“We believe influencers are an important way to reach consumers and grow our brands. Their power comes from a deep, authentic and direct connection with people, but certain practices like buying followers can easily undermine these relationships,” said Keith Weed, Unilever’s chief marketing officer. “We need to take urgent action to rebuild trust before it’s gone forever.”
This statement by Keith Weed wasn’t exactly a shocker. The evils of influencer marketing have been discussed in trivial debates over and over, only to have brands resort to a rather unpolished approach and then blame the concept for orthodox or fraudulent results.
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The Wikipedia definition of the concept is – Influencer marketing is a form of marketing in which focus is placed on influential people rather than the target market as a whole.
The digital elite however, place this focus on influencerson a campaign or activity basis, allowing very little fermentation time that could have allowed the said influencers to evolve into torch bearers for the brand.
Influencer Marketing – A steaming affair v/s committed relationship!
Influencer marketing, rather digital marketing pays off in the long run could be a nursery rhyme in the new age marketing ecosystem. Nonetheless, briefs such as ‘need influencers with followers more than 5k’ and ‘cost per tweet’ often do the rounds. How much can a hashtag trending through bots really deliver? Or that food influencer you invited to a cell phone launch really work?
“Influencer marketing has gained prominence as a potent tool for brands to connect with consumers, because of the high trust factor that social influencers share with their audience. Trust is the foundation for long-lasting relationships and for brands leveraging this trust holds the key to long-term advocacy and affinity,” shares Varun Tyagi, Product Marketing, Influencer Strategy and Activations at Qoruz. “Most brands and their agencies currently think of and plan influencer marketing as an ‘add-on’ to the overall marketing strategy, which yields great results in at an awareness, and even consideration level. What we see happening often is an influencer X speaking about brand A and their competitor B in a space of few weeks. This disrupts the brand-influencer-consumer trust equation, and therefore limits the true scope of influencer marketing.”
The core difference between influencer marketing and celebrity endorsement is that consumers trust the former, believe in their recommendations, and share a bond with which isn’t likely to be formed over one off associations.
“One has to invest in long-term and build on the influencer story-telling over consistent efforts to win the trust of people who are influenced by an influencer,” explains Shrenik Gandhi, Co-Founder, White Rivers Media.
Content that matters
For instance, Triangl Swimwear, known for their Instagram strategy has fixed group of influencers (established and micro influencers) called the Triangl Girls –who populate the hashtag with quality, genuine content around the brand. This content is also pushed through a dedicated segment on Triangl’s website.
“Developing [this kind of] partnership unlocks a lot more opportunities for us to be authentic and brings a level of continuity,” said Deborah Yeh, the company’s senior vice president of marketing and brand.
“Long-term relationships are best built with influencers who have a genuine interest in the product, and believe in same principles and values. This helps consumers identify with the brand, becoming repeat or lifetime customers,” expressed Saurabh Mathur, Head – Strategy & Planning, VML India.
For brands looking for loyalty and more sustainable growth, a long-term relationship could prove beneficial. With a short term, or one-off relationship, brands get a quick fix to consumer engagement. This could work for a specific campaign or product launch and can buy a brand immediate returns, but in order to build equity and lasting goodwill, brands who use influencers as lasting ambassadors have seen more success Mathur explains.
Trust is what sets influencers apart from other means of digital marketing, especially for the audiences with a strong aversion to ads. Consumers are likely to act on the recommendation of an influencer who themselves believes in a certain product. This believe and trust can be formed in an influencer with a long term association that proffers the liberty to spend time with the product and develop a mutual relationship.
Popular tech blogger, Amit Bhawani has been a OnePlus loyalist and maintained a well nurtured relationship with the brand. A part of their initiatives, OnePlus has managed to make Bhawani into a go to person for fans & followers.
A short-term activation does create a lot of noise at one point but then the graph flattens out, explained Rajni Daswani, Director – Brand Experience & Employee Engagement.“In the age where a consumer has the attention span of just 7 seconds & with high profile influencers promoting 10 different brands in a month – it’s easy for your brand to get lost in the noise. A long-term association will give more consistency, more hammering of the message/product you are trying to put across and will help reach out to a wider audience.”
A two way street
An influencer-brand relationship is the most fruitful when it benefits both the parties in genuine and viable methods. A long term relationship helps the brand and influencers understand each other’s requirement and the path that would lead up to its solution, leaving very little scope for misunderstanding and subsequent issues such as non-payment and missing deliverables.
For instance, Comic Con India wished to leverage genuine superhero fans for their event in a mutually benefitted association. The brand took to Qoruz, finding 57 genuine influencers from a database of two lakh influencers; further Qoruz deployed Rewards an offering where brands can provide influencers with exclusive event invites, products, or services and influencers in turn can share their experiences online. The ultimate reward for these comic fans was a Super Fan VIP passes, fully loaded with free access to the event and loads of goodies and merchandise!
“One-off campaigns usually demand deliverables along the lines of social media shoutouts, sponsored blog posts, videos and online competitions,” shares Pooja Chavan, Group Account Manager, Fruitbowl Digital. “It can take months for a brand to break even and get their ROI in time if the influencer has a long term contract with the brand. Moreover, the brand could end up targeting a potentially saturated audience repeatedly.”
Yet another example would be Adidas for their work with Adidas Runners. With Adidas Runners, the brand has been able to bring more and more highly brand-relevant influencers into their ambassador fold. The smart thing to do here was not look for ‘influencers’ per se, but instead focus on people whose passion and lifestyle bears a resemblance with the brand’s purpose and positioning. As these people gained popularity and influence, they’ve also gathered a loyal follower base with a high trust factor, which has ultimately helped Adidas reach out to a highly relevant target audience. The brand has been smart to nurture the influencers, and leverage their influence in a way that doesn’t feel pushy, while delivering impact.
Forbes reported at the beginning of 2017 that 84% of marketers planned on working with influencers in the next 12 months. However, it all boils down to the approach taken towards influencer marketing.