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How Indian brands are fueling the influencer marketing vehicle


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Influencer marketing has turned to be one of the hottest career trends amongst Indian youth lately

By Ritesh Dhawan

For over three decades, television has been the preferred vehicle for entertainment and communication for the Indian masses. With its humble beginning in the 80s all the way till 2010, television transformed the lives of Indian consumers as well as brands. For those who lived through that period will vouch for marquee brands that helped evolve a completely new way of consumerism, inconceivable in the print or the radio era before.

Post 2010 new-media (internet media) started to rise. Its growth in viewership and engagement shifted gears post 2015 in India with the telecom and data boom coupled with mass adoption of smartphones and affordable data leading India into a new era where television viewership started to decline, and a critical mass of Indian consumers started spending inordinately larger time on social media and video streaming platforms.

With its current contribution exceeding 30% of overall ad spends- digital media, has three key verticals – social media advertising, search and display advertising and digital inventory advertising. But unlike the non-interactive conventional media, the digital media thrives on interactivity, engagement and cognitive responses that have taken media planning to a different level altogether. Fact is social media advertising offers the best of all three characteristics and probably is the reason for its status “ultra” with advertisers across the spectrum.

But that’s on the vehicle growth lead by adoptions, there is another tectonic shift that is happening which is the shift in outlook towards typical / sponsored messaging.

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Digital viewers have a negative perception of sponsored messaging

Even in the TV era one would typically use ad breaks for quick convenience, attend calls between our favorite soap operas, cricket matches and others. However, the dumb box would not offer an escape from sponsored messaging. Resultant, the advertising community at large relied on making entertaining, stylised and excessively affable content for brands which were seen as “larger than life” or “creatively liberated”, plainly said far-fetched to keep us glued.

But all that is changing now! New-media consumers now have two very powerful options to filter / cancel sponsored messaging – “Skip and Scroll”. Going by common practice most sponsored messaging is cancelled in 5-6 seconds, unless forcefully played out by media platforms at an additional price. Irrespective, the engagement and response from these messages is highly questionable and is a cause of great concern for advertisers.

Brand experiment and evolve new-media for an effective cost model

Lately new-age brands have seen astonishing results by replacing the creatively liberated communication with real, testimonial based communication through individuals who are seen as sharing their opinions largely through social media. Across a few notable campaigns, not only did consumers respond by excessive engagement and adoption, but it also gave the brands a new lease by evolving a cost model that was disparate from the previous generation of advertisers.

The new-media and organic communication shifts the spend matrix to a more economical and effective model vis-à-vis conventional media. Mamaearth in our opinion is one such brand that has leveraged such communication to their advantage and created immense value for themselves. The Mamaearth case study has not only been acknowledged but also further propagated by several other brands who see the light with this new influencer marketing vehicle that we are speaking of.

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While most agencies and brands are focused on recreating their own ROI matrix, they missed out on one of the most significant aspects of marketing communication – creative control.

Influencer marketing, a panacea for skip and scroll phenomena

An average urban consumer is exposed to over 5,000 pieces of communication a day on new-media. Fact is, most consumers typically retain less than 1% of these. Thereby endorsing the repeat viewership offered by social media platforms. However, influencer marketing campaigns have seen higher adoption, engagement, response and action from the audience, getting the creative control back in the hands of the advertiser. We feel that this is just the beginning of a mega revolution that brands themselves are fueling and smartly creating avenues of customer touch point and promoting consumerism in an entirely different way. A way that is for affable, non-intrusive and acceptable to the new-media audience than those which we normally skip or scroll away from.

Compared to the global scenario, India is far behind on the value of industry as of now (Global – $8 billion / Indian – $133 million). We also believe that the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on new-media adoption has been one of the most significant reasons for this growth. Even more startling is the fact that there are only about 25,000 professional influencers in the country. Clearly this number is insufficient to reach a billion Indians.

High adoption by leading brands on content marketing/influencer marketing

Influencer marketing has turned to be one of the hottest career trends amongst Indian youth lately. We believe that one in every eight, urban youth in India, between the age groups of 18 – 28, want to become an internet influencer. At a parallel most brands in India are already involved in some form with the content economy through social media to ensure consumers at large receive adequate testimonials, opinions and experiences based on actual usage of their products and services. Unboxing videos, drive tests, comparisons, testimonials or DIY content creators and other influencers are taking the communication baton forward and how.

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A new revolution has begun and brands are fueling it in a bid to access the top slot in the collective consciousness of these modern times and this time the audience loves it even more.

The author is CEO of Views expressed are personal.

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Bellie Brown
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