3 insider tips on building successful influencer campaigns

Satya Raghavan, Nidhi Thakkar / September 2020

From Bhuvam Bam to Kabita’s Kitchen and BeYouNick, content creators have never had a greater influence in shaping India’s consumer choices than they do today. Many marketers are hoping to tap into the trend, but influencers are taking a more considered approach when choosing which product to endorse on their platforms. It’s now about fit, and ensuring relevance to an influencer’s audience.

In 2008, YouTube launched in India, and audiences were mainly hungry for entertainment content. Over a decade later, viewership has grown to more than 265 million users a month.

As the number of viewers swelled over the years, consumption habits also shifted, aggregately and individually. 43% of content consumed nowadays is learning-based, carving a unique opportunity for creators to build large, loyal, and captive audiences.

YouTube’s widespread reach and accessibility have become an attractive and effective way to amass and engage fans. The number of creator channels with more than one million subscribers soared from 16 in 2014 to well beyond 2,500 last year, as internet users show creators love and loyalty.

The last few years have seen an increasing number of collaborations between creators and brands, and not just with brands that have large budgets. As this segment matures, there is an opportunity for brands to collaborate with creators to create new and memorable experiences for audiences.

To find out how to build happy, fruitful partnerships with creators, we turned to the creators themselves to outline the three priorities brands should consider when partnering with content creators to set themselves up for success while planning influencer marketing campaigns.

Preserving creator authenticity is key

The relationship is simple: fans follow creators because they resonate with them – who they are, what they stand for, what they care about. Content creators have become brands in themselves and successful collaborations depend on the natural synergies (hint: never force-fit a creative collaboration) between the creator’s and the marketer’s brand.

We recommend that marketers spend time to truly understand what the creator stands for and craft a campaign that naturally melds the persona with the product. Instead of asking the creator to transform their communication style completely, it is always more fruitful when brands approach campaigns with creators as partnerships that keep the user top-of-mind while building the campaign message and tonality.

Bhavna Lalchandani, general manager of digital business and strategic partnerships at Sony Music Entertainment, believes brands should put audience-experience first, and subtly integrate their messaging within the creator’s content. “Brands should use feelings to drive connections and create awareness. Branded content has often had a bad reputation, but if the content creator has the power to seamlessly integrate the brand, it’s a win-win situation.”

Kiran, The Bong Guy, whose comedic and music videos regularly draw millions of views, adds, “If a creator makes satirical videos for an intellectual audience but the brand wants him to make an integration that looks like a TV commercial, his audiences will know that it’s fake. A brand should never follow the same cookie-cutter pattern with every creator.”

Provide value through storytelling

Consumers turn to long-form video platforms like YouTube with clear intent, which presents a unique opportunity for brands to speak to a captivated audience.

70% of consumers prefer YouTube content that reflects their life, and more than 70% feel that YouTube content offers them a deeper human connection.1 Consumers tune in to their favorite creators for a variety of reasons – their content relates to their passions, digs deeper into their interests, teaches them something new, helps them relax (or perhaps a combination of the above) – so brands should work closely with creators to understand and meet these expectations.

Aditi Shrivastava, co-founder of Pocket Aces, one of the country’s biggest digital content agencies, notes that savvy audiences aren’t interested in having their content-viewing be interrupted. “But if they see a brand’s messaging or product via a beloved character in content they can relate to, then the experience is completely transformed.”

Optimally, brands should aim to nurture the delicate but potentially powerful brand-creator-viewer relationship over time.

“We really understand if you like three out of the four ideas that we send, but do not mash it all into one single idea just to save on budget,” says BeYouNick, one of India’s favorite entertainers. “Orange juice is a great breakfast item, and so is a sunny side up egg, but mashing them into a single concoction would be an aberration. If you like three ideas, treat it as a campaign done over a period of time. Audiences love continuity.”

Creators are partners, not channels

Treat creators as partners and let them help strategize the concept because they’ve spent their career nurturing, studying, and, most importantly, understanding how to meaningfully engage with their audience.

“In 2020, audiences want to see brand personalities, and be friends with their favorite brands on social media,” said Aditi Shrivastava. “Trust the creators to know the best way to ensure their audiences enjoy the content and remember your messaging.”

Factors for a successful collaboration

Several factors underpin a successful partnership and should be kept in mind when considering an influencer strategy. Start by focusing on sustainable engagements rather than chasing unpredictable virality. The creator behind Kabita’s Kitchen, with 7.2 million subscribers, says a long-term association is preferable: “It helps calibrate the content strategy.”

Second, consider cross-channel planning to drive reach and relatability, such as by bridging off- and online mediums like TV and YouTube.

Third, define what success means to you and the creator — it’s not just about the number of views. “When it comes to content marketing metrics, there is no shortage of things to measure, and it’s easy to drown in data,” says Bhavna Lalchandani. “The key is to identify the two or three KPIs that have obvious actions associated with them. Don’t lose focus on actionable insights.”

The multiscreen mix: How marketers in India are embracing a combination of TV and YouTube