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Influencers Must #BeTheChange

Over breakfast on Saturday, James and I chatted about Uber Eats and the recent statement by their spokesperson, saying it had “no plans to change its commission rate” to businesses during this time. I immediately deleted the app (#DeleteUberEats). However, since some further negative feedback from the restaurant industry, Uber has clearly retracted their stance (at least temporarily). My app, however, will remain deleted. 

The reason for this goes far deeper than the commission rates — there are far bigger issues at play below the surface. When do we say, “enough is enough”? Is it when a company uses complicated tax policies to avoid paying tax locally, stripping New Zealanders of their chance to receive the most our country can from taxpayer funds? Is it when they move their NZ HQ offshore? Is it when profits are taken offshore? Frankly, none of the above seem like the acts of a company looking to positively add to the New Zealand economy.

Overseas brands who have local franchises, who operate in New Zealand and employ significant number of staff here and who pay tax here are far more likely to add to our economy, al beit having profits to offshore. But, overseas companies who do none (or very few) of the above need more consumer scrutiny than ever before – and in particular, from local influencers who promote those businesses to the public. 

Social media plays a huge role in promoting businesses in NZ and influencers lead these campaigns to encourage consumers to buy products. Therefore, I have an ask of New Zealand influencers, before signing on for the next big brand campaign, ask these questions:  

  1. Is this company a NZ company? Often, it is easy to google a company and see if they have a “real” local ownership structure or if they are (for example) a listed company offshore. If you don’t know, ask and pending the answer, probe further.
  2. Does this company contribute to, or detract from, the New Zealand economy? That is, if they are a listed company offshore, where do they funnel their profits? Again, I suggest doing a quick ESG (environmental, social and governance) review of the business to understand their values if that is important to you and your brand.
  3. Are there local competitors in the market?  By promoting an offshore company above a NZ one, are you taking away market share from companies who employ staff here, pay tax here and use their profits to benefit our NZ economy? 

There are some simple things to understand when making decisions about who to promote. Take uber as an example – they’re listed on the NYSE. To enter a new market, Uber raise money and run aggressive campaigns upon entering the market to secure market share, taking away from the (often local) incumbent. Those incumbents often cannot afford to compete, in a race to zero, because they don’t have the deep pockets of offshore businesses. 

I would love to see New Zealand influencers take more responsibility in this space and start querying the promotions they take part in, rather than just accept the next pay cheque. It’s true we all play our role, that we must all #BeTheChange, but influencers play a real role in ensuring that local businesses get the platform they deserve. 

So, while I am all for robust competition and consumers having purchasing power, we cannot be on a race to zero. We must support our local businesses to ensure their financial sustainability, who then in turn support our local economy. 

We must be the change.