ICMA 2018: How brands have evolved their influencer-marketing game

Influencers’ deep and direct connections with their audiences help brands to reach consumers say experts from KWAN Entertainment, Amway, BBLUNT, Social Kinnect & Golinopinion

e4m by Misbaah Mansuri
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 8:57 AM  | 5 min read

At Cannes Lions 2018, one of the biggest revelations was when Unilever’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Keith Weed, stated that the brand won’t work with influencers who buy followers. Weed called on the industry to take part here and ignited a conversation of essence. This development has put the onus on the influencer or celebrity to be transparent.

But that said, the scale and scope of influencer marketing is growing by the day and holds increasing importance in the marketing mix as a way for brands to reach consumers given influencers’ deep and direct connections with their audiences.

And it’s rightly said that content marketing and influencer marketing are different pieces of the same puzzle. In fact, influencer marketing is an integral part of content marketing. If research is to be believed, as per the India Influence Report 2018 – a survey conducted by Zefmo, an influencer marketing platform – nearly 92 per cent of marketers will move towards influencer marketing campaigns in the future.

Trending or not?

It’s no surprise that increasing number of brands like Airbnb, KFC, BBLUNT, etc are leveraging this as an imperative part of their content strategy. Says Vijay Subramaniam, Founding Partner and Co-CEO – KWAN Entertainment, “For most brands across categories, influencer marketing is no longer a "feel good" option, but a must-have tool in their arsenal. Today, marketers can choose from a vast pool of creators and zero in on the right influencer to partner with, based on their specific requirements. They can handpick influencers according to the market, age-groups, genres – the choices are almost endless.”

Sundip Shah, CMO, Amway also let out that influencer-marketing is one area where Amway is focusing on. “It brings in a certain amount of credibility as it is not a jazzed up ad but something really candid and helps the brand gain credibility,” says Shah.

BBLUNT’s Thomas Dawes, Creative & Digital Director, GCPL contends that as a young, bold and pioneering brand, BBLUNT has always believed in the strength and reach of influencers. “Recommendations are big, key drivers and consumers rely heavily on blogger reviews and content which is available on digital platforms. Along with the traditional roll-out, these influencer point of views make a huge difference to us. Strengthening our relationship with influencer’s year on year has been a crucial, conscious and consistent part of our brand strategy and will continue to be.” reveals Dawes.

The effectiveness factor

Rohan Mehta, CEO, Social Kinnect feels that from a content marketing standpoint, influencer-marketing is great way to create differentiated content customised to different audiences which helps in significantly increasing engagement for brands. However, he states, “The brands objective needs to be analysed closely which can differ significantly between campaigns ranging from amplification of content, to co-creation of content or drive parameters like online sales, footfalls (online-to offline) etc.”

Social Kinnect has been executing influencer strategies across the gamut of clients which ranges from retail clients to real-estate to FMCG brands. Citing one of the examples, he shared, “Recently Wills Lifestyle launched their artisan-inspired Sanganer collection, for which we executed a very smart content-based influencer strategy. The data-bank of content created through these influencers helped showcase the collection in different ways and generated a lot of curiosity and aspiration amongst their followers.” He shared that for brands like Ariel, Everyuth, Lodha, American Eagle and several others, Social Kinnect has several campaigns running where the objectives have been co-creation of content, branding and performance.

Shares Dawes, “When we calculate the organic numbers we achieve, which help us generate purchases and increase awareness of our brand in a fun, engaging fashion, the ROI that we receive is phenomenal.”

Mehta points out that one of the biggest shifts that are now envisaged are performance based incentives to influencers. “We have executed a few campaigns of this sort where influencers are incentivised for superior results,” he says.

Subramaniam agrees that it is a fabulous time to be a creator. Giving an example one influencer Kwan works with he says, “Take for instance, someone like Bhuvan Bam. He creates content at zero production costs by shooting on a smartphone and has more than 10 million followers and counting. This viewer base is more engaged than fan communities of the biggest Bollywood stars. As a result, his YouTube channel and social assets have become significant media assets for brands to explore.” He goes on to opine that brands must, however, pay attention to engagement and not just reach/impressions as it is the one metric which really shows you how well the marketing campaign is performing.

How the market is maturing up

Sudeep Shukla, Communications Director, Golinopinion feels that the attitude has changed over the last year or so with brands looking to achieve far more concrete and substantial KPIs. “We need to be sure of delivering unique content as per the category of influencer and their persona which currently exists on social media,” advises Shukla.

Mehta opines that over the last two years, influencer marketing in India has graduated to the next level with marketers also looking at it in a different way. “Marketing teams have started evaluating this almost like a media plan and comparing the kind of engagement influencers drive in comparison to media keeping in mind the effect it has on SEO and brand credibility and that its online for a longer period of time,” he says.

Subramaniam hints the influencer pie to be roughly around 1,000 crore. “The market is maturing as we speak. Digital advertising is the fastest growing medium of communication today, with some reports pegging the sector at around INR 15,000-18,000 crore. The influencer pie from this could easily be more than INR 1,000 crore,” he reasons.

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