Remember the 90’s when television came into our lives? And just like that, we went from adjusting antennas to cable television. We went from 5 channels to 50. But in all it’s journey, one thing that stayed was captivating advertisements. Most ear-worms (even today) came from advertisements. That was how brands were sold to us: catchy tunes, celebrities or cool/ hot factors interspersed with one or two features of the product. Between these strategies and a few others, brands and advertising companies ensured that the customers craved these products. It painted a very happy picture.
But then came the millennials who questioned almost everything. Freedom of expression was tested to its limits where children constantly asked the whats and whys. But could we have blamed them? Inexpensive access to the internet meant that most children had it at their fingertips. And the power of the internet made information in abundance also available at these fingertips. Google and YouTube were asked questions because it was easier than asking the elders. Soon the millennials grew tired and disinterested with ear-worms, celebrities and more importantly, the lack of facts that they desired to see in advertisements. But then influence marketing came to their rescue.
Youtube had started making people famous around the globe thanks to the internet. These people, unknown hitherto, rose to fame because viewers from across the globe watched video after video of them doing things that they enjoyed. Be it fashion, travel, grooming, or food, the audiences lived vicariously through these YouTube superstars. Unsurprisingly, people talked about products they used and places they visited. Everything from insane to mundane was shared and the audience made note of these. While all this happened, the brands took note too.
The videos continued. The YouTube superstars grew as did their audience base. They continued to record their lives while audiences continued to connect and relate with them. YouTube and Facebook gave the audience a chance to interact with these superstars. Soon the audiences were speaking in awe about these videos and followed what they did. In short, the audiences were influenced by these superstars. Somewhere along this journey, as the influencer — audience relationship blossomed, brand names found their place as a hidden entity in this relationship. Placed so carefully in the day to day lives of these superstars, it was sometimes hard to differentiate when the influencers discussed a product in their videos for money and when they didn’t.
These days influence marketing is hitting the sweet spot with the older generation too. So there must be something about this form of marketing that works. Here are my observations:
- Making an emotional connect is still key because you need to empathise with your audience.
- Influence marketing is two-way traffic allowing the audience to interact with their influencers. Replying back and taking feedback from the audiences is another way to make the emotional connect we discussed in point 1.
- Gone are the days when you had to sit through advertisements. Remember the times when we surfed TV channels just to escape the ads? Today, the internet has given people the power to choose what they want to watch. There are more incomplete videos in my Youtube history that I have quit watching midway than completed ones. This is an era of low tolerance levels because of the alternatives at our disposal.
- Influencer marketing is seen as authentic by the audience because it showcases the product unlike traditional advertising which is often misleading. Influencers tell their viewers what they like and dislike about the product. These opinions, both good and bad, give the audience the real picture of the product. Brands approach influencers by giving them the product to play with, hoping that more viewers get an elaborate peek into its features when they vlog about it. They are also fine surrendering control of the advertisement to these influencers and allow them to be themselves as they share their experiences about the product with their viewers. Brand names give in to this autonomy because it helps in making the interaction more personal and less sponsored.
- Brands do not mind flaws being discussed because let’s face it, flaws are real. They know that there will always be a segment in the audience that will choose to buy the product despite the flaws for various reasons. So the audience is much more aware, when buying a product, of the good, bad and ugly aspects of the product. This certainly helps create a positive synergy between the end customers and brand names.
- Influencer marketing is a lot about commoners influencing others. Being a commoner, I am able to relate a lot more to the lives and choices of another commoners than celebrities. Plus there is always something for everyone irrespective of gender, age, nationality, race, economic status. The internet has a place for everyone.
One of the biggest strengths of the internet has been to facilitate the ‘right to information’ and brand names have also aligned themselves to this movement.