Purpose: This study examined how social media influencers create and leverage followers' attachment to deliver marketing messages by applying human brand theory and attachment theory. Design/methodology/approach: An online self-administered survey by 490 US adults who are Millennials (27–40) or Generation Z (18–26) in 2020 and currently following any specific social media influencer was conducted and analyzed. Findings: The results suggest that homophily, social presence and attractiveness create a greater attachment. Attachment enhances followers' loyalty to the influencer and advertising credibility and reduces their resistance to advertising, whereas it does not affect advertising perception. Research limitations/implications: This study suggests the significance of emotional bonding which explains the recent industry shifts targeting “micro-influencers” and long-term partnerships. The attachment to the influencer leads the followers to become loyal, credit marketing messages and lower the resistance without altering the perception as advertising. Originality/value: This study identifies how attachment affects the followers' perception and response to the marketing message delivered by the influencer while previous studies were limited to the formulation process of attachment.
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- Human brand
- Social media
- Social presence