How can influencers and brands amplify their influence together?

In two distinct panel discussions, titled ‘Learnings from leading influencers on how brands can influence better' and ‘Learnings from leading brands on how influencers can influence Better', participants from the influencer and brand domains discussed fostering collaborative efforts. Their focus was on maintaining a harmonious partnership that nurtures both creative expression and effective message delivery to the intended audience

Sakshi Sharma
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Influencers have raised their voices saying that brands should allow content creators the freedom to express their creativity within the brand's guidelines for specific pieces of content. On the other hand, brands have emphasised the importance of transparently communicating their perspectives to influencers. They are also encouraging creators to take the initiative to understand the brand's fundamental principles and values.

In two distinct panel discussions, titled ‘Learnings from leading influencers on how brands can influence better’ and ‘Learnings from leading brands on how influencers can influence better’, participants from the influencer and brand domains discussed fostering collaborative efforts. Their focus was on maintaining a harmonious partnership that nurtures both creative expression and effective message delivery to the intended audience.

Moderator Kosal Malladi, Vice-President of Madison Loop, raised a question to creators: What's the single most common mistake brands make in influencer marketing?

In response to this, content creator Harpreet Suri emphasised that during brand deals, brands emphasise the importance of an organic approach, where products are subtly integrated rather than overtly presented. The ideal involves incorporating products naturally within the context of their usage, culminating in a compelling video. However, a recurring issue arises when brands counter that the product isn't adequately showcased—it's not evident that the product is being utilised.

"This results in cycles of reshooting which gets irritating. One fundamental disparity is that brands often desire prominent product placement, whereas the preference might be for a more peripheral positioning. This contradiction contradicts the notion of organic integration, posing a notable source of concern for the team," she added.

Meanwhile, content creator Shraddha Gurung said that over the years of creating content, a consistent trend has emerged which is brands often anticipating swift results after reaching out to influencers. The expectation is that within two days of contacting them, a video will be posted, and by the third day, results will be evident. However, given the abundance of options and the diverse topics bloggers cover, achieving this envisioned level of conversion remains a challenge. Gaining trust is essential for successful selling and fostering customer loyalty. Developing a reliable customer base that repeatedly makes purchases requires time and consistent effort, contrary to rapid outcomes.

Meanwhile, content creator Neha Nagar pointed out that there's a misconception among some brands that they expect a single piece of content to encompass everything, including high production quality, extensive views and humour. This mindset, she emphasised, is fundamentally flawed.

"I am among the leading finance creators in India, so perhaps brands might consider my perspective but this might not be the case for emerging influencers, such as micro and macro influencers," she further noted.

Content creator Ankita Sehgal said, “My primary challenge revolves around the brand's perception of my audience. I, however, possess a profound understanding of my audience. Currently, I am aware that incorporating numerous elements won't yield positive results. I have specific successful characters. Recently, brands have suggested merging certain elements. Yet, I believe these characters are unique to my platform. I comprehend my audience's preferences for them. If a character is dumb, it can't suddenly become wise solely for product promotion. This situation frustrates me. While I acknowledge the intention to sell, I emphasise the importance of allowing me to align the sales strategy with my own approach.”

Echoing the sentiments expressed by others, content creator Nitibha Kaul shared a similar perspective. The shift of advertising expenditures from traditional methods to influencer marketing is primarily driven by the audience's profound trust in the authenticity of a genuine voice. This authenticity is exemplified not by elaborate production but by candid content shot using a simple phone camera within the confines of one's home.

“However, this purpose is undermined when a brand provides me with an overly detailed brief, as is the case with approximately 80% of brands. These briefs encompass campaign directives, guidelines and even specific scripting instructions. Then it sort of defeats the purpose of me as an influencer having that authentic, honest voice and opinion which is why there are is say 1 million people following me on Instagram,” Kaul said.

Speaking on behalf of everyone, Kaul said that all the creators have learnt the hard way and now they clarify everything with the brand including the concept, music, song, etc. beforehand.

Speaking on similar lines, content creator Technical Guruji, also known as Gaurav Chaudhary, said that sometimes brands believe they possess all-encompassing knowledge, even attempting to foresee and fulfil every desire. They may presume to understand his audience better than he does.

“If this were true, they might not need me today. They would be handling everything themselves. Their reliance on us wouldn't exist. The reality, however, centres on inflated expectations,” he said.

“Nonetheless, this is merely the dawn. Influencer marketing and related realms are in their infancy. We're only glimpsing the tip of the iceberg. Over time, I foresee brands, agencies, and all stakeholders evolving in unison. A harmonious environment will emerge, defined by clear expectations and a streamlined process. This is our trajectory. Currently, we're navigating preliminary challenges,” he added.

Covering the brand's perspective, Moderator Shailja Saraswati, Chief Content Officer, Omnicom Media Group, said that some brands are experimenting with both micro and macro influencers, while others are exploring sustained partnerships with influencers over the long term. In this regard, she discussed brands’ past engagement experiences and potential areas for improvement.

“Indeed, our journey has been quite intriguing. Initially, due to budget constraints, we engaged in three-month collaborations with Bollywood actresses for their social influence, as a substitute for renowned brand endorsers. Along the way, we learned from numerous mistakes and achieved several successes. This led us to formulate distinct playbooks for this unique style of marketing. It took us about a year to develop the playbook,” Shantanu Chauhan, Director Marketing, Noise, said.

“Every year brings new developments and this year is particularly focused on efficiency. Thus, elaboration is unnecessary. However, enhancing efficiency remains crucial, even when dealing with influencers, a concept we've internally devised. A fundamental aspect is assessing whether an influencer aligns with your brand and target audience. Prior to engagement, we consistently prioritise understanding the primary objective. If the goal is sales, that's precisely what we focus on,” he added.

Saraswati pointed out that Pooja Baid, CMO, Philips, has recently engaged with regional-level influencers. The focus has been on genuine storytelling and promoting organic content creation over scripted material. Further, she asked Baid’s views on the same.

"Naturally, collaborating with influencers aims to convey the story genuinely and organically. However, maintaining a clear distinction is crucial. Brands must convey their perspective to influencers. Influencers need to invest time in comprehending the brand's ethos, values and messaging comfort,” Baid replied.

She also emphasised that many influencers often make the mistake of accepting brands without careful consideration. Just as brands carefully select what works for them, influencers should also apply a strong filter. If a brand aligns with them, it's crucial for influencers to establish authenticity, building a deeper connection beyond mere promotional transactions. This aspect can determine the success or failure of such partnerships. Agencies, which usually mediate between brands and influencers, also play a significant role in this process, as direct communication between the two is rare.

Meanwhile, Rajesh Srivastava, Head-Marketing Communications, Nissan, said, “My concise instruction to the agency for any marketing campaign is a single word "outdo." By this, I mean they should strive for distinctiveness, innovation and differentiation. Our "outdo" approach encompasses specific activations that emphasise being clever, straightforward and economically efficient. This demands a novel strategy, and simplicity due to our position as a challenger brand and a budget-conscious mindset. Marketers typically aim for two vital KPIs: achieving brand goals or business objectives, both in a cost-effective manner.”

“The Gran Turismo movie has been released…the movie employs various media buying strategies—paid, owned and shared—with a focus on a shared platform that complements both entities. This approach involves influencers and diverse marketing tactics. Notably, Carry Minati has played a role in promoting Gran Turismo, with Nissan prominently featured throughout the frames. This execution represents a strategic and intelligent solution, aligning with our ongoing approach,” he added.

Saraswati said that Srivastava’s perspective on influencing cost-effective smart marketing solutions is unique.

Ivan Maben, Head of Marketing, Mirae Asset, said that finance as a category is extremely sensitive.

“When we bring influencers on board, we provide them with a checklist and brand guidelines. We ensure compliance by obtaining approvals from the NSE and BSEs before making their videos live. This is crucial because our customers value influencer recommendations and act upon them. Maintaining brand credibility is of utmost importance to us. I've had the opportunity to collaborate with over 300 tier 3 and tier 4 influencers,” Maben added.

“A notable distinction between mega metro influencers and regional ones lies in the simplicity embraced by regional creators. Their content is concise, devoid of jargon and fosters direct audience connection. Consequently, engagement rates for regional influencers surge remarkably due to the audience's strong loyalty. This loyalty leads to a substantial increase in viewership. The strategy is to afford influencers the necessary creative space while ensuring periodic feedback as a crucial aspect for brands. This approach prevents last-minute alterations and potential conflicts. Our brand employs a precise checklist and brand guidelines, ensuring clarity for influencers regarding video content requirements,” he added.

Gaurav Tyagi, GM-Marketing, Adani, said that selecting influencers is a crucial imperative for them. Moreover, they concentrate on two influencer strategies: internal influencers and subject matter experts.

“The first strategy involves utilising our own internal influencers, which is vital. The second strategy entails engaging subject matter experts relevant to our industry. For instance, when dealing with specialised areas like airport construction, expertise holds more weight than Instagram presence. This approach remains a consistent consideration for us,” he said.

“Currently, we are employing a fully manual approach without the use of any tools. Our strategy is comprehensive and tailored due to our focus on a specific, niche audience rather than a broad reach. I wholeheartedly believe in the potential of tier 3 and tier 4 markets. Besides English and Hindi, there's a notable shift towards regional languages and even dialects. For instance, individuals in Sonipat might comprehend English and Hindi, yet feel more at ease with Haryanvi, given the stronger connection. This trend is gaining momentum. Consequently, we are exploring the concept of ensuring that the recipient comprehends and relates to influencers in their own dialect and language. This evaluation is underway and is being adapted across various businesses based on their unique requirements,” he added.

While speaking with Rinkesh Shah, Head Digital Marketing, Mankind Pharma, Saraswati said one highlight that caught her attention is their OTT channel dedicated to doctors and the medical community. This strategic investment in an OTT channel, consistently supplying it with content, fostering collaborations, partnerships, and engaging doctor-influencers is notably intriguing. She asked him to shed some light on the success and impact of this approach on Mankind's business.

“The subject itself stands apart from other consumer brands due to its unique nature. It constitutes a limited yet expert community. Our goal is to integrate the most proficient individuals within this community to become influential figures. While the subject matter differs significantly, our content remains devoid of frivolity or quirkiness, maintaining a serious tone. Our distinctive approach involves applying D2C and consumer influencer marketing strategies to this field,” Shah said.

“Despite being doctors, these professionals are also regular human beings who engage with platforms like Instagram for short content. Our aim is to present scientific information in easily consumable formats tailored to the medical community. This approach caters to diverse age groups of doctors, including those with extensive experience, offering them pathways for skill enhancement. This distinctive approach sets us apart in this unique sphere,” he added.

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