Unveil Your Brand and Come Alive with Influencer Marketing

.Audiences are now increasingly bent towards uninterrupted forms of advertising where push marketing is losing its essence as the potential customer feels forced by it, writes Dr Mafruza Sultana and Kritika Goel,


The world just witnessed how a simple gesture of Cristiano Ronaldo's setting aside a Coke bottle for pure drinking water brought down Coke's market value by 4 billion dollars. Welcome to the world of influencer marketing. You do not need to be a Ronaldo to be an influencer. A local or domain-specific opinion-makers can also be termed micro-influencer (with less than 100,000 followers).

We are observing many brand collaborations with influencers in the pandemic induced new normal when businesses are rewiring their strategies and the marketing budget is shrinking to rock-bottom. Production houses being badly hit by Covid-19, the marketers are now looking at non-traditional ways of creating content for promotion. The work or learn from the home regime sees a soaring screen time on multiple devices, be it the TV, mobile, or laptop, with an exponential rise in the number of hours spent on social media. The year 2020 will be remembered to the entire nation, to the strong and to the weak, to the young and to the old, to everyone and everybody who has been compelled to seal themselves at home as the year of transformation and internal discovery. The latest GlobalWebIndex data reveals that 40% of the US consumers are on social media for a significantly longer duration than pre Covid-19 time. India, with a dominant gen Z population, is no exception. As a result, consumers today are religiously following influencers and the content they create or the brand they promote. No wonder our popular dada (Sourav Ganguly) is back again on TV channels endorsing the benefits of Fortune Rice Bran oil. Blogs and social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and many other specialized platforms like Reddit, Quora, Vimeo, Viber, and WeChat enjoy many influencers. Getting brand messages across these platforms is a new way for marketers to stand out in a cluttered advertising environment, reaching millions of influencer followers. We also observe that the interactivity of social media can help followers feel personally connected to the influencer, leading to identification with the influencer. In this way, an influencer endorsement is more subtle than a traditional advertisement. This genre of influencer marketing has been in use for decades. However, it has been primarily celebrity endorsements working as the ambassador of a particular brand until now. Over the past few

years, there has been an emergence of a whole new genre of celebrities like social media personalities, bloggers/vloggers/YouTubers, content creators, etc. When users around the globe began using social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube, some of them initiated curating and crafting their own stories with photos and videos to attract viewers. In this way, social media influencers emerged in the digital platforms and started attracting the attention of marketers. When social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube saw this new form of marketing communication, the initial response was not high. Until recent times, we were not used to seeing influencers or brands going live very often, but gradually, it increased enormously. Now, we can see fashion, luxury, and beauty channels filling up the live segments everywhere. At present, when we have no other option except staying at home, the renowned fashion brands like Gucci and Oysho are going digital with workout classes, DJ sets, cooking workshops, and interview sessions in their live content. Such contextual communication has allowed brands to add values to audiences stuck at home and added an element of genuineness and legitimacy to their social media channels. We can see the future trend of influencer marketing is not limited only to endorsing the products and services, but it also saves a life, pushes up funds, and helps people. These facets opened various opportunities and platforms for individuals to make a lucrative career out of this. Influencer Marketing, initially considered a fad, has shown the potential to be a macro trend. Influencer marketing has expanded to every possible niche and genre of specified brand advertising ranging from massive to nano influencers. As per the report published by Experts Market Research, the global influencer marketing platform market accomplished a value of USD 6 billion in 2020. According to a study, the market is likely to grow for 2021-26 at a CAGR of 32% to attain USD 31.7 billion by 2026 due to the influencers' trust over their audiences. At the core of Influencer Marketing, the uniqueness of the content created in the form of pictures and videos of their stories to entertain others, the strategic product placement of the brand by them, the ever-changing social media trends, and most importantly, their relatability factor to their audience/followers. Audiences are now increasingly bent towards uninterrupted forms of advertising where push marketing is losing its essence as the potential customer feels forced by it. According to insider intelligence estimates, brands are actively investing in Influencer Marketing programs to create awareness among consumers and are ready to spend up to $15 billion on it by 2022.

The influencer industry is one of the most dynamic industries during the pandemic and has been driving sales with its bullish nature. It also provides more value proposition and cost efficiency as compared to traditional advertising campaigns. The simple reason for this is the extent of target marketing that they have the potential to reach. Credits to the marketing analytics tools and social media insights, it is easy to find out and target consumers interested in the product/ service offered for sale. Influencer Marketing, when done right, does not just increase clicks and curiosity about the brand but also increases revenues substantially. By working with a particular influencer, the brands associate themselves with the influencer's personality and buy into the trust and positive image that the influencer has made for themselves.

There are indeed some challenges in Influencer Marketing like fake followers making it challenging to verify audience, an influencer sponsoring too many brands, regulatory issues arising from privacy and security aspects, hyped-up analytics, constant changes in the algorithm of social media platforms, rising expenses of hiring an influencer, and the constant struggle to stay relevant in the vast pool of influencers, amongst many others. In 2018, only 39% of marketers planned to increase their influencer marketing budget, but it drastically changed to 65% in the next year. In the last three years, the number of google search for 'influencer marketing' has risen by 1500%; this shows that influencer marketing has garnered considerable engrossment over the last few years. Among the social networking platforms, Instagram, with over one billion users, ranked as the top impactful channel for influencer marketing in 2020, and 69% of marketers are planning to spend their budget on Instagram for influencer marketing this year. We are yet to see more growth in Influencer Marketing with new businesses emerging, new influencers flourishing, new sectors claiming their spot, new financial routes opening, and it continues. 

( Dr. Mafruza Sultana, Jagdish Sheth School of Management (Formerly known as IFIM Business School) & Ms. Kritika Goel, PGDM 2020-22, Jagdish Sheth School of Management)

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