Marketing

A must-have strategy for marketers

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | Updated on May 30, 2019 Published on May 30, 2019

Emerging out of a cloud of distrust and scandals, influencer marketing is entering a golden age

China’s biggest open influencer marketing platform, ‘TopSocial’, recently announced its entry in the Indian market. The platform aims to organise the haphazardly growing industry in India just like it did in China.

In its home base, TopSocial organised the industry by classifying more than 50,000 influencers and celebrities’ data under 35 categories. In India, it aims to consolidate, evolve and organise the influencer marketing space by arranging data in terms of genres, geographies, platforms, core functions, and the like. Currently, it has three main categories and 19 sub-categories under which data of around 1,000 influencers and celebrities is classified. Yan Han, Chairperson, TopSocial India, says the potential is huge.

Emerging out of a cloud of distrust stemming from influencers not disclosing affiliations, and a host of other scandals, influencer marketing is now becoming a must-have strategy for marketers. It’s a $6-7 billion industry globally and some reports predict it will reach $10 billion by 2020. By all reckoning, influencer marketing is entering a golden era. Han says about 10 per cent of digital marketing budgets of international brands are dedicated to influencer marketing initiatives. “We expect 25 per cent of marketing budgets to be deployed over the next couple of years,” she adds.

TopSocial intends to capitalise on this booming market by working with brands through technology-driven solutions.

Sanjay Vasudeva, Founder and MD, BuzzOne, an influencer marketing platform, insists the genre is growing at a higher pace than the growth in digital ad spends. He attributes two reasons for this. “Increasingly, more and more brands and marketers are considering influencers a better option than paid ads on social media and allocating bigger budget spends towards engaging influencers.”

The new ad rules and policies by the likes of Facebook have also forced marketers to look at other avenues to save costs, he adds, with influencers turning out to be a good bet, giving the same if not better results in reaching out to the target audience.

Corporate buy-in

More and more corporates are buying into the influencer marketing approach as it addresses crucial challenges of reach and engagement. Take Spykar Lifestyles, which used influencers at the launch of a new category of denims called Spykar GymJns, a range of athleisure denims.

The aim was to reach many unique audiences not previously available to Spykar.

Using influencer marketing is an ideal way to reach the “consumer’s psyche and take the brand’s message forward,” says Sai Sangeeta Israni, GM, Marketing, Spykar Lifestyles Pvt Ltd. “Influencers are a huge asset as, through them, the message can reach a wide variety of consumers with their personal opinions adding to the richness of the content,” says Israni.

In the second phase of the campaign, Israni says influencers are helping demonstrate the product, and creating believability and taking the brand’s conversation forward.

Mahesh S Anand, President, Nippon Paint (India), Decorative Division, says the company recognises the strong impact influencers have on modern customers who largely comprise millennials. “Engaging social media influencers also works for us because unlike a typical media advertisement and celebrity campaigns, there is less or no cost involved,” he says.

To create awareness for its Nippon Paint PRO store, which provides end-to-end painting services, the company tied up with lifestyle and mommy bloggers. This, Anand says, led to increased awareness about the services “amongst our target audience and generated customer leads. We found that the key to a successful influencer marketing is to choose the right kind of influencer for a given product or service.”

Sunil Suresh, Chief Marketing and Strategy officer, Capillary Technologies, which caters to omni-channel engagement and commerce solutions, too, says the right influencer matters. “If they share values with the brand, the brand benefits by association. It often gives the brand much more credibility than just running an ad, talking about the benefits, on TV or other channels,” he adds.

Authenticity matters

Anand of Nippon says that authenticity is an important ingredient in the marketing mix. “We ensure that our influencer engagements don’t come across as mere ‘sell-offs’ and involve the influencers in the entire painting experience. So, while the aim here is a subtle brand endorsement, we also give influencers the liberty of curating their own content, and ensure that the post is a result of first-hand experience. This ensures that the impact is more organic and garners significant resonance among the audience.”

For consumer brands, influencer marketing makes sense. But what happens when you have to market an ingredient brand? Liva, from Birla Cellulose, a fabric product from Grasim Industries, faced a dilemma. “For an ingredient brand like Liva to place itself as a fashion authority was a little challenging. However, we could achieve this through social media,” says Rishi Sharma, AVP & Head, Digital Marketing, Liva, P&F Business, Grasim Industries

Livaeco, an eco-enhanced version of the original Liva fabric, was one of the biggest launches for the company. By associating with fashion bloggers, influencers and styling celebrities, Liva was able to secure a position as a thought leader in the industry.

Additionally, its association with FDCI, India’s leading fashion body, during its annual fashion week, further cemented the position.

To increase direct engagement with consumers, the brand recently held a mall activation, where a 27-foot fabric was installed, which appeared to be hanging mid-air. The same was promoted through social media to create viral content.

AI and more

Artificial Intelligence is changing the influencer marketing industryrelationship with corporates and brands. BuzzOne’s Vasudeva says that AI-powered influencer marketing platforms are now enabling brands “to gain insights to create tailored interactions with their target audience. It helps in interpreting trends and data; identifying influencers with brand affinity, higher engagement level, and ROI as compared to the number of followers, etc.”

Essentially, influencer marketing is no longer ‘fluff stuff’.

As Han of TopSocial India’s Han says, there are a lot of unexplored business avenues in India, “with the digital boom and penetration of internet-based services in the deepest parts of the country, influencer marketing will soon be used in Tier 2, 3 cities.”

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg, clearly.

Does it work in politics?

Can influencer marketing work in politics? During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, we did see a host of celebrities and social media influencers try and push one party or other. But it’s unlikely that they could have created as much impact as in the area of brand marketing. Here’s why:

1) Backlash: When it comes to politics, influencers can face a huge backlash and be trolled as passions run high. As Sanjay Mehta, joint CEO, Mirum India, points out, if a blogger or a celebrity tweets about a brand, at worst they would be met with indifference or be ignored. But here, in an ideology-driven setting, there could be vicious arguments that could actually backfire on the party.

2) Tonality and content: Language and content matter are two things that are suspect in the political arena. A lot of fake news has been called out and even well-known figures have got abusive.

3) Tough to measure: When it comes to brand marketing, there is no deadline, so campaigns are planned and impact could be over a long time, but in politics you are trying to influence a date-oriented event — the actual day of voting. So the tendency is to carpet-bomb and there is no way to measure what worked and what did not.

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Published on May 30, 2019
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