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Over the last few years, influencer marketing in India has become an industry in itself and is only expected to grow exponentially. More brands are jumping on to the influencer marketing bandwagon, making it an important pillar of their brand strategy.

According to digital marketing agency AdLift, India's influencer market is estimated at $75-150 million a year, in comparison to the global market of $1.75 billion.

Amid all these facts, there is chitter-chatter among brands that influencers have started losing trust among people. A few reports floating in the industry say that almost three-fourths (73%) of 18 to 44-year-olds find influencers vain and annoying.

The reports claim nearly two-thirds (64%) people say they don’t trust what influencers promote through their social channels. The data suggests people are getting increasingly growing weary of influencers.

A report by Gartner predicts that by 2023, companies will reduce budget allocation for influencer marketing by a third, with consumers losing trust in them. Since last year, newer reports include statistics from US-based ad agency Carmichael Lynch, suggesting that consumers have come to distrust influencers. In fact, 23% influencers themselves admitted that they did not feel authentic about the brand-sponsored content they were paid to post.

In a conversation with BuzzInContent, influencer marketing agencies said that though brands here will increase their spending on influencer marketing in the near term, one can’t completely neglect the findings of these reports quoted above.

While these reports are all international data, it won’t take much time to find a base in India, they cautioned and said we should consider it as a wake-up call for the influencer marketing fraternity to overcome problems and challenges associated with the medium as soon as possible. The agencies also suggest that brands should not be solely dependent on influencer marketing, especially for sales generation.

Pranav Panpalia, Founder, OpraahFx, admitted the annoyance of audiences with influencers. “I can understand the sentiment of the audiences at large when they repeatedly see highly promotional content by an influencer. However, the influencers are not always at fault. Influencers would never want to dilute their content and face the wrath of followers. Today every influencer is doing a brand deal, and that cannot stop,” he said.

Panpalia said audiences are bored of seeing ad-like, direct promotions and do not feel connected with their favourite influencer. This usually happens when brands lay very stringent rules for content promotion and give zero creative freedom. What happens is that an influencer’s content ends up looking like an ad, promotional, and very much in the face, he explained.

Influencers need to protect their brand value by not promoting everything. Selectively marketing is the way to go, he said.

Panpalia cautioned that if reports say consumers are losing their trust, it definitely is a wake-up call for brands, which push creators to make highly promotional and ad-like content. “Audiences are fed up with these, and they want to know about their favourite creator more and not the brand. Therefore, these brands need to understand how to seamlessly integrate a product,” he said.

Shivang Shah

Shivang Shah, Co-founder, Django Digital, believes that the rate at which influencer marketing is growing, it is impossible to predict when or if anything can replace them, at least not for the next few years. But he also pointed out that even if some trust is lost, the need of the hour is for agencies to come together and focus on influencer pricing, maybe implement a ranking system. Agencies can classify the influencers and accordingly help the clients ensure an optimal pricing strategy.

Neel Gogia

Neel Gogia, Co-Founder, Iplix Media, seconded Shah’s point of streamlining pricing of influencers. Shah said that the pricing structure for influencers needs to be streamlined — strict parameters such as quality content, engagement and reach, etc., need to be acknowledged to help the audience retain their trust in the influencers as well as the brand they are promoting.

Shah added that influencer marketing is like that one wheel of a multi-wheeler vehicle, which brands can’t drive alone nor can drive the vehicle without it. It is one of the most crucial steps in generating awareness about a brand and its offerings.

However, Shah said brands need to put together a holistic approach while creating an efficient marketing strategy. “They need to explore varied avenues that simultaneously work together to achieve a common goal. Undoubtedly, influencer marketing, if done the right way, assists brands majorly by moving a step forward towards that goal,” he said.

Gautam Madhavan

Gautam Madhavan, Founder and CEO, Mad Influence, believes that although influencer marketing has created a new layer in the marketing pyramid as it gives results, he said a brand should not solely rely on any one form of marketing. “You need to have multiple streams of marketing to ensure your product reaches the right audience and reaps maximum benefit,” he said.

While spending majorly on influencer marketing is not a bad thing, he said the marketing mix has to be balanced.

Kunal Kishore Sinha

Just like no other marketing strategy or channel assures the sale of a product, Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder and COO, ClanConnect, said the main objective of influencer marketing is to build awareness and visibility in the market.

While he has been witnessing many brands increasing their investment in influencer marketing by up to four times, he said influencers will continue to build awareness for brands since no other platform allows one to talk to the audience. However, they need to build on their credibility and authenticity.