Lonely nights, going to the gym alone, no more cuddles, loss of appetite and the like, are some of the aftereffects of a break-up. But that’s for regular couples. For influencer couples there’s something else at stake - brand deals.
These days brands are after influencer power couples. Whether married or just dating, brands are crazy about a good love story that can sell anything from flight tickets, resorts and clothes to condoms and pension plans.
Influencer couples are roped in by brands across categories for double the reach, double the engagement and double brand recall. More often than not having an influencer's significant other half is a deal sweetener when it comes to compensation. The not-so-sweet part is the break-up that also entails losing deals, lower compensation based on individual brand value and sometimes even a short-term dip in overall brand value and popularity.
The worst case scenario is when a couple share a handle. The handle automatically loses the reach and fanbase, and brands that have engaged the duo based on the popularity of the page also find themselves in a tight spot.
What does 'moving on' entail for influencer couples?
“When you are opening doors to something as personal as your relationship with your partner you should also be open to the downsides of it,” says 23-year-old content creator and influencer Paritosh Anand.
Anand, who has over forty-two thousand followers on Instagram, says when brands approach a couple for a pilot project the chances of getting a retainer deal are better.
But it's tricky. Because no one knows what the future holds.
Anand recalls the time when a travel brand approached him and his partner. “We were creating a lot of content together and also taking up collaboration projects. This is when the travel brand approached us for a partnership. Unfortunately though before we could start work on the project we ended the relationship,” Anand recollects.
The two creators then approached the brand, told them about the split and turned down the offer. The story doesn’t end there though. “A couple of months later the brand initiated conversations again with me and we worked out a fresh contract with me as an independent creator,” he tells us.
So how do influencer couples split-proof their personal brands and clout?
“Creating an independent brand is very important,” says food, travel and lifestyle creator Kuljyoti Dhingra. With over three lakh followers on Instagram, Dhingra knows the ropes well.
“There is always a financial loss and loss in brand value that is involved when influencer couples break up but that is short term. However, sometimes one person gets more sympathy than the other and this prevents their brand value from seeing any dip,” she says.
According to Dhingra, even when the relationship is going strong, both partners who endorse brands should be able to establish strong individual brands. “This helps them get better deals when they are together for the impact they can create and also jump back in the endorsement and collaboration scene easily if and when they part ways,” she adds.
Influencer couples charge anywhere between Rs3 lakh and Rs25 lakh for collaborations depending on their following, brand value and engagement rate.
What do they bring to the table for the brand?
“The core idea for influencer engagement is relatability and this is exactly what couples who are content creators bring on board. Sometimes the brand they create content for is in sync with their image," says Ankur Pujari, co-founder and growth lead at digital agency Hyper Connect Asia.
For instance, hotel chains often work with lifestyle and travel creators who are couples. But sometimes brands collaborate just for a duo’s popularity. "We have seen tech brands employing couples with lifestyle content who just put up a post with a video of banter. All of this works,” says Pujari.
Brands have noticed an immediate spike in engagement with influencer couples on board. Tejas Chavan, director at Viveda Wellness says it's about amplification of reach. “When we put up posts of Bipasha Basu and her husband Karan Singh Grover or Ritesh and Genelia and many others, we have seen our social engagements go through the roof,” Chavan says. According to him, these posts are never about conversions but more about creating a buzz.
“The business playbook is just the same for creators in partnership. At the founding of any startup, you would draw out ownership stakes and key responsibilities. Ideally one could also have a business "prenup" exit clause as well to dictate what would happen in the instance a partnership has reached its conclusion,” Pranay Swarup, Chtrbox
The influencer couple prenup
Pranay Swarup, CEO and founder at influencer management agency Chtrbox, says it is easier to understand the pros and cons of being an influencer couple if we treat them as “talented entrepreneurs starting a startup or a business".
“The business playbook is just the same for creators in partnership. At the founding of any startup, you would draw out ownership stakes and key responsibilities. Ideally one could also have a business "prenup" exit clause as well to dictate what would happen in the instance a partnership has reached its conclusion,” he says.
According to Swarup as with any business, it's important to have sound legal advice and mentorship at the start and through the business journey. Chtrbox, for instance, provides legal help and business advice as an added service and support.
Sometimes, however, the arrangement is not as simple, especially when deals are too big or too important to be just abandoned mid-way. It may involve deep financial loss, an image crisis and relationships with big brands going south.
‘Faking it’ is a common practice in such cases. Influencer couples sometimes pretend to be together long after they’ve parted ways to get through a brand deal.
“Why not. There is nothing wrong in keeping the news under wraps for professional reasons. Movie stars do it, politicians do it and so should influencers to prevent contract violation and financial loss, and fulfill commitments as professionals,” says the founder of an influencer management agency.
The audience plays along till the break-up is made public. While there is legal binding for couples to continue with endorsement deals even after a break-up, they continue the campaign till the time they have finished their part of the commitment to avoid re-negotiation with brands.
Signing individual contracts is one way to prevent heartbreak from breaking deals. “The moment you sign individual contracts the concept of joint falls away,” says Chandrima Mitra, Partner, DSK Legal.
“Contracts can be individually signed with each party having their individual terms. While the contracts may mention that the campaign will be shot with XYZ but since they are individual contracts so they are separately enforceable to the extent applicable,” she tells Storyboard18.
Individual contracts are great. What is even greater is 'a marriage', as per an agency head.
Internationally, a lot of unmarried couples start a page together and are employed by brands as a team. However, India is still in a nascent stage when it comes to unmarried couples.
Though the likes of Tejaswi Prakash and Karan Kundrra, Komal Pandey and Siddharth Batra are working with a lot of brands together, they are still outnumbered by a long list of married influencer couples like Kusha Kapila and Zorawar Singh Ahluwalia, Suyash Rai and Kishwer Merchant, Hiten Tejwani and Gauri Pradhan, Ishita Dutta and Vatsal Seth, and many others.
While brands are not exactly the pushy relatives who have reservations about unmarried couples, they do look for stability along with reach and credibility when it comes to engaging couples. It is tough to overlook the disparity in the number of married versus dating couples in the content ecosystem in India which sometimes brings us back to the eternal question of ‘ek chutki sindoor’.