How to utilise influencer marketing beyond just media channels

Speaking at BuzzInContent Conversations 2020, influencers, agencies and brands discuss why influencers demand a sizeable say in brand communication. They talk about influencers having an emotional connect with brands and explain why having influencers as brand evangelists work well

Akanksha Nagar
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Influencer marketing has become an integral part of the marketing plans of brands. But how well is the medium being utilised?  

Discussing the influencer marketing space at the BuzzInContent Awards 2020, presented by Viacom18’s Tipping Point, along with associate sponsor Zee Biskope, and supported by The Advertising Club, in a panel moderated by Rachit Juneja, Co-founder, Sheeko, top industry leaders talked about utilising influencers as content boosters versus content partners.

Kicking off the dialogue, Shirish Agarwal, Head, Marketing Communication and Brand, Panasonic India, said influencer marketing these days plays the most important role when it comes to a consumer’s decision-making journey.

So whether it's in the initial construction stage, or the search stage or the final purchase stage, it is through influencers that a consumer actually validates a brand’s claims.

Talking about Panasonic’s approach in this aspect, he said, “When we work with any influencer, our intent is to actually drive the usage and application of a product. Since the penetration of the consumer durable category in India is still low, our intent is to bring an influencer on board and drive the usage and application of that particular product.”

For instance, it has been utilising this space along with the consumer passion points. For one of its products, Lumix Camera, it works with renowned photographers. Same is the case for microwaves, refrigerators and other products — using influencers across its product categories.

Basically, the company doesn't utilise influencers just as sales representatives where they come and speak about a product’s features. It works with the influencers as a content partner and on a long-term basis and not merely as a content booster.

Quoting a research done by Google and Boston Consulting Group, which says a consumer durable buyer actually takes two to three weeks before they zero in on any brand or product they choose to buy, Agarwal said influencer marketing on digital platforms help consumers with complete details of specifications or the application and usage of the product.

Info Edge, for one its brands, Jeevansathi, recently and for the first time came up with a campaign that had celebrity influencers on board.

Discussing her experience, Sumeet Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, Info Edge, said it's not about whether this strategy will work or not work for someone as every brand will have its own journey and objectives.

“My perspective would be that rather than seeing whether it works or doesn't, it has to work in the overall objectives of a campaign. If we feel that a strategy fits a particular objective, that's the time when we would roll it out,” she said.

According to Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India, “It is important for all of us to ask, if influencer marketing is the answer for a particular campaign, then what is the question? You probably today have four ways in which you can get a piece of communication out there. And I think influencer marketing is a very unique, very powerful medium, but it's not the answer to all questions. It shouldn't be also. I think it is important to rationalise that when you begin this journey.”

Influencer marketing, however, still remains an overcrowded space. So how can one still be a differentiator?

Hitesh Dhingra, Co-founder, The Man Company, created the category of men grooming products while starting with an influencer partner programme. And when it started getting a lot of traction, he realised the good strength of influencer marketing.

“We want to make sure that as a brand, one of the core values is authenticity. So whomsoever we work with has to be as authentic as the brand is. So he has to love the brand and the products. In the last five years, we never asked the influencers we have associated with to post a paid review about the product. I think that has probably kind of differentiated us vis à vis some of our peers or people in the personal care category. In fact, you will never find our product integration with whatever content influencers are creating. As long as you make them your brand evangelists, it works really well,” he said.

On how much creative freedom influencers should be given, Singh said for the recent Jeevansathi campaign, they gave the influencers the creative freedom to actually talk about their journey.

Advising brands to work with influencers as content partners and leverage their creativity, Nagarajan referred to this entire exercise more of an advocacy. He added, “I think somewhere, in sort of scaling of this industry, we've sort of forgotten the main point of this whole thing — that someone should be able to influence a purchase decision of the consumer at the end of the day. So discovery is a very big part of it. And the second big part is co-creating the content, and then thirdly, the measurement.”

He said the perspective of brands on measurement is evolving and it is not a straightjacket approach; what works for one brand might not necessarily work for somebody else, and one has to go back to the objectives.

Dismissing the belief that majority of the influencers are more comfortable with being just the message carrier, just being a media channel and not getting into content creation so much or ideating for the brand actively, Barkha Singh, influencer and actor, said it is better to have certain creative freedom for to be able to do justice to the brand communication.

“There is a reason a lot of people are following a particular person. If the person is not being true to the general body of communication, the audience sees through it. It is very important that the person who's creating the content for the brand has an equal say or has a sizable say in the way the content is going to be communicated. Also, I don't think the media matters; even the choice of medium is something that is discussed both ways. So a lot of brand people may or may not know exactly the nitty gritties of how one can utilise the medium or its features to drive action,” she added.

However, she also mentioned that influencers are not always willing to understand proactively a brand's requirements in terms of awareness or end goals.

“One needs to keep in mind what the brand wants to communicate because at the end of the day, the brand is spending time, energy and resources in that campaign because there is a message they want to communicate,” she suggested.

Suggesting how brands can make influencer marketing better in terms of leveraging more of their creativity, and working with creators as proper content partners, even smaller ones, Singh said, “Marketing professionals like me should be very clear of what we want to achieve through this activity. Because if I do not lay out my objectives, measurement will mean nothing.”

Dhingra said brands should be consistent with the influencer marketing strategy and to make sure they work for a longer period with any particular influencer, ensuring that he or she feels an emotional connect with the brand.

How to utilise influencer marketing beyond just media channels BuzzInContent Conversations 2020