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27 April, 2020 - brands

Will Coronavirus lift the filter on influencer marketing?

When life ‘in the gram’ made up of check-in worthy restaurants, school run styles, high-intensity workouts and enviable holiday destinations comes to a sudden standstill, will the filter finally lift on influencer marketing?

The Cornonavirus pandemic has forced businesses to rethink and rejig how they work and in doing so, has indiscriminately exposed many flaws and highlighted many opportunities for the way forward. For the marketing function’s digital voice which is influencer-led endorsements, a transformation is also underway. With the props hidden and the gloss stripped off their posts, influencers will finally be able to rely on the power of raw, authentic content, creativity and influence to do the real talking.  

With fewer projects in hand, we’re already seeing influencers heading back to the drawing board.
Popular travel influencer, Shivya Nath reached out to fellow travel bloggers across the globe to discuss the state of their profession and to brainstorm what the future holds. She writes, “On the one hand, I know that the travel industry (including travel blogging) is going to take a big hit during this crisis. Personally, my blog traffic has been dwindling, on-going projects have been put on hold and potential assignments postponed indefinitely.
“But on the other hand, I believe that sometime in the distant future, we will travel again. Borders will re-open, businesses that survive will emerge stronger and we’ll get our passports stamped. And when that happens, travel blogging – especially the kind that’s rooted in sustainability – will become more important than ever.”

Brands are also beginning to rethink and reorient their marketing goals, using influencers to depict their most real side.
Fashion apparel brand Cover Story FSL ran a contest on social media recently which featured Ravneet Kaur Sethi, consulting editor at Harper’s Bazaar India, at home with her laptop and dog by her side, urging audiences to share pictures of themselves in their equally relaxed working-from-home garb. It read ‘Share your WFH pictures, get featured on our page and win shopping vouchers worth Rs 5000!.’

In many ways, the lockdown will force influencers as well as brands to go back to basics when influencer marketing was better known as ‘people-led marketing’ - where ordinary people who happened to share the same interests as their audience, published their interest, knowledge or experience in that genre. It was the new mum who shared her experience with her network about a brand of bottle that helped her baby with colic, or the college-going fashionista who inspired others with her style, or the IT professional who reviewed his favourite gadgets and gizmos by night. The basis of influencer marketing was a relationship of trust built by influencers who shared raw, unfiltered content on a topic they were (in their own rights) experts in. Their reviews were not glossed over, the images were not filtered beyond recognition and the PR didn’t dictate the narrative. This made them believable and most importantly, different from mainstream advertising. But as influencers gained popularity and their followers grew by millions, their content, presentation and purpose changed drastically. Remuneration became the name of the game, and still is. Which is what is making the current situation, a defining one.
The impact of Coronavirus on influencer marketing will be three-fold.

  1. Influencer marketing (as we know it) will make a slow comeback. Life will resume and very soon hotels, restaurants, shops, cafes etc. will be open for business. But it will take much longer to rebuild trust and influence immediate sales in certain categories. A popular influencer sun bathing under the most scenic circumstances will evoke a sense of holiday-envy, but it’s the virus-related facts and figures of that region that will dictate how people act on it.
  2. Influencer marketing will shift gears to more nano, grassroots influence based on content expertise and experience. We will see brands looking for true influence in areas that matter to their audience. For example, a nutritionist or fitness enthusiast will seem like a better fit for a food brand for the authority and authenticity they bring to the subject.
  3. As and when we come out of the crisis, marketing budgets will come under scrutiny. Hence, an ROI-driven approach will be critical to proving effectiveness of a campaign. Engagement and influencer performance metrics will take precedence over reach or follower numbers.
According to an article in The Drum, “Coronavirus has been the catalyst for a full refresh of influencer marketing, taking it back to its roots of trust and authenticity. In harnessing this, brands are able to create content that makes people feel things at a time when feeling is more important than ever. As with any campaign, those that create an emotional reaction in the target audience are likely to be remembered and celebrated, and there's no greater time for brands to create emotional bonds with their audience than now.”

The time is indeed now, but brands will first need to revisit their approach, cut through the noise, lift the filters and bring content to the forefront of their communications. 

Email info@teacupinfluence.com to idenitfy and engage influencers who are right for your brand. 

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