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/

Educating Businesses to achieve Strategic Goals

Angelique Uy, CO-Founder at ZAP Group Inc.

She has always been a leader, from organizing weekly catechism classes for the marginalized sector to promoting local music through events, Angelique has headed a team of online marketers for a B2B e-commerce site in the US. The team managed to increase their site’s leads by 200% within 8 months, and continued its growth through A/B testing and Analytics crunching.

A graduate from Ateneo De Manila University with a degree in management minoring in economics, Angelique says that most of the people from this background pursue banking or finance but she didn’t want to choose that. Instead, she started working for a U.S. e-commerce company as a management trainee, selling promotional products to business owners. In 5 years, she was exposed to the intricacies of selling online—from lead generation, website optimization, capturing customs behavior patterns and marketing to them again, etc. It was the latter that made her keen on starting ZAP in 2012.

ZAP is a loyalty and automated marketing platform for brick and mortar businesses. The team helps businesses increase customer retention, customer visit frequency and customer spending.

She always wondered how gathering shopping behaviors in the offline world could benefit retailers and shoppers in the long run—a smarter way to engage with end-users using shopping analytics. With ZAP, she was very excited to share her significant experience in tracking online customer behavior to our brick-and-mortar implementation of Google Analytics. She believes in educating business owners about who are their customers and what they care about to drive better products and services.

Here are some more insights from the Strategic Marketing Entrepreneur, shared with team ABT.

Who is your inspiration and why?
My mom inspires me every day. At 75 years old, although officially retired from being a teacher, she tutors kids to keep her busy and sharp. I learned the value of handwork and loving your craft from her. Imagine, she still remembers the names of her students from 30 years ago!
Aside from her, I would say our growing team of 40 is what keeps me going. I always think that we can’t fail because their lives and the lives of their families depend on us succeeding.

Tell us what led you to choose the path of entrepreneurship?
I’ve always seen myself as someone who’s not afraid to take huge risks. This paired with a very distinct vision of empowering merchants make better business decisions and empowering customers in choosing a rewarding lifestyle that works for them— sealed the deal for me in leaving the comforts of a corporate job. 
I think it requires a tremendous dose of self discipline in getting into entrepreneurship. You become your own boss and it’s tricky when you let that get to your head. Having business partners who are reliable and who share the vision is what will pull you through those moments of doubt and insecurities.

Tell us briefly about the journey of ZAP and its reach so far?
As mentioned, I started ZAP together with 3 other business partners back in 2012. We came together under one big idea of providing merchants with a more sustainable way of marketing to their customers aside from giving away discounts (this was during the height of deal sites e.g. Groupon).

We initially bootstrapped our way into our first product which was a rewards system wherein merchants issued rewards points that could be used at any ZAP partner establishment. This created a virtuous cycle of transactions and traffic: clients ping-ponged across industries, while the growing number of merchants created a network effect. For merchants, it was refreshing how they get to utilize customer behavior info and exclusively target them for tailor-fit promos. Think birthday celebrants, top spenders, or even non-returning customers – you can now strategize more scientifically to make your business boom better than before.

In 2015, we pivoted to a B2B approach to achieve bigger growths in revenue and overall rewards network. So far we have 470,000+ ZAP users earning/using rewards points called ZAP Cash Back at over 1000 stores in Manila, Philippines and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve made merchants as high as 5000% ROI.

How did you manage to raise funds?
It’s not easy to raise funds in the Philippines. We started ZAP with own savings and money borrowed from family and close friends. In 2013, we raised our first round of seed funding from Kickstart Ventures, which is a Globe Telecom subsidiary. We finished the round in 2014 with Wavemaker, Seawood Capital and an angel investor onboard.

Being a women entrepreneur, do you feel privileged?
Being an entrepreneur itself is a privilege. Luckily, gender equality in Manila is quite strong mostly because we’re a matriarchal society. But to answer your question in a different light, I feel privileged to be able to help our clients make more money and more loyal customers.

Tell us about some of the challenges that you face & how do you overcome them?
The struggle is real—and constant. What’s great about ZAP is having business partners that you can go to war with. I’d like to think we are our own best allies and worst enemies. If I were to pick one challenge, it’s hiring. We have to constantly be in the lookout for the best developers, closing sales person, account managers, admin staff, etc. to be able to deliver the best product and services to our clients, at the same time, keeping the existing team morale up. We manage to do this by empowering our people and just doing the daily work of hearing them out and helping them reach their best potential as individuals.

What would you like to achieve in coming years?
We would like ZAP to be present in more countries simply because I firmly believe in our product and how it aids in doing smart business. We’re eyeing Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh and maybe Phnom Penh in the next year.