Creator Economy 2023: A Symphony Of Brands & Influencers

The year 2022 has been a catalyst for the creators and the brands who invested in them. With increase in the social media traffic, the creators gained a strong foothold in the market

A famous expression states, "there are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen." The year 2022 was definitely the latter one. With the advent of influencer marketing booming in India, it has become a crucial element for marketers. Creators have influenced a whole range of consumers and have created a fresh celebrity tier and affected almost all industries. 

Who would have even thought that the brands who promoted their products through vanilla television advertising would resort to influencer marketing? The debut of creators didn’t simply gestate from the digital era. They were unintentionally gathered by a social media relic that gave its users confidence.

YouTube undoubtedly emerged as the leading platform for creators for a while, but somehow it didn't manage to effectively commercialise them. "Where a few years back the initial process to get monetisation access was a big task, but now the platform initiates the process to these creators by reaching out to them," said Sanmesh Sapkal, Associate Director- Key Accounts, TheSmallBigIdea. 

In the world of influencer marketing, the creators have sold content along with the brands and its services. The influencer marketing report mentioned that India is home to more than 20 lakh creators across different platforms. Additionally, the growth trajectory was emphasised in a report by GroupM India, which showed remarkable progress for the economy. A 25 per cent growth is reported in the next five years. The market is currently valued at Rs 1,275 crore.

As part of e4m INCA Influencer Marketing Report 2022, the short form videos (SFV) are by far the most widely embraced "new" trend among brands, with 90 per cent of survey participants saying they have already incorporated it into their 2022 influencer marketing (IM) strategy. Short-form videos, which normally last between 15 and 2 minutes, are trendy right now. "Because of the short attention spans of the digital generation, short-form videos appeal to a wide audience and encourage content producers to focus their thoughts on creativity and viral possibilities," commented Kunal Sawant, Business Head, INCA, GroupM India.  

Today's consumers participate actively in the digital world in tier one and Tier two cities and towns and have a vast array of options. Influencers have the most impact when providing directional insights to consumers, which are offered from reliable outside sources. 

Vijay Subramaniam, CEO and Founder, Collective Artists Network said, "The advertising landscape has shaped up to be more agile and adaptive. Creators had to be nimble enough to create fresh content at rapid speed to satiate the voracious appetite of the social media consumer."

Creative liberty is an asset—

How can one comprehend the artistic freedom that creators ought to enjoy while advertising the good or service? When asked about the creative freedom given by the brand to creators, Chandan Chhabra, Head of Content Operations, MX Player pointed out that the most crucial part of influencer marketing is selecting and onboarding the right influencer. Once that is done, the brand needs to show faith in the creator’s creativity. After all, that is how the influencer got shortlisted in the first place. He added that this doesn’t mean completely relinquishing creative control over a campaign. It’s always useful to keep a simple formula in mind- balance guidelines that safeguard the brand while providing space for influencers to exert their unique creative vision. 

In present times, given the glamour factor associated with it, becoming an influencer may be the most in-demand profession on the market. It can also be a very erratic industry; success requires creativity, perseverance, hard effort, a little luck, and persistence.

Sawant has a stance on this issue as well, stating that too many limitations or safeguards will stifle creativity and prevent the influencer from producing material in their own style. Having said that, specific guidelines about dos and don'ts, tonality, background colour, outfit colour, mood, music, etc. will provide influencers directions to ensure none of the important guidelines is neglected while still allowing them to generate content as they choose.

Credibility & trust at its core in 2023

According to the Influencer Marketing Report, brands' top goals for influencer marketing are to raise brand awareness (by 60 per cent), sales (by 37 per cent) and brand engagement (by 35 per cent). Putting trust in the digital world can be a challenging concept. Today's interconnected world contains many variables, players and 'things', which makes it difficult to keep track of them all. We live in a world where security paranoia is the norm. The battle for consumers' attention spans and purchasing power will be won by paradigms built on trust that operate as a barrier against passing fads.

"Influencers should focus on creating content that provides value to their audience. Whether it's educational content, entertainment, or inspiration, influencers should strive to offer something of value to their followers. By doing this, they can establish themselves as reliable sources of information or entertainment and build trust with their audience," Ian Goh, CEO, Tiki said.

The report mentioned that for millennials and Gen Z, the yearning for authenticity and trust has significantly increased in the post-pandemic world. By virtue of their credibility and regional focus, Nano, Micro, and Macro Influencers have found new relevance. They ought to be aggressively nurtured by brands if mega-influencers are not a practical alternative.

Subramaniam said that content which opens itself to feedback and engagement also increases the credibility of a creator and the brand. It is important that the creator and their team do due diligence to understand how the brand fits in their larger goal and then take up a commitment. Also, long-term partnerships appear credible and trustworthy over one-off engagements.

Why influencer marketing above other forms in 2023?

The report by Ogilvy highlighted that there was a lot of scepticism around influencer marketing. Some people believed that influencer marketing was a trend that would wash off with time. Some dismissed it as a meagre weapon in their toolbox. But now, looking at the statistics, from 2016 to 2022, the size of influencer marketing at a global level has proliferated from USD 1.7 billion to USD 16.4 billion.

About 28 per cent of the firms surveyed increased their influencer marketing expenditures by two times compared to the prior year. With social media booming in India, platforms like Instagram and Youtube have a combined market share of 56 per cent. According to the majority of sources, using Influencer Marketing in sectors like fashion, e-tail, food and beverage, entertainment, and fitness is the most profitable option. While the pandemic was going on, FMCG and ecommerce also saw an organic boost, but they were also able to create a trustworthy story that helped them generate high brand equity and recall, the report stated.

Brands can target specific niches or demographics via influencer marketing, which has the potential to be more effective than conventional advertising techniques that rely on wide targeting. It provides brands with a more effective method of reaching their intended audience.

Sapkal shared that creator content is much more cost-effective than any other traditional way of advertising. He said that there are numerous choices. Whereas formerly there were fewer possibilities for brand ambassadors, now there are a variety of artists from which brands can choose to advertise their goods or services.

Influencer marketing is a tremendous approach for brands to engage their audience through storytelling. According to the survey, almost 60 per cent of respondents believe that influencer marketing is a strategic priority in their overall marketing strategy. The growth of regional influencers is one of the key factors, that brands can tap into to advertise their products in tier one and tier two cities.

There is no turning back… trends to watch out 

Let's look at the trends that brands seem to follow in 2023.

  • Use of artificial intelligence & technology

According to Sawant, in this fast-paced industry where millions of content pieces are dropped by influencers every day and new influencers are born every day, coupled with new platforms and formats and their changing algorithms, tech intervention for smarter decision-making is imperative. 

Sapkal and Goh agreed that in the campaigns, automation and artificial intelligence will be utilised. This would undoubtedly aid the firms in tracking the success of their marketing initiatives and connecting with prospective customers. The use of the metaverse will also gain traction and acceptability. 

  • Dabbing on niche influencers

Picking up niche influencers will be one of the trends that will influence influencer marketing, as the market anticipates the emergence of niche categories. The experts believe that influencers will be encouraged to specialise rather than generalise due to the increasing importance of high-quality and relevant information.

  • Influencer marketing & social commerce converge—

 It is predicted that by 2023, influencer marketing and social commerce will be integrated. It will become easier for brands to market their products directly through campaigns as social media continues to expand. 

Subramaniam added to this trend by stating that influencers are increasingly working as entrepreneurs, co-business owners, creative directors, and social media strategists for brands rather than just endorsing them.

  • Embracing the "content graph" emergence—

Elaborating on the trends, Sawant commented, “We fully expect to see brands working with influencers based on their ability to tell powerful stories, in a genuine way, rather than just their fame.”

Additionally, compelling material will be seen by audiences outside of an influencer's organic reach as a result of the development of content graphs, more sophisticated formats, and the expanding importance of influencer content as a performance driver across the media plan, he continued.

The audience will have access to a diverse range of content in 2023 thanks to a plethora of creators from across the nation who will all have their own distinctive voices.