarves hadn’t even paid her to promote their products but instead, during their first encounter, focused on building a personal relationship with her. Cassidy was so pleased with the encounter as well as the products that she eventually promoted the brand because she genuinely wanted to. As time passed, Cassidy’s followers saw hundreds of continuous posts of her advertising the headscarves, recognised her honest love for it and trusted her choices, and started to support the brand themselves.

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“How you treat your influencer will determine the success of your campaign and the quality of work you receive.” – Cassidy La Creme

3. Brands fail to build good relationships with their influencers.

Don’t forget––influencers are business people. They have their own principles, and would be more willing to adapt their standpoints to the brand’s ideas if the brands are committed to building a long-term, sincere relationship with them. Take time to know the influencer. Of course, simply paying the influencer to do the brand’s promotional work is a practical alternative. However, influencer marketing is only effective if the influencer is advertising a product because they like the product and want to, not because they’re paid to do it.

People can tell the difference between sincerity and manufactured statements. Cassidy’s case study proves exactly this point.

The Current Situation in Malaysia.

Compared to other countries, Malaysia might be a little late to the influencer marketing game. In spite of that, we’re not letting it stop us. Brands are becoming more adventurous and starting to experiment with influencer marketing. They recognise that the market is shifting and that they have to change with it or they’ll be left behind.

There have been successful influencer marketing campaigns held in the past, namely Coca-Cola’s #PickYourTeam campaign launched in conjunction with 2018’s FIFA World Cup. Coca-Cola wanted to appeal to fans in order to promote their limited edition FIFA-themed Coca-Cola cans, and chose to do so through influencers from home. Familiar names that participated included Reuben Kang, Faiz Dickie, and MGAG. (2)

Here are photos of the posts by those influencers:

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Other well-known companies have also branched out from traditional marketing strategies such as billboards and commercials and are spending their advertising budget in influencer marketing. Examples include Nike, Maxis, and AirAsia.

According StarNgage, the local influencer market size is growing substantially and is now valued between RM 280.46 million and RM 560.91 million. (3)

This is uplifting news for not only brands, but for aspiring influencers in Malaysia that yearn to make their dream a feasible career. Malaysia, being a country that values tradition a great deal, still sees the career of an influencer as unconventional and experimental––some might even treat it with hostility. In spite of that, there are more and more influencers daring to stand out from the crowd and pave the way for change and growth in this country.

A new era is on the horizon.


1. Digital Marketing Institute. 20 Influencer Marketing Statistics That Will Surprise You. (n.d.)

2. Entrepreneur Campfire. Influencer Marketing In Malaysia: A Guide On How To Get Started With Tammy Lim From The Butterfly Project (2018)

3. The Malaysian Reserve. Rise of Social Media Influencers (2018)

By Ng Li Wei @ PopCon Fest

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