Influencer marketing: Social media influencers as human brands attaching to followers and yielding positive marketing results by fulfilling needs

Chung Wha ‘Chloe’ Ki, Leslie M. Cuevas, Sze Man Chong, Heejin Lim

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


While the literature related to this topic has predominantly focused on investigating the influence mechanism that social media influencers (SMIs) impose over their followers, less is known about their attachment mechanism. Given that social media platforms were originally designed to facilitate personal bonding and not product or brand recommendations, we posited that social media followers' emotional attachment to SMIs is an important precedent that affects the followers' behavioral inclination to accept the SMIs' endorsements. We thus drew new attention to the relationship between SMIs and their followers by focusing on their attachment development mechanism and its casual factors and effects. In doing so, Study 1 inductively analyzed the key causal factors, both with respect to SMI persona- and content-driven attributes, that make followers feel attached to SMIs. By integrating the findings of Study 1 with the human brand theory, Study 2 provided empirical evidence after analyzing 325 U.S. consumers' responses about how SMIs' personas (i.e., inspiration, enjoyability, and similarity) and content curation abilities (i.e., informativeness) affected followers to perceive the SMIs as human brands who fulfill their needs for ideality, relatedness, and competence—all of which resulted in an intense attachment to SMIs. It was this positive emotion shaped with SMIs that transferred to SMIs’ endorsements and positively influenced the followers to acquire the products/brands that the SMIs recommended.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102133
JournalJournal of Retailing and Consumer Services
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - May 2020


  • Attachment
  • Human brands
  • Influencer marketing
  • Instagram
  • Social media
  • Social media influencers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing

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