The influencer marketing industry in India was valued at over 12 billion Indian rupees. According to a research by Statista, it was projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent over the next five years. The industry's market value was estimated to amount to 28 billion INR by 2026. The shift from relying on celebrity endorsements to employing influencers for product placements has been massive and noticeable in recent years. In 2021, celebrities held only 27 percent of the market share of marketing campaigns, while influencers had the bigger piece of the pie at 73 percent. Brand experts believe this number will significantly grow in the coming year. It’s a fact that some content creators and influencers today are even more popular than high-profile celebrities who have worked for years to garner fame. Why has this happened?
Unlike a number of actors who do a little bit of everything ― comedy, horror, drama ― in their movies, influencers focus on a particular segment and excel at it. There are comedy content creators, tech content creators, lifestyle influencers, and travel influencers, among others. So, they pick and choose from a wide spectrum. Also, content creators are influential experts of their respective domains. In other words, they are well versed with their choice of category. A consumer is more likely to buy a mobile phone after seeing his/her favourite tech influencer review it, rather than after seeing the person’s favourite film actor promote it in a commercial. Similarly, a family is more likely to pick a destination for travel after seeing their favourite lifestyle and travel influencer visit that place and create videos on it, compared to seeing a scene from a movie that was shot there.
Creating monopoly for a brand is extremely difficult, as there is a wide range of options to choose from in the market. Influencer marketing is a handy tool for brands in such a scenario where they wish to create and increase demand for their products or services. Thus, collaborations with such creators have increased exponentially. Influencers have a sway over demand that brands have begun to understand.
However, it’s not just brands that have realised this pattern. Influencers too, aren’t oblivious to it. They have come to realise the power they hold over their audience and have begun to cleverly capitalise on it. Of course, brand endorsements work well in their favour, and pay well too. But, how do you take this to the next level? What if influencers started their own brands? Wouldn’t marketing costs come down drastically?
Wearing the entrepreneur filter
Many influencers have diversified to unveil their own brands. And, why not? It does seem like the most logical thing to do. They already have an audience, there’s ample demand or they can easily create it, people trust them and will listen to what they have to say. Where is the downside?
Most of the famous influencers have adopted some form of entrepreneurship. They’ve ventured into lines of clothing, beauty, technology, food and beverages, and FMCG, among others. One such creator who has diversified into clothing is Instagram creator, Heli Ved. She runs her own brand ‘Heli and Kumar' that specialises in men’s and women’s clothing. From traditional wear to contemporary, the brand offers a variety of options to choose from. Heli Ved currently has 237k followers on Instagram.
We asked her about the positives and negatives of an influencer having an own brand. She said that there are a lot of positives, but the negatives too are just as many. The biggest positive is the trust factor. Influencers have a loyal fan-base and they trust the influencers’ actions and judgement. Moreover, their audiences are aware of the journey the influencers have traversed to reach where they are now. Thus, they share in their happiness and sorrows. However, the negative is just as impactful as the positive, if not more. An influencer has to be unbiased when promoting any brand ― own or of someone else. The audience is smart. The moment you have a slightly biased opinion that results in a somewhat one-sided statement, the audience is quick to take notice. After all, for influencers, audience is the make or break factor.
As mentioned earlier, marketing costs too are highly likely to fall when an influencer starts an own brand. According to Heli Ved, honesty is the best policy. It is the only marketing tactic she has used so far. Being honest with her patrons is what has worked in her favour. They love and respect the influencers, which is why they follow them. A simple shout-out about the brand's launch is all she did when it was introduced. The rest was handled by the audience via word of mouth.
Clothing seems to be a sort of favourite category for influencers to diversify into. Many popular content creators have their own clothing brands. Tech-influencer Shlok Srivastava aka TechBurner, launched his clothing brand Overlays. The brand sells premium casual clothing at affordable prices. He had once said that they offer similar quality like Zara, but at a much more affordable price. He also launched a brand called 'Layers.' The brand sells premium and unique skins for all your essential electronic items such as mobile phones, laptops, etc. Shlok Srivastava aka Tech Burner currently has 2.3 million followers on Instagram and over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.
Lifestyle and travel vlogger Nikhil Sharma, popularly known as Mumbiker Nikhil, along with his influencer wife, Shanice Shrestha, have launched an ethnic wear brand, ‘Shanz and Nikz’ that sells uniquely and attractively designed ethnic wear with a modern touch. Mumbiker Nikhil has 1.4 million followers on Instagram and 3.93 million subscribers on YouTube. Many influencers sell merchandise clothing as well. Mumbiker Nikhil currently has his own brand called Label MN that sells his official merchandise. Comedy content creator, Bhuvan Bam, launched his brand Youthiapa, to sell merchandise.
Tapping unconventional categories
Clothing isn’t the only category that creators are favouring. Comedy content creator Dolly Singh lately launched her own candle collection with Rad Living. The collection is unique and stands out as it mimics her fun online personality. Dolly Singh currently has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and over 680k subscribers on YouTube.
Scented candles is a very unlikely, yet oddly specific, category to venture into. About this Singh said, “Candles go way back to my childhood where I have woken up to the smell of paraffin wax and slept between candles. I see this as a God sign because a few months ago when I told my friends about what I was doing, one of them said, “Didn’t your mom make candles as well?” My mother made candles when we were young. Nainital is my hometown and it was known for candles. My father still sells candles, and my mother stopped making candles because paraffin wax got to her health. Overall, it is my life coming full circle.”
Even though scented candles is a very unique category, it is an extremely cluttered market. There are a number of brands of scented candles. Even with the advantage an influencer has, it is difficult to grow in the sector. We questioned Singh about this and the unique selling proposition (USP) that the brand offers. Here’s what she had to say. “I entered the arena as an influencer where I did not have a lot of entrepreneurial strategies in my mind. I left it with the brand. I was very choosy with regard to names, taglines, or someone making a joke about a candle, or its fragrances, etc. As for price points, I was very particular about that too ― I wanted it to be affordable and used by college-going students and people with little pocket money. We decided to slash the prices even more during Christmas and New Year. As a candle consumer, the major factor for me was ‘What attracted me?’ When you are shopping online, one cannot get to check the fragrances. What you get to see is the packaging, and the appeal of the brand. In our case, what was promised via online was exactly the same that buyers got. And they were happy with the quality. Since there is competition, I am looking at this opportunity as my first product launch, and I am giving it my best.”
Popular food influencer Kabita Singh is one of the top influencers in the food category in India today. She too recently launched her own brand of masalas. The brand under her own moniker, Kabita's Kitchen sells various types of masalas used in day to day cooking. She currently has 1 nmillion followers on Instagram and almost 13 million subscribers on YouTube.
Sarah Sarosh, a famous beauty sand lifestyle influencer started her own brand of coffees called 'Impulse Coffees.' The brand sells 100 percent organic premium coffee with no added sugar. Moreover, it is the first content creator led brand in India to sell coffee. She currently has 130k followers on Instagram and almost 960k subscribers on YouTube.
Understanding the consumers up and close
Another important plus point influencers can capitalise on is the price point. As influencers, they have an advantage over other brands in terms of demand. As the rule of demand and supply proves, they have the liberty to price their products slightly higher than competition. However, to continue positioning the product as an attractive proposition they need to work hard on their pricing strategy to find the right mix.
We questioned Dolly Singh regarding her pricing strategy for the candle collection. She said, “We worked very hard to get the price just right. There are many components in a candle ― the wick, wax, fragrance, jar, etc. I didn’t want to compromise on quality, and so the price kept on increasing. When Rad Living came to me with the first quote, I rejected it on the spot because it was expensive. I had to bring it down. My goal was to make it affordable for college-going kids as well. My target group has always been the middle-class. I am middle-class and I can relate with them. Thus, we’ve tried our best to make the product as affordable as possible and I think we did a good job. While the product is premium, the pricing is not.”
Content creation is a creatively and monetarily satisfying business. So, then why do content creators diversify into entrepreneurship? With content creators now becoming brands in themselves, it seems like a natural progression to start their own brands or collaborate with companies to create brands under their own names and leverage their equity.