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How the boycott in Malaysia is impacting content creators

How the boycott in Malaysia is impacting content creators

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Influencers in Malaysia have been facing increased scrutiny in recent months and that has potentially created an issue where influencers feel less free to post how they really feel and express who they really are.

Earlier in March, Malaysia's minister of religious affairs Na'im Mokhtar reportedly advised social media personalities to use their influence for good and to avoid actions that could fuel prejudice.

The minister reportedly made the call following a viral video depicting social media influencer, Hafiz Mahamad, navigating crowds in an attempt to kiss the Hajar Aswad (black stone) during an Umrah trip. A month before, in February, government bodies pressed on the need for them to be mindful of what they say and do. Legal action has even been taken against some for posts.

In addition, the ongoing boycotts with brands such as McDonald's and Starbucks have severely impacted Malaysian consumers. This affects not just ad agencies in the country, but influencers who work with international brands as well. 

Don't miss: Ramadan ads in Malaysia muted due to geo-political tensions. How are ad agencies coping? 

According to celebrity influencer and entrepreneur Vivy Yusof, there has been a hesitancy from influencers and content creators in working with international brand projects given the Gaza-Israel and considering that Malaysia is so vocal and passionate about standing up for Palestinians.

Any KOL that is seen to be supporting any brand linked to the genocide even by an inch, will be dragged through the mud online.

“Some still do, ignoring the comments from netizens, and that is their prerogative and right,” she said.

Vivy added that the situation is also difficult for KOLs as working with brands is their source of income.

“The culture here is very polite. When the industry is so small, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes within the industry. We are all friends, which makes it that much harder to boycott certain brands so explicitly,” she added.

For Vivy, researching the brands that she works with has become more important than ever before. “Even if the brand is so amazing, I’ll need to know now who is benefitting from all these profits and what kinds of charities or associations the owners are linked to.”

Nonetheless, despite all the red tapes and boycotts, Vivydeems it still important to work with international brands should an influencer or content creator want to be seen on a global stage.

“Collaborations and partnerships are very important, but admittedly it has become more challenging now for KOLs and brands to associate with international brands that don’t align with their beliefs,” she added.

Nuffnang influencer Marbitter (Marham Yusof), who is a born-and-bred Malaysian lifestyle content creator and storyteller frequently creating content about food and cooking said that KOLs today are hesitant mainly because they are unsure of the brand's credibility; especially new brands or brands with no presence in Malaysia.

“Some could also be hesitant because they are unsure of the brand's status within the boycotted brands list. But most are also excited about this, especially considering how they can represent Malaysia in the global scene,” he said. As such, ensuring that the brand is not in the boycott list or has any affiliation is important to him.

If I can make sure that the brand is pro-Palestine, that would the best option for me.

“Personally, I prioritise opportunities that allow me to share my love for cooking, promote Malaysian culture, and bonus points if the project contributes to meaningful humanitarian initiatives,” he said. 

Working with Malaysian influencers

As a word of caution to brands Marbitter added that in light of the current global situation, brands need to take their stand and stick with their stance.

“If you are pro-Palestine, announce it and work with pro-Palestine KOLs. And vice versa. Just be true to yourself and your brand,” he said.

Marbitter then goes on to recommend brands to recognise each KOL's expertise based on their content and try to involve them in campaigns that resonate with their passions and values.

Let us be your partner instead of your hire.

"We have so much input, experience and suggestions to share especially when it comes to content style and audience," said Marbitter.

This is especially since 71% of consumers in Malaysia make purchases because of a celebrity or influencer's recommendation, according to's report on influencers and purchasing decisions. 

Some notable Malaysian influencers and celebrities with large influence include Khairul Aming, Siti Nurhaliza, Neelofa, Nora Danish and Wawa Zainal, added the report. 

Yusof adds that despite the tension around boycotts, it is still important to remember that many Malaysian KOLs are friendly, creative and welcoming to brands.

“As long as the brand shows good values, good products and would be even more helpful if founders come here to meet with the KOLs, Malaysians are always gracious to support good brands," said Yusof. 

"We also have an abundance of KOLs here, especially micro KOLs, some specialise in Instagram, some specialise in TikTok, so the choices brands have of collaborations are huge." 

Join us this coming 24 - 25 April for #Content360, a two-day extravaganza centered around four core thematic pillars: Explore with AI; Insight-powered strategies; Content as an experience; and Embrace the future. Immerse yourself in learning to curate content with creativity, critical thinking, and confidence with us at Content360!

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It's a woke world: How can brands manage brand image while taking a stand?
How are Ramadan campaigns doing in Indonesia this year? 
Faking death and kidnapping: Are influencers pushing marketing gimmics too far? 

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