Influencers’ smiles work regardless of product and message

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to examine how influencers’ visual content affects consumer attitudinal and behavioral responses to influencer advertising. The proposed model includes smile intensity of influencers as the independent variable, warmth and admiration as the mediators, and product category (Study 1) and orientation of advertising messages (self vs social, Study 2) as the moderators. Design/methodology/approach: Two experimental studies (Study 1 and 2) were conducted. A total of 337 online panelists were collected via Qualtrics in Study 1 and responses from 409 online panelists were collected via Qualtrics in Study 2. Findings: The results of two experimental studies showed that smiling influencers increased perceptions of warmth and feelings of admiration, thereby evoking positive consumer attitudes and behavioral intention. The strong positive impact of smiling on responses to influencer advertising was present regardless of product categories (Study 1) and the orientation of advertising messages (Study 2). Originality/value: This study empirically examined the role of visual content on consumers’ attitudinal, emotional, and behavioral responses to influencer advertising by adopting theoretical models in social psychology. This paper also provides strong managerial implications for marketers who seek the most effective strategies for leading consumers to evaluate influencers positively and ultimately, accepting marketing messages favorably.