As always a very good read, Faris. Could not agree more on the points you make without wanting to repeat them.
Instead, I’d like to look at an aspect in your text that is quite inspiring. It triggered a thought I will try to frame like this: challenger brands that cannot afford 6-digit posts by influencers, and that do not want to risk their authenticity anyway, have an interesting strategic option at hand.
They could approach ‘influencers’ who have promoted the key competitor in their category because they once were paid for it. The challenger brand would do so on a reciprocity basis.
The outcome could be as follows: 1st, the influencer does not react, does not do anything in favour nor against the challenger brand. This could be due to his/her wish to appear consistent and to be loyal to the past commitment, while there would be no additional payment from the competitor.
2nd, the move could backfire on the challenger because the influencer reacts negatively by pulling the challenger’s offering to pieces without being paid for it by the key competitor.
And 3rd – and this is what makes this strategic option appear most interesting – the influencer and supposed sceptic of the challenger brand could positively react to the move, thereby wanting to appear objective, or even better, independent.
This of course would mean a big opportunity for the challenger. Because if you win over a sceptic w/ lots of followers, this might appear more convincing than the usual approach.