What the pandemic means for brands, influencer marketing

We’re swimming in uncharted waters. The SARS-CoV-2 has turned the world as we know it upside down and yet in the chaos is an opportunity. The chain of events that have caused it may not be palatable, but it is there nonetheless – an unprecedented reach to consumers through influencers.

The COVID-19 Curve Ball
In the past month, the efficacy of OOH advertising has essentially dropped to nil in India because the entirety of the nation is bound-to-home. Even adverts during traditional TV content is out for a toss because soaps, movies, and events are on an indefinite pause.

This has left brands struggling to find some means of remaining top-of-mind. The singular and not surprising solution is social media and the creators who hold sway on it.

Why the Aberrant Rise of Influencers?
With conventional means of entertainment not working, there’s an exponential growth in screen times see. More and more people look towards creators as a source of relief, information on the pandemic, and, of course, an entertainment outlet.

The sudden change in consumer behaviour is the foundation for the rise of creators. What pushed it forward was their intuitive understanding of where they fit into their audience’s life during the crisis. Being particularly equipped to adapt to situations, they adjusted accordingly.

For instance, fashion creators innately knew that promoting a cocktail dress, or for that matter any other such product, is irrelevant. They altered course and began amplifying life-saving information or content that helped lighten the mood and made their audience feel good.

Keeping up with the current needs of their followers is one reason why creators are making headway even when the majority of the world is at a standstill. Another is their extreme adaptability when it comes to content.

The Varied Landscape of Online Content
Creators read the writing on the wall and adapted their content to it. The first big surge was live-streams. From workouts to concerts, from DJs to chefs, creators from all walks of life logged on to Instagram live because it allowed them to interact with their audience and be together even in quarantine.

Next came purpose-driven campaigns. Creators used their reach to spread awareness on how to flatten the curve, support organisations and charities helping doctors, nurses and every other professional on the front line.

The final trend is solution-based content. Influencers are now publishing content that helps followers, ranging from self-help videos to tutorial-style guides. They are also producing content that is fun, enjoyable and helps pass the time.

What Should Brands Do?
Creators, with their real, unfiltered content that echoes the needs of their audience, are a valuable resource for brands. Now is the right time to reallocate marketing spend and leverage the authenticity and flexibility of influencer marketing campaigns but with certain caveats.

Don’t force-fit the brand
One impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic is that true colours are coming out. If a creator has always believed in something, they are continuing to do so in spite of the lockdown.  For instance, a person who loves working out, found alternatives and began exercising at home.

Brands should leverage these creators because they are relatable to the audience, as long as they fit the company’s image. Do not choose a creator merely based on their follower count or reach, assess if they have been passionate about your product or service and then march ahead.

Don’t come off tone-deaf
The downside of more content consumption is more monitoring. The consumer is not only reading, watching or listening to your content but also judging its tone. Even a minute mistake will turn egregious during this pandemic, so have a human element to all brand messages and be extremely sensitive to the mood.

Don’t cling to guidelines
A crisis requires a nuanced working, which is rarely, if ever, possible when you adhere to strict brand guidelines. So, the last caveat for brands jumping into an influencer marketing campaign right now is to give the creator leeway.

The current content creation cycle is taking place entirely at home, trust the creator to see it through. Aim to collaborate, rather than hiring a creator. Take a cue from Cosmopolitan India’s Work from Home Issue which was styled, conceptualised and art directed solely by a creator.

Influencers: More Relevant Than Ever Before
Living in isolation has sent people searching for a sense of community and the one resource that allows it is social platforms. In the coming time, expect them to become the most potent tool for maintaining connections. And when that happens, bank on relevant influencers to dominate it.

Ankit Agarwal is the Founder of Do Your Thing (DYT). https://doyourthng.com/