Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Brand Awareness Is Not Brand Love

Published in May-Jun 2022

Influencer marketing has become a double-edged sword, argues Raaj Kheraj.

Influencer marketing has become the buzzword of the moment and the ‘next big thing’. In fact, it could be called a revolutionary form of mass marketing that has taken the world by storm. Until a few years ago, client budgets were allocated to traditional marketing (with heavy TV media spend), with a small portion given over to digital boosting (because someone said so). Today, digital has a dedicated portion of the budget and one result of this is that the money that went to the big celebrities with millions of followers now goes to influencers with thousands of followers. The question is, why? Because, as per the available data, people with less than 1,000 followers usually garner more engagement for their posts, compared to those with 10 million followers. They may not have a big following, but they offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach, exceeding celebrities with a higher number of followers and at a much lower cost. Isn’t it interesting?

Influencer marketing is an exciting concept that has enabled many self-made social media hustlers to plug-in products and services and leverage their followers in order to reach out and target their audiences. But as we say, with every pro comes cons.

Are influencers good or bad? This is what every brand manager thinks about before initiating a campaign. With more and more influencers emerging with every passing day, brands and agencies see this as an evolution that will change the way marketing is done. Be that as it may, this trend has also encouraged literally anyone to jump on the influencer bandwagon. And this can be a challenge for both the influencer and the brand. 

The charm of influencer marketing was its authenticity. There was a time when influencers did what they did out of a passion to share what they loved – and this is what kept their followers hooked. Today, however, due to the growing hype around influencers, money has entered the equation, so that ‘influencing’ has become a source of income. This may have increased the number of influencers out there, but it has also impacted the ecosystem of influencer marketing.

With more and more influencers creating content for brands, audiences have started to look at what is being put out there more critically, and that has impacted the influence of the influencer. Audiences now think of any content that features a brand – whether it is sponsored or not – as marketing. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult for brands to use influencer marketing to promote their brands and conversely for influencers to create content even for themselves.

Photograph: Hamza Bhatti's Facebook
Photograph: Hamza Bhatti's Facebook

Nevertheless, in the last two to three years, many new influencers have succeeded in finding a place in the hearts and minds of their followers. Let’s take Hamza ‘the’ Bhatti, He started his vlog during Ramzan and has now become a favourite among most foodies across Pakistan, especially Rawalpindi. Yet, until March this year, Hamza was a normal Instagram influencer, putting out content on a lot of topics with no uniformity. Then, this Ramzan, he started a series of 30 vlogs to highlight the mouth-watering food available in Rawalpindi. As both a Karachi-wala and a foodie, I have always thought of Karachi as the hub of the best food in Pakistan (no offence to any other city). However, after watching his videos, I cannot wait for my next trip to Rawalpindi to try every dish that he listed in his series. His content was simple and inspired. 

If he continues with his foodie vlog and in the middle posts some food-related sponsored content, I may not be able to identify it as sponsored and it will work as great native content. However, if he puts in content that is off-topic (as in he talks about a non-food brand and market), there is no way it can be classified as native.

Influencer marketing is more than creating content to make people aware of your brand. It is about making your brand a part of your consumer’s lifestyle. It is about positioning the brand in an organic way in the mind of the consumer. Despite several successful examples, mostly international, many local and multinational brands in Pakistan use influencers to just reach out to the public. They consider influencer marketing as a modern media technique, which it is not. 

So how can we harness the power of influencer marketing? It’s simple. Rather than aligning the content with the agency and then onboarding the influencer, it is better to do it the other way around. Step into the digital world and look for influencers there. Find the people your audiences associate with, follow them and be inspired and influenced by them. That is your starting point. Once you have identified the influencer, invite them for a cup of coffee and tell them about your brand; what it stands for and what you want people to think about it. Finally, rather than telling them about what you want from them, discuss what they can do for you. Have a conversation, write down the ideas, build on them together and then go live with them.

Above all, keep your mind open to new ideas and trends. Remember your audience is evolving every day and they are following these influencers more than your brand. These influencers know their audience very well and they know what content works best for them. Start to think about influencer marketing as more than ticking a box for your campaigns. See influencers as an opportunity to bring the love and loyalty of your brand to the next level. 

So, get, set and influence!

Raaj Kheraj is Manager, Digital and User Experience, Adcom Leo Burnett.