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Influencer Marketing in India. What is influencer marketing?

Posted in Podcast, Resources/Guides, WMA Alumni, WMA Students

Influencer Marketing in India 

Recent events (specifically the Aamir Khan incident) brought the topic of influencer marketing to the forefront – not because of the comments he made but the aftermath of what Snapdeal, the brand he endorses, had to face!

Influencer marketing scare when Aamir Khan Critics turn against Snapdeal

Influencer marketing scare for Snapdeal (Image courtesy:

What is influencer marketing? Is it all about celebrity endorsements or much more than that? And what if your brand starts seeing a negative impact because of a brand ambassador? What do you do? How do you prepare for it? And finally, how can you turn your customers, influencers and fans into influencers for your business?

Listen to the entire podcast here:

What is influencer marketing?

Content Marketing Institute Research 2015

Marketing using somebody’s influence to get consumers closer to the buying stage – it could be celebrities or common people like you and me. Aren’t you influenced when a friend buys or endorses a product on social media?

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Pinterest are capitalizing on this trend. Celebrities are becoming passé with more brands trying to get brand lift by sharing real life stories that sync with their core vision or social stand.

Growing influencer marketing trend

As per an AdWeek report, Google Trends show a 5000% hike in the usage of the search term “influencer marketing.”

A study by McKinsey reveals that marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising and has a 37 percent higher retention rate.

What should the role of an influencer be?

Sejal shared her knowledge on the role of influencers and their responsibilities to their followers. Their primary job is to generate ROI for the brand paying them top dollars for the influence. They need to be participative in public and private forums – advocating the brand.

And if they want to be honest about it, they should be users of said product or service themselves. They also need to be content creators themselves sometimes.

You’ll find more interesting points in Lee Odden’s article “The Hidden Value of Influencers in B2B Content Marketing.”

The history of celebrity endorsements

To learn more about how celebrity endorsements work and whether they really deliver expected ROI, I did some digging. I found an Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA) research paper from 2012. And here’s what I learned.

The celebrity endorsement trend started in the 1980s and became much bigger in the 1990s. But not all such campaigns proved successful. However, when the endorsements worked, they got a brand some serious gold! Even back in 2010, the celebrity endorsement market was considered to be worth more than Rs. 10000 million ($200 million) business. More reading here:

The great Indian celebrity trap in advertising, Economic Times, Feb 3, 2010
Celebrity management is still evolving in India, Economic Times, Feb 3, 2010

Some of the earliest brands to use celebrities in TV commercials were Vimal, Thums Up and Gwalior. CocoCola followed the example in the 1990s. Then came Parker that used Amitabh Bachan. We also had endorsements from Shahrukh Khan for Hyundai Santro, etc. Santro became the second largest selling car in India within four years of its launch and Shahrukh Khan, who was endorsing three brands, went on to endorse more than 30 brands in 2009.

In the Indian market, we find that the rise in celebrity endorsements has been phenomenal in decade to 2010. In 2001, 25 % of all TV advertisements carried a known face. By 2008, this had grown to 60 % and continues to grow.

The impact of celebrity endorsements

Some more digging pulled out the “The Celebrity Endorsement Survey” conducted by research agency IMRB (Indian Market Research Bureau) and public relations outfit. It covered over 2019 respondents across 12 metros and small towns in India. The findings:

  • 86 per cent of the respondents say the most prominent ad that they remember has a celebrity in it – so definitely a big plus for brand recall.
  • Only 3 per cent feel that celebrity endorser of a brand affects their buying decision.
  • In small towns and South India, there is greater affinity to celebrities.
  • 55% of the people don’t believe that the celebrities use the products that they endorse.
  • 78% of the people buy products because of the quality of the product.

So the picture isn’t as rosy as it used to be.

Why do celebrity endorsements work?

From the research paper again, research findings are equivocal about the ability of celebrities to generate actual purchase behavior, positive impact on economic returns of sponsoring companies. This is well documented in research papers such as:

It is widely accepted that celebrity endorsers are more effective than non-celebrity endorsers in generating all desirable outcomes (attitudes towards advertising and endorsed brand, intentions to purchase, and actual sales) when companies utilize celebrities whose public persona match with the products and target audiences.

Best practices for celebrity endorsements to work

Brands must look at:

  • the promotional features and image of the product to verify if they closely integrate with the personality of the celebrity
  • using the credibility of the celebrity
  • making products that create a niche in the market and establish itself as a brand
  • how the celebrity’s role is most prominent in personifying the product to his/her image and that helps it reach the customers

This can backlash when celebrities are seen as endorsing many types of products across a wide spectrum.

Influencer marketing beyond celebs

Influencer marketing is a lot about being smart and proactive. Your employees and customers can become your brand ambassadors as well, they can be influencers. When would that happen? Only if you give them a supreme experience that is part of a long-term strategy to grow your business.

You can also search for influencers in your industry by tapping the online world. Find the top fashion blogger or the top food blogger … get them to be influencers.

Tools to identify influencers in your industry

Here are some handy tools for you to look for the right influencers in your domain:

Check this article out as well: Finding Influencers on Facebook and Twitter Blogs.

Tips to turn your customers and employees into influencers

Build loyal followers. It doesn’t have to be a huge following. Start with your current customers and employees. Suresh had some tips close to his heart.

How do you turn customers or employees into influencer marketing vehicles?

  • Think of how you can make them special.
  • Appreciate, give a shout out and share their achievements or contributions in your social media channels; tag them.
  • Be genuine in your interactions.
  • Be empathetic with their issues.
  • Give your employees enough resources, appreciate them in public as well.
  • Educate them, build trust by providing value in terms of content.
  • Use Twitter and Facebook videos. When someone shares your content, thank them using a selfie mode to make it more personal and engaging.
  • Use tools such as Periscope and Blab to personalize your response.
  • Use Facebook birthday video wishes on their special day.
  • Favorites: Have face to face meetings. Pick up the phone and call. Send emails. Or even personal hand written Thank you notes.

With all of the above, prepare your employees to handle crisis such as a celeb endorsement that backfires. Give enough training for anyone to handle questions and react as desired on online forums.

Welcome to the 26th episode of Digital India Podcast on FIR Podcast Network. This show is ‘Weekly Updates’ brought to you by staff and students of Web Marketing Academy.