The rise and rise of (social) influencer marketing

Guest Column: Communications consultant Ritwik Sharma shares why influencers today enjoy more trust than ads do among consumers

e4m by Ritwik Sharma
Updated: Jul 9, 2021 1:55 PM
Ritwik Sharma

Remember Pammi aunty? The local aunty in your neighbourhood who would regularly ask your mother to buy the latest hand cream from XYZ brand or the best shampoo from ABC and Co.? 

If you were born in the 80s or 90s, you would have dealt with many such “aunties”, who surprisingly were not employees of this so-called brand but endorsed it like she was the CEO. So what made your mother, along with the others in the neighbourhood, listen to Poonam aunty? Because in her own unique and somewhat nagging way, Pammi aunty was an Influencer.  Her opinion mattered, and her word was her reputation. 

Fast forward 30 years, while the players and field have changed, the game remains the same. And while network marketing and pyramid schemes may not be as popular as they were ten years ago, consumers are still looking for suggestions from like-minded individuals before buying a particular brand/service.  

Welcome to the world of influencer marketing- a 10 billion dollar industry. A world where there are many Pammi aunties and their reach extends far beyond the area from Block A to Block E. I stayed in Block B. 

But let's first understand, what is influencer marketing? 

Influencer marketing, in layman terms, is marketing a product/service/brand using people who influencer consumers minds. Basically leverages the reach and convincing power of "influencers" to market products and influence opinions. And why? Because…

90% of people would trust an individual's endorsement rather than a brand advertisement.  (Hubspot) 

Are influencers more effective than an Ad?

With the rise of ad blockers, an influencer's engaging and unique content helps reach masses and the target consumers on various platforms while achieving more credibility and trust when compared to a brand advertisement. The golden rule is:

Endorsement>Advertisement 

80% of marketers say influencer marketing is effective, and 89% say it works just as well (if not better) than other marketing channels (source

With the smartphone and data explosion, everyone now is constantly online, and influencer marketing has become the fastest-growing way of getting your message across. The association with an influencer through a service or product placement can build a connection between the brand and customers in ways not possible by other marketing means. 

In a 2019 report by Influencer Marketing Hub, 92% of consumers believed that influencer marketing was an effective form of marketing, while 83% of consumers surveyed claimed to purchase items advertised by influencers. 

But don't jump on the influencer bandwagon just because the industry or competition is… 

Nothing can be more detrimental to a brand than an association that does not resonate with the organisation's values, target consumer and products. Reach should not be the only metrics that govern the association of a brand and an influencer. 

Ask yourself a few questions before you start- Will this partnership help me achieve my marketing objectives?  Does this influencer have my brands best interest in mind? Does he/she resonate with my target consumers? Does his/her audience match my consumer's demographics? Is there a relevance/connection with my brand? Will the platform where they engage, is the right platform to reach my consumers? Does he/she understand my offering? Will the association give a positive ROI? 

Influencers are creative beings that know about their audience and platform better than a brand. Therefore, treat them with respect and trust them to represent your brand as well as they do their own. If you don't think you can trust them, they're the wrong influencer for you. 

Did you know: Amitabh Bachchan, in his first attempt, could not appeal to the masses when he pleaded (in a soft and poised tone) to Indian parents to get their children polio drops? But when he assumed the role of "Angry young man", people listened and flocked to polio camps. That's the power of influence and brand connection! 

Once you have the above queries answered, make a plan that will show your CFO the clear benefits of how this influencer campaign will make you get from Point A to Point B, and at what cost. 

48% of marketers working with influencers say audience relationship is the most valuable factor when considering which influencer to collaborate with. 

But as the market evolves, so does the world of influencer engagement. On one hand, we face influencer led campaigns losing lose their personal touch due to over-exposure to the same set of KOLs.Many marketers have started overcoming this obstacle by partnering with micro-influencers.  And then we now have ASCI’s new guidelines that mandate all influencers to call out paid associations.

The key question to ask is will influencer marketing continue to be as influential as it is today?

According to the World PR Report 2020, influencer marketing will witness an upsurge in PR investment followed by multimedia content creation. According to a recent survey by influencer marketing platform Zefmo, nearly 92% of marketers will turn to influencer marketing campaigns this year. 

With work from home still a factor and digital content consumption on the rise, influencer marketing will form the majority of the PR budget, and it is only a matter of time that Indian PR firms will (if not already) start offering influencer management services either in-house or via a registered partner. Because, let's face it, who at the end of the day knows how to communicate about a brand better than us?

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