Why increasing the brand-influencer collaborative effort is more important now

The COVID-19 crisis and the nation-wide lockdown are changing the influencer ecosystem. Even as people have become more concerned about protecting themselves and their families from the virus infection, and given the volatility of the market, are curtailing their spends, the way they are engaging with influencers is also changing. Hence, influencers need to rethink how they can keep their engagements relevant and keep inspiring their audiences. The coming month will see a shift in how influencers create content. Also, how brands involve influencers for creating brand equity will also need rethink.

During this time, even as digital first brands have further leveraged various platforms, we also see several traditional brands joining the race. Here, influencers and influencer marketing has seen a great surge as brands fight to maintain relevance and continue communicating with their audiences.

Continuing with our #TwitterChat initiative, Adgully turned the spotlight on “Decoding Shifts In the Influencer Ecosystem”, where several industry experts and influencers came together to chart the future roadmap for this sector.

The panellists included:

Gurpreet Singh, Co-Founder & COO, One Digital Entertainment – Moderator

Prashant Puri, Co-Founder & CEO Adlift (@puriprashant)

Aakanksha Gupta, Founder, The Other Circle (@theothercircle)

Govind Mahadevan, Founder & CEO, Look Who’s Talking (@GovindMahadevan)

Malini Agarwal, Founder and Creative Director MissMalini Entertainment (@maliniagarwal)

Rajeev Rana - Gogi.in (@gogiinc)

Ssumier Pasricha, Producer/ Actor/ Content Creator (@ssumier)

Gurpreet Singh began the round of questions by asking the panellists about the key strategies for successful influencer marketing in the COVID-19 period and beyond.

Prashant Puri observed, “Influencers have a ton of clout, hence they are influencers. At times like this they should leverage their following/ clout to help people do the right thing. This in turn will enhance brand recall for the brands that they endorse.”

Malini Agarwal added here, “One difference is that brands, influencers, and agencies must be sensitive to the environment. Some communications would certainly not be acceptable during the lockdown, brands need to be cautious to not come across as ‘trying to take advantage’.” She further said, “The same strategies that applied before COVID-19. Influencer marketing needs to be authentic, transparent, and executed by a well-trained team who knows how to work with the creative and business teams to resolve disputes and align on the plan.”

Ssumier Pasricha’s advice to influencers was to “connect with brands and their mission and create a content which suits their vision and coincide with your brand as an influencer.”

Rajeev Rana remarked, “During COVID-19, brands have the opportunity to create amazing collaborations with influencers. The importance of building a strong digital strategy for brands and the content of creators is becoming more relevant today, now more than ever.”

Giving a consumer’s perspective, Govind Mahadavan noted, “With changing consumer preferences, it is time for brands to get more human and show that they care. They should opt for brand-love content and build a stronger connect with people, using influencers they want to see on their mobile screens.”

Aakanksha Gupta presented a four-point perspective, which included:

  1. Find influencers that can tell the tale while keeping your brand’s vision and ethos in mind.
  2. Focus on nostalgia and emotions, have a genuine filter for every story because, at the end of the day, we’re an emotional country.
  3. Identify the consumption patterns that will grow post-COVID-19, and push the product accordingly.
  4. Make sure that your brand and the influencer marry themselves into the bigger narrative of what’s happening around them. Always.

Singh’s next question to the panellists was about their perspective of influencers’ responsibility in the current scenario.

“I can’t think of a time when an influencer has been irresponsible,” remarked Puri, adding, “It is a time when everyone is sensitive to the current situation, whether it is brands, agencies, influencers, et al. And we are all doing the right thing.”

According to Agarwal, “One positive result of everyone being locked down is that creators and influencers are able to spend more time talking with the fans and understanding what types of content are now in high demand.” She further added, “Creating wholesome, positive content during these times is important, it gives people a sense of normalcy that they can still consume what they want digitially. I like this sense of responsibility to their fans to create uplifting content.”

Gupta here observed, “Regardless of their personal vision, they’ve built a collective narrative propagating a shared mission. They’ve understood their impact on their audience. They’ve made sure to help out in any way that they can, be it fundraisers or free concerts, lives for their crowd.”

Giving his point of view, Mahadevan said, “During these times, when fake news can spread panic in mass numbers, creators have been more responsible. People are consuming more online content than before and creators are important stakeholders in that.”

Pasricha added here, “Influencers have a lot of social responsibility and especially now, where rumours can spread like a bush fire. Talking about or posting anything which can create disharmony, hurting religious sentiments should be avoided at anytime." He stressed that during these times, it should be more of ‘Infotainment’, but depending on brand to brand and what they want to achieve.

Rana felt, “We wake up every day and read the news, it is not the best way to start your day. Creators have always been a source of inspiration for their audience. Now more than ever, the audience needs their influencers to be there for them.”

Singh then asked the panellists whether communication should be left to the influencer, based on what best suits their communities.

To this, Puri replied, “Yes and no. There are brand guidelines that need to be adhered to; some basic do’s and don’ts, but other than that they should let #influencers do their thing. That is what they are good at and that’s how they influence people. Curbing that is a big mistake. More importantly, stop saying... ‘isko viral kardo’.”

Gupta opined, “It is always going to be a collaborative effort. Because the influencer knows its crowd, it is they who should always decide the language of the story. Although, there are other things that they should always decide on together. They can be:

  • The core messaging of the brands, as that is something that cannot be compromised.
  • Depending on what the brand is selling, be it aspiration, or realism, the picturisation can be decided together."

Mahadevan says, "When it comes to creating amazing collaborations, it has to be a give and take situation. Finding the right influencer to align with your brand voice is the key. Creators know what their audience responds to best, so they should always get a say."

“Both brands and influencers have their vision and mission, both have their set audience and following,” said Pasricha, adding, “It is collective project, where the motives of both are achieved. Interfering in someone’s creativity should never be an object. You are connecting with an influencer because you know their style and followers. Which means, he she knows their work, so respect the suggestions and come in mutual agreement of the content to be created.”

Agarwal affirmed, “In extraordinary times such as these, we should be putting even more trust in creators’ understanding of what their fans are going through and how best to communicate with them. The reason why people follow a certain creator or influencer is because they find them relatable, their tone and vibe resonates. If you take away that aspect, you damage the influencer’s authenticity and your connection with the audience.”

Summing up the session, Rana remarked, “At the end of the day, it is about communicating what the brand needs from a campaign. As creators, we know what our audience wants to hear, so it needs to be a collaborative effort on both ends.”


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