The Dynamic Duo: Brand-Influencer Collaborations in 2024

With 2023 proving to be a banner year for brand partnerships, experts wait with bated breath for its power and glory in 2024, where influencer marketing will continue to steer its direction

The romance between the entwined twins, brands and collaborations, has been a quotidian phenomenon over the years. While the West has heavily drenched itself with the idea of such partnerships, the Indian diaspora saw a rather slow landing at the start. But in an era where every creative individual is multi-hyphenated, Indian brands today have learned to collaborate with complementary categories, as well as suitable influencers, to savour the maximum presence, profit and power. 

In the recent past, we have seen brands team up with other brands that correspond to their values and agendas. Think Gucci with Adidas, or Fendi with Versace, or Louis Vuitton with Off-White, or Jacquemus with Nike.

Interestingly, in 2023, the alchemy of brand partnerships demonstrated some of the most impactful works around the country, opening up a whole new way to connect with people and create new cultural moments that make a real impact. We saw the two giants, McDonald's India and Mondelez, unveil a flavourful partnership to launch a range of indulgent desserts very recently. Apple-HDFC & Apple-Nike also made a few heads turn with this team-up.

While these collaborations, which may also involve fraternizing with competing brands sometimes, open generous opportunities to both parties, the metrics for brand interventions (reach, engagement, likeability, profit) are often replaced by brand trust, customer loyalty, purpose-driven approach, etc.

"Success is now measured not just by traditional metrics but by the ability to forge a genuine connection with consumers through shared values," advocates Maneesh Krishnamurthy, Marketing Head, EyeCare Division, Titan. 

These collaborations must not be seen as an overnight call but as a well-thought-out and scrupulously calculated strategy that aims to leave a mark and is not merely a hygiene marketing gimmick. There have been examples of collaborations going down the drain this year that served as lessons to marketers to recalibrate their existing strategies. 

A few have also cast a spotlight on the delicate balance of trust in the digital sphere. "The World Startup Convention fiasco, where prominent figures like Ankur Warikoo, Chetan Bhagat, Prafull Billore and Raj Shamani faced backlash for promoting what turned out to be a 'scam' igniting discussions on the responsibility of influencers," points out Indrajeet Mookerjee, President - South and West, Dentsu Creative India.

Influencer marketing: the real tentpole

The year also witnessed personalised and interactive channels, such as social media platforms and streaming services, continue to be congenial for brand collaborations. Brands explored innovative ideas like virtual and augmented reality experiences and interactive social media campaigns to engage audiences. 

In the midst of this, influencer marketing continued to have its moment in the spotlight, enveloping an army of celebrities or even everyday people to drive purchase decisions. Instagram and YouTube continue to reign supreme, while regional and micro-influencers with captive and niche audiences have started to reveal their full potential. Ankit Ahuja, Founder, Red Comet Films, expresses, "There was an increase in influencer-led campaigns that captured the power of micro-moments and relatable content. Brands increasingly prioritised regional storytelling, recognising the diverse linguistic diversity of India."

Even according to the 'Impact Of Influencer Marketing In India' report released by Dentsu India and Boomlet Group, 21 per cent said that they are 'extremely likely' to purchase a product or service promoted by influencers. 39 per cent of respondents said that they trust influencers with subject expertise. Another 25 per cent said that they trust celebrities and famous personalities. 

"Influencer marketing will continue to play a pivotal role in brand collaborations," says Sujoy Roy Bardhan, Head – Marketing, On Air Promotions & Licensing- Sony YAY!.

Having said this, brands are also exploring newer avenues like cause-based collaborations and unexpected brand pairings to cut through looming influencer fatigue. "Collaborating with influencers is a little bit like Indian matchmaking. Crafting a pre-nuptial agreement for brands that defines shared values, target audience alignment, communication goals, and terms of measurement are essential ingredients to ensuring effectiveness," suggests Mookerjee.

What's in store for brand partnerships in 2024?

Brand partnerships have revolutionised the way brands elevate brand awareness, engage and finally convert consumers. With the exponential growth of social media platforms, influencers have cultivated loyal and engaged followers, making them indispensable assets in marketing strategies. 

The days of merely chasing vanity likes are behind us, hopefully. In 2024, successful brand collaborations will be measured by real, measurable engagement. Marketers and influencers will be urged to focus on brand lift, sentiment scores, engagement, and conversions, according to experts. 

Bardhan also mentions that brand collaborations will transform marketing by prioritising authentic connections and experiential encounters in 2024. "The essence of brand collaborations in 2024 will be reshaped, emphasising authenticity, purpose, and innovative storytelling to capture the attention of diverse consumers. Experiential collaborations, leveraging technologies like virtual and augmented reality, will take centre stage as brands break away from expected norms. Success will be redefined by prioritising authentic connections over conventional metrics and recognising consumers' desire for fresh and unconventional brand experiences," he adds.

Krishnamurthy also accepts that the most essential factor for marketers remains how the collaboration accelerates the brand’s journey from its current state to its desired state. "If it's not adding to your strategic road map, even a good opportunity can wait," he sums.

Overall, in 2024, we are likely to see a deeper fusion of technology with storytelling, with AI-driven personalised ads and a stronger emphasis on sustainability narratives. Brands will continue to tap into India's rich cultural ethos while also championing global sensibilities.

All hail this Jugalbandi!