Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, it has been a revelation for both people and businesses. It has pushed them to accept and adapt to the unknown and that too swiftly. Particularly for marketers, 2020 turned out to be challenging, as suddenly, the traditional way of working became archaic. They had to think innovatively and find out-of-the-box ways of marketing products and services. Furthermore, to attain genuine association with consumers, they had to surpass the mundane routines, push boundaries and walk an unconventional path.
This transformation that stormed into the marketeer’s life happened because the digital revolution that was expected to take place in the next 15 years occurred in nearly six months, mainly because the world was left with no option but to connect virtually.
This trend led to a whole new category of marketing, which we popularly know as Influencer marketing. Though for the last couple of years, it had existed on the sideline, brands hadn’t experimented with it. However, with pandemic restrictions, the over-the-top TV advertising found it hard to associate with consumers. Promoting products through content made by real people with specialized influence helped most brands connect stronger in these times. Amongst this wave were most young brands, who found the magnitude of the above-the-line communication inaccessible.
Thus, the current scenario helped fuel the growth of both influencer and content marketing as organizations started collaborating with authoritative online personalities, i.e. influencers with a sizable number of followers in their chosen field, to reach the customers. These digital celebrities are well-recognized, trusted, and have a genuine connection with their followers. For instance, when we at Soothe Healthcare did our brand Paree Prima’s launch and collaborated with Kusha Kapila, a popular internet sensation, for the campaign #APadThatBreathes, the result was phenomenal. The content shot in a five-minute vlog format highlighted uneasiness faced by women on each day of her period cycle. But, what worked for us was the humor slant given to the script, which made it even more relatable, a pleasant watch, and, in turn, allowed us to connect with consumers far more authentically.
Although influencer marketing is a moderately newer playfield, what makes it even more interesting is that it facilitated the creative power shifted to the consumers rather than depending on advertisers. Moreover, it helped build a stronger correlation through content. This flourishing marketing tool gave us new heroes who were not aspirational but more relatable. In fact, it helped us fill the void of connecting with people, though virtually that social distancing created. But with a series of them now available, it has also become critical to swift your associations. Therefore, as a brand, we are also cautious about forming meaningful associations with influencers and are hand-picking only those who will make sense to the audience. We collaborate with only those who make the customers feel that the conversations or interactions are genuine.
As per reports, influencer marketing grew by 4-5x during the pandemic. But, with this growth also came some learnings. The first being hastily done influencer engagement can turn awkward for brands, and weak messaging can do more harm than good. So, find a synergy between the brand and the digital celebrity by carefully examining the social profiles and posts of the influencers. Next is defining the goals and objectives beforehand to frame a successful marketing plan and knowing the expectations from such drives. Set some KPIs, such as customized links, landing pages, impressions, reach, engagement and #hashtags to gauge the success of the campaign. These celebrities have the power to influence customer’s decisions, so understand the outcome of the collaboration and its effect on the brand’s image. In short, the right pick for the brand is fundamental. Therefore, when we, as a brand, associate with an influencer for our various products, Paree or Paree Prima, we look into three things- relevance for the TG, the content creator’s reach and resonance. Since both our products are for a different TG, we are very heedful of the collaboration.
Though social media influencers are still growing in popularity among consumers and brands alike, they are also parallelly beginning to raise an eyebrow on authenticity. Also, fundamentally, influencers owe their popularity to online customers, and their views were initially unbiased and honest. But with marketeers twirling the wheel with monetization, this is no longer entirely true. Hence, new rules and regulations are also forming. Recently, the ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) has made it mandatory for influencers to disclose their commercial interest publicly when recommending a product or service. This intervention will benefit the consumers as it will help legitimize the paid endorsement.
To conclude, it is evident that while the trend of influencer marketing surged during the COVID-19 lockdown, this form of organic marketing is undoubtedly here to stay. According to BI Intelligence estimates, the influencer marketing industry will be worth $15 billion by 2022. With consumers shifting to Instagram reels and YouTube videos for everything, it opens some significant opportunities for both parties involved. But digital media is all about time and messaging, so pace up your content and storytelling for an impactful product or campaign launch. If you go it right, one of the fastest growing online methods for customer acquisition will be a gold winner, and if you miss the boat, then winning the trust back of the customers will be a long ride.
Authored article by Samta Datta, GM – Marketing at Soothe Healthcare.