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Influencer Marketing Mavericks: 'Our artists are our greatest currency,' say The Girlfriend Box's founders

Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak on what it takes to manage influencers.

By  Tasmayee Laha RoySep 14, 2022 10:36 AM
Influencer Marketing Mavericks: 'Our artists are our greatest currency,' say The Girlfriend Box's founders
Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak, founders of The Girlfriend Box (left), pictured here with influencers Ronit Ashra and Karan Kundrra. The founders talk about how an influencer agency works, the disruptions and the challenges in the industry and what it takes to handle influencers, their content and their followers.

Note to readers: ‘Influencers’ have forever changed the way brands and people engage with each other. Bringing together brands, content creators and digital publishers and curating a narrative for marketers are the influencer marketing agencies. They are the new-age agencies focused on the biggest disruption in the world of brands - influencer marketing. Storyboard18’s special series brings to you a view of what these influencer marketing mavericks do and how they think. 

“Even a papad-wala from Gujarat will use influencers to make their brand known.” That’s how Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak explain the power and influence of influencer marketing. With an eclectic mix of brands and influencers on board, The Girlfriend Box (TGB) is unboxing new trends in content creation and client management.

Their mantra: Reach. Engage. Succeed. 

The founders tell us that for every brand and every content creator they meet they have just one question. “How can we help?”

WHO ARE THEY?

TGB is a Mumbai-based influencer management agency founded precisely three years ago in the middle of the pandemic-induced lockdown. Storyboard18 talks to its twenty-something founders Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak to know more about the industry, the trends and what exactly they do for brands and the influencers they manage.

FACT FILE 

Founded: 2020

Founders: Shubham Singhal, Vaibhav Pathak and Om Singh; Appurva Hooda Bhoker, Mariya Jamal, Pranav Nigam, Yogesh Bajpai, Bandana Kaur, Kunal Arora

Revenue: Rs 25-30 crore

Employees: +60  

Key Clients (Brands): Saregama, Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Netflix, Loreal Paris, Tanishq, Disney plus Hotstar, Maybelline, Amazon Group, Mac, Bacardi, Coke, Flipkart, OnePlus, Licious, Vivo, Cadbury and YouTube India

Key Clients (Influencers): Ronit Ashra, Abhijeet Kain, Kiara Nautiyal, RJ Mahvash, Aatman Desai, Rishab Rai, Haania Manzar, Atisha Pratap Singh, Karan Kundrra, Pearl V Puri, Paras Kalnawat, Mohsin Khan, Ruhii Singh, Mandana Karimi, Monica Shaema. The agency handles more than 150 creators.

GET TO KNOW TGB

Best work 

1) Putting together music promotion campaigns on Instagram, curating the most popular and trend-setting campaigns on songs such as Heat Waves by Glass Animals (UMG), Positions by Ariana Grande (UMG) and Buhe Bariyaan by Kanika Kapoor (Saregama). 

2) “I Am A Rebel” campaign for BoAt, which was a multi-faceted launch online and offline. The activation included an online gratification, giveaway campaign and an offline launch with kiosks and specially curated zones across concerts like SunBurn, NH7 Weekender, Dimitri Vegas, LikeMike, Wiz Khalifa and more. 

Singhal and Pathak say their secret sauce is “Personally investing in the growth of our creators and guiding them with content, campaigns, trends and much more in their early phases, leading to the rapid growth and reach of influencers such as Haania Manzar, Sakshi Keswani, Rishabh Rai, Aatman Desai and SODA Gang. Our artists are our greatest currency.” 

Most challenging campaign 

Campaigns featuring Hrithik Roshan and Karan Kundrra

The campaign was conceptualized to achieve user generated content (UGC) from active users on Hrithik Roshan’s hook step dedicated to the Free Fire Game. This step was performed by 40 dance influencers like Awez Darbar, Mohit Solanki and Avneet Kaur, who replicated the actor’s performance in their own dance studios using Holi colours.

“This campaign was extremely challenging due to various factors. An extremely time sensitive campaign, landed only a day before Holi. Considering the time and availability of our team because of festive holidays, the campaign with 40 creators was executed by only 3 people including my co-founder Shubham and myself. Being content heavy, with various elements to add effects and the perfect recreation of the hook-step was essential as well as the fact that all creators had to go live on the day of Holi, this made the campaign challenging yet memorable,” says Pathak.  

It garnered 70 million reach and 120 million impressions. 

Most controversial campaign 

Singhal says, “Karan Kundrra during his Bigg Boss stint was supremely challenging since we had no contact with the artist for months, it was controversial owing to the nature of the show but the team rallied and garnered a 2 million+ follower growth for the artist, and lined up a number of branded deals even before his exit from the show.”

Biggest challenges and issues facing influencer marketing agencies  

Pathak says, “With the onslaught of massive amounts of content and influencers on a daily basis it is essential to be personally invested in the careers of your influencers as an influencer marketing agency.”

According to him, new trends, algorithms and updates on a daily basis make it difficult for creators and influencers to keep up and they reach a point of content saturation. There are also creators that cannot keep up with the technology and improve the quality of their content and production, which is essential at this point to differentiate them from the masses.

“We are solving this problem by giving them hands-on help with content as well as production support. Not only mapping their content in a way that focuses on quality but also having them create content that has virality potential. You know what they say, team work makes the dream work,” he adds.

He also says that another important aspect to take into consideration is that brands are not just going for mass and reach, but rather quality, aesthetic and credibility. This is where the agency steps in.

The “class divide” in the influencer ecosystem between Bharat and India, between regional creators and elite creators. 

Singhal says, there is a very apparent class divide in the influencer ecosystem. “The regional creators are often unaware of the entire process and end up being paid way less for similar campaigns even if the follower range might match that of an elite creator. The influencer network is mirroring the social stratification of the world - it’s unfortunate but it’s a divide that management agencies have brokered over time.”

“At TGB, we make a very conscious effort to ensure that all the artists get paid their dues and that their art is compensated for, no matter which category they belong to and I would like to believe other agencies do the same, if not I would encourage them to do so. The idea is to build an ecosystem of trust and transparency and compensate the artists’ effort 100%,” he adds.

Biggest opportunities and how are you preparing to leverage it? 

“We’re always prepping for the next big thing, it has been our good fortune that we collaborate with like-minded people and are in the process of building our very own music label, our own production department and a very strong ecosystem of artists from all walks of life,” Singhal says. 

Top five trends that will change the influencer marketing ecosystem

- D2C brands, smaller brands understanding influencer marketing.

- Micro Influencers Influx - The smallest of the small profiles will make a huge impact in the coming months, there will be an influx of profiles and they will all have a monopoly over public opinion.

- Influencers become brands. The already established artists will become brands themselves, whether that be a skincare line or a custom tee-shirt startup, the artists will create an economy for themselves.

- If content is king, the queen will be distribution, the agencies with an established network of distribution will have power over the rest.

- Strictly influencer marketing/management agencies will cease to exist. Full service agency is the way forward.

The next big disruption coming down the line for the industry

Tech majors automating and streamlining the entire industry, creators catapulting into brands, OTT platforms recognizing talent on social media and casting faces that are internet famous.

Three annoying things all clients do

Micro management, adding extra deliverables at no extra cost and ill-treatment of talent who don’t have representation.

Three questions for brand managers 

How can we start prioritizing artists’ creative bend over what brands say?

How can we aid the process more, as a middle man?

How can we create more lasting, impactful content together?

Three questions for influencers

Why don’t we prioritize creativity over consistency?

What is your endgame, and is every move you make taking you closer to that?

How can I help?

First Published on Sep 14, 2022 9:56 AM