Harsh Pamnani is a storyteller by passion and a brand expert by profession. He helps business leaders communicate inspiring stories that highlight brand strengths, improve employee commitment and customer engagement, and drive business growth. He has authored several best-selling books on brand building, including Booming Brands and Booming Digital Stars. He earned his MBA from XLRI and has worked with think tanks like the World Bank, corporates like Deloitte, and unicorn start-ups like FirstCry and Icertis. He has spoken at fora such as TEDx, Josh Talks, Google Business Group, IITs, and IIMs.
There was an era when a few media channels controlled content creation and distribution. They decided what audience should watch, on which day, and when. In those days, thousands of brands competed for a few second slots at prime time, and only a few celebrities such as film stars and cricketers endorsed all kinds of brands ranging from cosmetics to cars.
But, the internet, social media, and smartphone changed everything. Now, the audience decides what they want to watch, on which day and time. Brands have 24 X 7 slot options on popular YouTube channels. Millennials and Gen Z audiences spend a lot of time on social media and are more influenced by digital content creators than traditional celebrities.
The popularity of top digital content creators is clear from the fact that some of them have more social media followers than many venture capital-funded startups, listed corporates, film stars, and even media outlets. They have built their audience empire with content matching the Millennial and Gen Z expectations. With the digital audience base becoming bigger with every passing day, you can imagine that the creators are more likely to impact consumer buying decisions in the immediate future.
One popular marketing approach is that brands need to advertise where their target audience is and communicate their message through influencers who command audience attention. As audiences gradually shift, marketing budgets are moving to new-age channels and digital content creators. However, discovering, contacting, selecting suitable creators, and managing relationships with them is very time-consuming. So, marketers feel the pressure created by this shift. So, here are a few tips that could help marketers participate in this new world effectively:
Engage a reputed talent management agency Talent management agencies have access to various types of creators – urban and rural, mass following and niche following, English speaking and vernacular language speaking, and so on. They help marketers select the relevant creators based on specific criteria (follower count, demographics, specialisation, and so on), negotiate contracts, plan brand campaigns, and conduct in-depth post-campaign analysis.
Partner with multiple creators instead of one
Generally, the cost of collaboration with a digital content creator is less than the cost of association with a film star. So in the same budget, a brand can collaborate with multiple creators instead of one celebrity. Mega creators with a more extensive follower base can help you reach a larger audience base and increase brand awareness. However, numerous micro creators can increase audience engagement, leading to a better conversion rate. For instance, along with having Janhvi Kapoor as its brand ambassador, Nykaa extensively used a network of around 3,000 creators, including beauty, fashion, and lifestyle bloggers and makeup artists, to connect with its target audience.
Choose creators strategically
Understand which creators have the most extensive overlap between their followers and your target audience? For instance, if you are marketing a financial investment product, a creator with a large following of working professionals is better than a creator with a large following of students. Another example is if a brand wants to enter Tamil Nadu, it would need to partner with Tamil-speaking creators as Hindi-speaking creators might work very little in the South.
Define the objectives of your campaign
Social media channels offer an extraordinary number of data points you might get impressed by — likes, views, comments, and so on. But without a defined objective, they can be useless. Define your campaign objectives, such as are you looking to increase brand awareness? Or achieve sales targets? Or shape people's opinion? For instance, a car brand can engage a creator to communicate a special offer and get leads for the test drive, or a mutual fund brand can hire a creator to educate youngsters about financial investments in a friendly manner.
Decide the pricing model as per engagement
Prices vary as per engagement type, creator's niche, and influence. One way is to pay a flat rate as per a rate card for posts on various social media channels. Another way could be to spend based on performance parameters such as the number of views, lead generation, the spike in web traffic, the number of purchases or app downloads, and so on. For instance, Myntra onboarded Bhuvan Bam as its digital brand ambassador. A few years back, for Yatra.com, Prajakta Koli created a fortnightly property called Mostly Yatra on her channel. Fashion designers ask Team Naach to try their costumes, and music labels approach Team Naach to choreograph their songs. All these are different types of engagements.
Treat creators as partners rather than advertising outlets
Content creators have invested a lot of time and effort in building friendships and establishing trust with their audience. They understand what clicks with their audience and prefer to incorporate a brand’s message authentically. So, marketers should listen to creators as partners rather than push words in their mouths and control their creative process. For instance, a few years back, when HealthifyMe approached Kabita's Kitchen to develop healthy recipes, the brand's objective was to get some visibility and achieve some app downloads. However, Kabita's Kitchen suggested that the brand do a 360-degree campaign rather than just one video and associate the campaign with New Year resolutions, rather than the original November to January campaign timeline. The outcome was fantastic. The video achieved over 10 million views, and the brand’s app got thousands of downloads.
Every advertising channel has a shelf life. There was a time when TV, newspapers, and billboards worked well. There was a time when tele-calling and SMS worked well. There was a time when emails, banner ads, search ads and social media ads worked well. But gradually, old advertising channels get exhausted, and new channels emerge. Undoubtedly, right now, content creators are in great demand by brands. The market will inevitably get crowded with many creators promoting brands, and this channel will also get exhausted. Smart marketers invent, adapt, and ultimately discard advertising channels. If you are not an inventor, adapt before your competition and discard before the channel gets exhausted.
The writer is an author of 'Booming Brands' and co-author of ‘Booming Digital Stars’. Views expressed are personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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