Future of influencer marketing

Brands are shifting transaction-based collaborations to long-term advocacy arrangements

Influencer marketing is set to become a $10 billion market by 2020 - with recent reports revealing that 63 per cent of marketers intend to increase their influencer marketing spends this year. It would be correct to say that influencer marketing is here to stay – there’s a phenomenal 1500 per cent increase in searches for “influencer marketing” over the last 3 years. 

Influencer marketing is rapidly changing with new trends & technologies. Brands across categories are now utilising influencers as a tangible marketing & distribution channel, from a FMCG major such as Marico to retail giant such as Bata – brands are transforming themselves, keeping influencer integrated into their strategy. 

Here are a few key trends shaping the market: 

Growing significance of micro-influencers:

Brands have come to realise that in the current digital age, advocacy works better than mass-appeal. We are witnessing emphasis on micro-influencers. Brands are able to tie-in authenticity to their campaigns, using micro influencers, since it doesn’t come across as salesy. This is being adopted rapidly as a practice, with brands across industries & categories constantly scaling their micro-influencer marketing spends.

Network approach vs talent-led approach:

At the dawn of influencer marketing, brands were more focussed on utilising the individual brands of influencers – presenting them as the face of the brand, frequent integrations in marketing collaterals, etc. As the market matures, brands are now taking a network-based approach and de-risking themselves by using a network/group of influencers, with whom they are collectively able to target consumers better, than a single large influencer. It also allows brands to localise the content & collaterals – say when launching a new product in Hyderabad,

Rise of CGI Influencers:

With the rapid advancement in technologies accessible to us, CGI influencers are becoming mainstream. Take Miquela for instance, she boasts of 1.6M+ followers, has endorsed luxury brands such as Calvin Klein, Diesel, and Prada – her engagement rate is quite impressive for a Category A influencer, currently tracking at 3.4% : the out-of-ordinary fact about Lil Miquela is that she isn’t made up of tissues & cells, instead, it is just lines of code. K-pop sensation Imma, Bermuda, etc. are all CGI influencers, making a big name for themselves.

Advocacy vs transactional collaborations:

Brands are adopting the shift in collaborations from transaction-based, to long-term advocacy arrangements. Studies conducted to compare the 2 models deliver quite convincing results – using advocates instead of an influencer (on a transactional basis) improves consumer trust in the campaign by as much as 5 times. Influencers who are genuinely interested and invested in the brand help craft a compelling story, as opposed to just another ad splash! Brands also benefit commercially, as the cost per deliverable goes down in case of long-term arrangements.

Stricter guidelines for influencer marketing:

As influencer marketing becomes more mainstream, with more marketing dollars being pumped into campaigns led by influencers, we will witness the regulatory bodies becoming stricter & actively participating in defining the playing field for influencers, through advertising codes & rules, with the end objective of safeguarding consumers.

Birth of nano-influencers:

Within the last year, we have seen the birth of “nano-influencer”, a tier below micro & macro in terms of follower size (less than 5K followers) but higher than any category in terms of engagement and intensity of influencer, per follower. In many cases, nano-influencers have a cult-like following, in the limited audience community they have : for a new brand just launching, this comes across as the perfect way to go about marketing, since they not only help spread the word, but allow brands access to sample set of end-consumers, with whom they can experiment & get feedback.

Increased importance of Video:

With digitisation happening at a rapid pace, along with advancements in internet technologies, consumption of content by the users has changed. It is gradually tilting towards higher video consumption – Mary Meeker, in her 2019 Internet Trends Report, re-iterated this trend mentioning that brands who leverage videos ads properly, will win-big. A good video ad shouldn’t come across as an ad – this create a large value creation scope for influencer marketing; influencer can craft real, authentic looking video stories for brands & help them distribute it through their channels.

Being an influencer is now a career option:

Increasingly, socially active millennials & “Gen Z”-ers are making careers in the domain of influencer marketing. What was earlier restricted to only ‘good-to-have’ branding efforts is now becoming mainstream in facilitating commerce; China already has influencers who sell products worth millions of dollars in a single day , India is slowly catching up to that trend. The study of how to become an influencer, ways to leverage content, content production techniques, etc. are all going to be very relevant & important in the time to come, as influencer marketing becomes a tangible marketing channel, something that’s concrete & here to stay! 

(the author is One Impression vice president. The views expressed are his own and Indian may not subscribe to them)

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