By Sagar Pushp
It would not be an overstatement to say that 2020 was the year of influencer marketing. The industry witnessed numerous new influencers enter the fray and grow into megastars. At the same time, brand perspectives evolved significantly towards influencer marketing and it became a mainstay for several notable and novice brands. It is safe to say, then, that the pandemic accelerated the growth of influencer marketing, giving it a mainstream stature in many marketing strategies.
The changes brought on by the global pandemic, especially in the influencer marketing segment aren’t restricted merely to tech-led changes but go above and beyond technology. Brands seek influencers because influencers tend to engage their audiences with impactful messaging and have a wide reach across geographies. Influencer marketing is a segment where we have simply discovered the tip of the iceberg. As the sector continues to evolve, here’s what’s on our radar for upcoming disruptions in influencer marketing for 2021 and beyond.
ASCI guidelines for influencer advertising on digital media
Today, digital media has become increasingly pervasive with a cornucopia of content available for users across age groups to consume. For this very reason, it is imperative that we understand these advertisements and how consumers view them. As the lines between actual content and advertisements begin to blur, consumers are less aware of what classifies as authentic content and what is promotional and this can be problematic.
When consumers view promotional messages without realising the commercial intent of the advertisements, it becomes misleading, resulting in violation of regulations and abuse of consumer trust. Owing to this, at the very outset of the year, the Advertising Standards Council of India(ASCI) has stepped in to establish draft guidelines for social media influencers, underscoring the significance of influencer marketing’s role in the purchase decisions of consumers for a wide range of products – be it affordable fast fashion or luxury items such as high-end gadgets or cars.
Increased transparency in transactions
More often than not, brands pay a hefty sum when they take the influencer marketing route, particularly if the influencer is well established and has a large follower count. This is because brands are largely unaware of the influencer’s actual fee as there exists the involvement of middlemen who just markup the cost over the influencer’s fee and increase the overall price, not only making this unethical but also adversely affect the overall ROI and efficiency of an influencer marketing campaign.Players who can ensure that the entire end-to-end transaction becomes more transparent enabling brands to filter and find the right influencer based on data and insights and not because of a preferred relationship with a content creator are the ones who will stay in this race.
The foray of influencer marketing into mainstream advertising
Up until recently, influencer marketing was largely considered to be a segment that blended with digital marketing in a way. However, ASCI’s issue of the recent guidelines marks the foray of influencer marketing into mainstream advertising, depicting how influencer marketing has evolved, becoming an advertising standard in itself. This opens a wealth of growth opportunities for influencers, influencer marketing platforms, as well as brands looking to benefit from the fast-growing industry.
A consumer-centric approach
Influencer marketing tends to move far away from ‘in your face’ hard selling. The announcement of ASCI’s guidelines has further cemented this approach, making it a mandatory part of the sector’s further growth. A vast majority of influencers are now being more mindful of their content, displaying a sense of social responsibility. Alongside influencers, consumers, too, are becoming increasingly aware of the content they are consuming that shapes their purchasing patterns. ASCI’s regulations will make consumers the most powerful, empowering them with awareness and knowledge to distinguish between authentic and promotional content.
Consumers will now get maximum benefit by being able to identify promotional content online – be it a blog, video, or article. With end-to-end transparency, tech-powered influencer marketing platforms will enable the smooth functioning of influencer marketing and extend their services to brands without a need to charge a high fee.
Performance will drive the ball forward from here
That influencer marketing works is not a secret anymore but like all things digital, performance and ROI is now going to be differentiator to judge the success of any campaign. In line to this, creators on YouTube now give a link of the product they advocate about so followers/viewers can directly click and buy without any hassle on leading ecom portals. This not only opens up an alternate revenue channel for the creators because they earn commission on these sales, it also gives a deterministic perspective to the brands and advertisers to assess the influencer’s last mile performance. We will see advertisers and influencers alike, talking this language now!
The entire spectrum of influencer marketing is at the cusp of transformation with advertisers on one end, influencers on the other end, and consumers in between the two parties. To further ensure that the entire process of influencer marketing becomes more democratic, there are newer, novel technologies that will emerge and shape the future of influencer marketing to ensure that it becomes mutually beneficial.
The author is co-founder of ClanConnect. Views expressed are personal.