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AdStand: Purple Lips, Influencer Marketing and why brands have to get it right

By constantly bringing in ‘influencers’, is the brand reducing its own influence? Brands have to strive much harder if they have to make the word of mouse work for itself

Delhi | May 31, 2016

Adstand by Naresh Gupta

In the middle of May, Aishwarya Rai stepped on to the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival to promote her movie wearing a glamorous off shoulder outfit. Internet had a field day, and is still having a field day.

It wasn't the outfit or the movie she was promoting that sparked the frenzy, but the lip colour she was wearing that sent Internet in a spin. It's her Purple Lipstick that trended on Twitter, sent Instagram on a spin and Snapchat couldn’t stop snapping. Thousands of Internet users across the world spent many hours tweeting, creating meme’s, and cracking jokes, liking the lipstick, feeling disgusted or wondering as to why purple.

Did she kiss a Smurf?

Did Asian Paints sponsor her choice of Lip Colour?

Did she eat a Jamun?

Amul even did a take on the event in its own signature style.

This is all perfectly fine. Ms Rai did something that turned heads and the world discussed her fashion sense.

But did this work for L’Oreal?

What Ms Rai and L’Oreal together did is classical influencer marketing. She is the brand ambassador for L’Oreal and as she said, she was fulfilling her ‘professional commitment” by wearing the lipstick.

In the entire frenzy over the lipstick, what rarely got mentioned is the brand. I am not sure if L’Oreal has seen a tremendous jump in search or sale of violet vamp or vampy mauve or similar colour of lipstick from its stable.

Did L’Oreal get it wrong? Are brands increasingly getting it wrong?

Earlier this year, to promote its public issue, Infibeam employed a clutch of bloggers to promote the upcoming public issue. All of them were to tweet about the public issue using #InfibeamShining. The fact that most bloggers put up exactly the same tweet, at the same time, created a bigger backlash than positive word of mouth.

Influencer marketing is nothing but an organized way of driving word of mouth by the brands by tapping into people who are on top in gossip networks. Brands expect the power of social media and blogs to be unlocked and used by brands without sounding “addy”, commercial and openly persuasive.

Yet the brands need to plan this far better, because the very social media that is supposed to work for the brand starts to work against the brand.

So here is a small primer on what the brands should keep in mind.

What is it that the brand wants to achieve?

At one level Influencer Marketing is exactly similar to celebrity endorsement, though on a much smaller scale and even smaller cost. The brands pay certain individuals who can be called famous to tweet, click a picture, or share an update exactly as defined by the brand.

But what does the brand want to achieve? Does it want to drive awareness? Does it want a quick build-up for an event? Does it want people to switch brands? Does it want existing customers to buy more of it?

By not debating the objective and looking to create hype using a hashtag may not be the most optimal way of using influencer marketing.

Who is an influencer? Is it someone with a large follower base of a social handle a influencer? Is it someone who runs a blogsite with hundreds of people visiting an influencer? Can you expect ordinary internet citizens to be bullied into buying a brand because some famous people are going to say it? Or an influencer is someone is an expert in subject matter, even if they have a much smaller base of ‘fans and followers’.

Influence has to drive action, and many a time the influencers do not drive anything more than awareness. Even bigger question is this: will the influencer be able to drive action of they announced upfront that what they are doing is a paid for activity by the brand in question?

Consumers buy brands and not individuals

Brands must remember that the brand is far more powerful than the small band of influencers. Hundreds and thousands of individuals who have willingly adopted the brand, used it and openly spoken about it through their own social networks build brands. By constantly bringing in ‘influencers’, is the brand reducing its own influence? Brands have to strive much harder if they have to make the word of mouse work for itself.

Online influence of influencers will decline steadily

As more and more social networks move to a defined algorithm based feed, the influencers will start to feel the pinch. With consumers wisening up quickly, having a lot of followers will have no impact on their buying decision. Together this will squeeze them out from most categories.

Eventually brands have to ensure that when social media erupts over purple lipstick donned by one of the most recognized faces in the world, its linkage to the brand is not lost on all.

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