How to (Not) Make Friends and Influence People

#JuhiGodambeforArabella, home to high street fashion!” – Komal Pandey on how to get away with bad hair days!

Right from the dawn of consumerism, sale value has always been the hot take. Shopping through the heat has taken a backseat to shopping on the seat and outdated models of business can no longer work their charms. Our influencers come in thus – a marketing strategy curated to influence the general public into making seemingly well informed choices about the material as well as non material experiences they are investing in. Influencer marketing refers to the digital and media marketing strategy of reaching out to the market through influencers – known celebs, significant or known faces in social media to be the face of the brand and offer product placements utilising the sway of the influencer. An influencer may have followers in the range of as few as 1000 (nano influencers) to as huge as 300000+ followers (macro influencers). Influencers are, in every sense, buoyed by social media. Platforms such as Tik Tok have further expedited influencer/follower interaction as short clips spread viral in a click of the mouse.

One of the key differences between celebrity or celeb marketing and influencer marketing is that influencers have a lot more engagement with their audience on social media platforms. Social media is very often the only point of contact between their followers and themselves. Influencers are aficionados of the fields they come from- very often armed with a formal degree in their area of expertise. Unlike celebrities who are probably not as aware of the nuances of the brands they endorse, an influencer will have more insight into the technical jargon and products they espouse – be it the food they rate, the outfits they don or the winded trails they take up quaint hills. Thus, they are often perceived to be more reliable sources of information than celebrities. Influencers do enjoy a tremendous sway over people online but many a times do not enjoy similar adoration from netizens beyond the online medium. An influencer is not deterred from their audience via a larger than life, inaccessible image of the true bred celebrity emerging from silver screens or sports arenas. Influencers are very often experts having thorough, exhaustive research into any particular paradigm – ranging from traveling, to lifestyle hacks, fabrics and anything under the sun.

One of the few paradigms not negatively impacted by COVID-19 and the pandemic, influencer marketing has rather seen an upsurge – the industry is touted to hold a net worth of $13.1 billion by the end of 2021. Around 240 platforms have come up in 2019 alone, curated for the sole purpose of facilitating better relationships between the brands and their influencers. A whopping 90% of brands report excellent turount for projects publicised by influencers and many choose to work within a cordial symbiotic correspondence with the same influencer across multiple brands. Its true to say – influencer marketing is here to stay.

The roots of influencer marketing reach deep – it is deeply resonant with the ideas of persuasion and how the mind perceives the same. In Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking work Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the author maps human tendencies and unspoken norms of conduct visible only through subtext in light of the nuances of persuasion. Influencers tap into their audiences’ demands and are conscious of their target audience’s propensities and requirements. By tapping into these well known faces the brands are establishing authenticity and the basic groundwork for reciprocal obligations to spread roots. Brands build customized websites for buyer interaction and seal the deal by projecting authenticity via their influencers and gaining faith implicitly etched into brand commitments. Multiple online raffles offering delectable individualized services and commodities rouse the public’s instincts of reciprocity and instill an unfounded sense of obligation – converting raffle winners to potential dedicated consumers. Maintaining constant communication in the influencers’ voice keeps the engagement rolling- interactive tasks such as the buyers rating scales for a coordinated look on the influencer , or using individualised codes pertaining to a particular influencer and boosting sales through increased engagement. The consistency principle plays itself dexterously into consumer behaviour – once a transaction is slated to happen, further transactions run smoother as the clientele stands committed and consistent to the brand and its actions. This consistency is inherently connected to encumbering cognitive processes like thinking and decision making. We see defensive behaviour in consumers, guardedly dodging dissonant ideas. A hallmark of a trusted popular influencer simply feeds the convictions in decision making.

A prolific method of buying into the consumer’s wallet is social proof. A child will spontaneously run onto the swing for his turn when he sees other kids participating. Processions boast huge turnovers under the mask of anonymous entities invalidating each other’s intelligence. Only when our decisions and propositions bear the stamp of public legitimization do we feel ‘correct’ in our convictions. Influencer marketing ingeniously employs this instinct for social evidence through mobilisation of its devoted partisans. Followers feel invalidated by the presence and activities of each other to confidently invest in the ventures of the influencers bringing them together. Notions attached to products and services prioritise convince the consumer of the popularity of the brand – verbs of movement often dispatched freely to create an illusion of sale value being high. By making influencers advertise the products as the latest trendy vogue, a market is created by simply harnessing the idea of popular demand.

The hard boiled golden rule of consumerism can be summed up in this Hindi adage, “Jo dikhta hai wo bikta hai (anything that looks good, sells good). Our cognitive functions are hard wired through the ages by social contracts to traditionally equate bankability and trust to appearances and outward shine. While our influencers are breaking substantial ground in colorism, gender stereotypes and traditionally affiliated gender conformities (we have women influencers going solo on mountain routes and male influencers promoting non-gendered beauty products), a large number of the brands collaborating with influencers are the fashion, beauty, lifestyle or travel industry, and the entertainment forums of tinsel town. These industries are marketing labels and standards of body types and generalising the innate human uniqueness that lies beyond any quantifiers imaginable. The wedding scene is incomplete without a toned tummy, the musk of a specific deodorant serves to enhance masculinity – and in turn, attractiveness mired with sexual implications. Fitness and health is shelved in toned biceps, protein shakes and hourglass waists – not in unique body shapes and mental hygiene. Lifestyle choices blend into the prevailing, sought after narrative rather than personal ideologies. The strain of cultivating said standards into social identity and anxiety over losing status quo in lieu of sustaining lifestyle choices plagues the populace. The impressionable consumer gives sway to the agendas sophistically wrapped as common good and welfare. While consumers are most certainly not being conned of their resources and brands will always aim to be profitable, certain ethics over marketing strategies definitely comes into the fold.

Influencers are connoisseurs catering to niche audiences. The brand carefully approaches an influencer for a collaboration to juxtapose brand image and influencer image in a seemingly organic mesh – the target? A niche audience that the product speaks to. The scarcity principle, one of the elementary ideas operant in production of goods and the demand-supply equation, posits in social psychology as well to highlight that goods in small supply, (or even the illusion of limited editions) is highly sought after. The various deadlines on goods that influencers stick to are brand mandated gambits to boost sales.

While the world continues to shape and mold itself to laissez-faire policies and individualist choices and social media is all the rage, influencers and influencer marketing is shaping up to be a very interesting arena for business enterprises, especially in a post pandemic world.

– Bipasha Bhowmick

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