17 Sep 2020 20:20 IST

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Influencers can greatly enhance the brand value of beauty products

The right bloggers and compelling content can change the game for marketing campaigns

In January 2019, there were 4.4 billion Internet users in the world; 3.9 billion accessed the Internet through their mobile phones while 3.5 billion were active on various social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp. With more and more people logging on to the Internet, digital marketing — an umbrella term used to describe the process of marketing goods and services using digital technologies — has emerged as an important component of a company’s marketing mix.

One widely used social media marketing approach was influencer marketing, a more professional form of word-of-mouth marketing, aimed at converting social media audiences into loyal customers through authenticity and trust. In 2018, Instagram was the most sought-after channel for influencer marketing, followed by Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Several companies across the world, from cosmetics manufacturers to confectionery makers, have been successfully using influencer marketing to create or improve brand awareness and increase sales of their products.

Used by big brands and start-ups alike

With the increase in Internet penetration rates, many cosmetics companies began to regularly use influencer marketing to improve their brand image, launch products, and expand sales. L’Oreal, a global cosmetics manufacturer; Avon, a direct selling brand; and The Man Company, making male grooming products, have implemented influencer marketing campaigns in India.

L’Oreal’s NYX product launch in India

NYX, a global makeup brand of the L’Oreal group, launched its products in India in 2016 using a digital-only campaign. The campaign was designed to ensure that prospective consumers engaged actively with the brand. The makeup products were introduced by leading beauty influencers in India, among them Shreya Jain and Pratibha, through Facebook Live.

 

 

 

 

Each influencer hosted a Facebook Live event on their page, at which they unboxed different products of NYX, interacted with their audience, applied the products, and gave live feedback. They urged their audience to shop for NYX products at Nykaa.com, a beauty products e-commerce site in India, and attend NYX’s store opening in Mumbai later that year. The event also comprised several contests and the winners had to collect their prizes at the store. The event was viewed by one million people.

The Avon True Make-Up Marathon

In April 2017, Avon India started an eight-week social media campaign called “The Avon True Make Up Marathon.” Its primary objectives were to increase brand relevance among consumers by getting influencers to offer suggestions on using the products in innovative ways and to highlight the brand’s core ethos as well as increase market penetration. Avon chose to engage with consumers across different social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram by conducting contests and awarding prizes to contest winners.

 

 

 

 

 

Leading beauty, fashion, and lifestyle influencers Ankita Srivastava, Anam Chashmawala, and Bhumika Thakkar encouraged women from all walks of life to buy Avon True makeup products. They urged their followers to try out four new makeup looks, and share their photographs on Avon’s social media handles. The best photographs were later collated in a book called Avon True Look Book.

The Man Company’s Valentine’s Day Special Gift Boxes

In 2018, The Man Company, a manufacturer of men’s grooming products in India, came up with limited edition Valentine’s Day gift boxes, containing an assortment of grooming products including wooden hair combs, soaps, body washes, shave gels, and perfumes, targeted at urban, social-media savvy consumers. The brand’s management team adopted influencer marketing for promoting the gift boxes as they did not have the luxury of a big marketing budget.

 

 

 

 

 

The brand approached Qoruz, an influencer marketing agency, to ideate and execute the campaign. Qoruz devised a campaign titled ‘Show, Tell and Sell’ where 50 men and women micro-influencers specialising in fashion and lifestyle on Instagram were brought on board to share their first-hand experience with the gift boxes. The influencers – Ashwini Dixit, Shyam Tyagi, Samidha Singh, among others – then described the products on their Instagram accounts. They also shared special discount coupons with their audience. By showcasing the contents of the gift boxes and sharing their personal experience of gifting them to their Valentines, the influencers were able to pique interest in the product.

Impact of influencer marketing campaigns

Influencer marketing campaigns had a significant positive impact in terms of product awareness, consumer engagement, product sales, and revenues.

More than 4,000 women sent their photographs for “The Avon True Make Up Marathon” contest; Avon True’s share of voice (SOV) increased from 7 per cent to more than 53 per cent during the campaign period (April to May 2017), which was higher than that of Maybelline, Colorbar, Lakme, and L’Oreal; the marketing campaign reached 16 million people, registered 28 million impressions across social media platforms, and resulted in a 114 per cent rise in sales. Over 30 leading beauty bloggers tried the makeup products, gave reviews, and covered the launch of the Avon True Look Book on their social media handles. The contest led to higher consumer engagement on Instagram. According to Campaignindia.in and Unmetric, the ‘Avon True Make Up Marathon’ was among the 20 leading Facebook posts during April to May 2017.

The Facebook live launch event conducted by NYX reached 1 million people, and over 100,000 people actively engaged with the video, either commenting on, liking or sharing it. More than 1,000 people started following NYX on Instagram and its two flagship products, Liquid Suedes and Soft Matte Lip Cream, sold out in the first three hours of the launch. The influencer strategy helped increase footfall at the NYX brick and mortar store, with more than 700 people queuing up from 5 am on the inaugural day in Mumbai and nearly 85 per cent of the displayed makeup box sets sold.

Over 151,000 people on Instagram watched The Man Company’s influencer marketing campaign, and over 42,000 people liked, commented, and shared it. This incredible reach helped the company’s management realise its objective of creating awareness about the limited-edition product in the Indian male grooming market.

Analysis

Cosmetics companies, from well-established multi-nationals to start-ups, are reaping rich dividends by adopting influencer marketing to engage consumers across different social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Various established cosmetic brands, such as L’Oreal and Avon, and new entrants like The Man Company have used this strategy to improve brand relevance and awareness of their beauty products.

One of the biggest challenges marketers face while implementing influencer marketing is choosing the right influencers. Several influencer marketing platforms have popped up across the world to help marketers find influencers who are a right fit for their brands and, conversely, enable influencers find brands that are in line with their beliefs. In addition to search services, these platforms offer relationship management services, third party analytics, and campaign management services. In the examples above, Qoruz helped The Man Company select 50 Instagram influencers from a list of more than 6 million influencers on its Qoruz Scout real-time discovery engine.

A healthy collaboration between influencers and brands is a requisite for the success of an influencer marketing campaign. The marketers must gain the confidence of the influencers by acknowledging and enabling their goal of getting recognised on social media and providing them with valuable information about the product or their domain. Sponsoring visits to fashion shows or launch events would keep influencers motivated. NYX sent Shreya Jain, one of the influencers who took part in the brand’s launch campaign, to the Face Awards in Los Angeles, where she met other bloggers and learnt new makeup techniques.

Marketers should not sign up influencers for one post or a single product launch as this can create the impression that the influencer is promoting the product purely for money. Instead, long-term collaborations would make the marketing campaigns look more genuine, as the influencers get time to understand the ethics of the company and provide useful information about its products to their audience. Besides, the marketers must give influencers a certain degree of freedom to develop content and talk about the products without bias. This is necessary for creating honest campaigns and fostering healthy collaborations.

Influencer marketing is a sustainable strategy for brand success provided it has authentic and compelling content, tailor-made for a specific audience. More often than not, people rely on advice from family and friends, people whom they know and trust, before making shopping decisions. Influencer marketing is a modified, digital version of word-of-mouth. However, it is getting bogged down by a number of factors.

Large number of influencers

With the spurt in the number of influencers on social media and brands increasingly taking the influencer route to promote their products, the Internet is getting swamped by influencer marketing campaigns. This is tiring audiences, who are no longer showing the same interest in such campaigns as they did earlier. To keep audiences engaged, marketers should include influencer marketing as a part of their overall campaign and not as the only channel to promote a product. Avon, for instance, employed traditional media as well as on-ground representatives to create anticipation before a brand launch. The company then employed influencers for wider brand recall as part of The Avon True Make Up Marathon.

Partnerships with micro influencers

Influencer marketing campaigns are also beginning to lose their personal touch as brands are rushing to sell their products through influencers. Purely commercial influencer campaigns lack the authenticity of an initiative featuring an influencer who is genuinely interested in a product and wants to educate his/her audience about it. Marketers could overcome this obstacle by partnering with micro and nano-influencers who have the boy/girl next door image and are genuinely interested in sharing their personal experience. The Man Company successfully hired micro-influencers to genuinely share their personal experience of gifting the brand’s Valentine’s Day gift packs.

Genuine expertise earns confidence

Marketers should carefully choose influencers with sound knowledge and communication skills, as the advice of those with mediocre abilities will not generate confidence. Coming to budgets, brands are investing big money in influencer marketing. In India, micro and nano-influencers on Instagram charge between ₹8,000 and ₹18,000 per post respectively, while macro-influencers with a large following (500,000 followers) can charge around ₹7 lakh a post. This is leading to a scenario where influencer marketing is losing its benefit of being a low-budget, yet effective, promotional avenue. The Man Company did not hire macro-influencers who generally charge a hefty fee. Instead, they connected with prospective consumers through authentic, compelling content created by micro influencers who agreed to market the products in exchange for free products.

Marketers need to be prudent in their use of influencer marketing and should not end up viewing it as just a low-cost promotional tool. This could dilute the benefits accrued through influencer marketing and even bring disrepute to the medium. Attractive, engaging content using real influencers as and when needed would ensure success.

Influencer marketing is expected to grow tremendously in the future on account of growing consumer trust in influencers, their wider reach, and the gradual replacement of TV time with mobile screen-time. Among influencers, marketers are seen to prefer micro (non-celebrities with 10,000 to 50,000 followers) and nano-influencers (non-celebrities with 1,000 to 10,000 followers), given their expertise in a particular field and genuine interest in brands.

(Jitesh Nair is Research Faculty, Sanjib Dutta is Research Lead and Vasudev Bitra is Research Associate, at IBS Case Research Centre, Hyderabad.)

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