When I started Sartorial Secrets in 2015, I didn’t realize how much the influencer marketing scene was about to explode in India. Cut to 2018. There’s no better time to be a blogger or an influencer. That is if you go by current motivations to be one. (hint: ‘free stuff’)
Where it all began
Back in 2007, up till 2011 when I first thought of creating a fashion blog of my own, I read fashion and beauty blogs on the regular. From Indian Makeup and Beauty Blog, to Fashion and I, Style Fiesta and Style Drive. I loved the authenticity and the very personal touch they lent to most of their reviews. Be it an outfit post or a product review. We got a peek into what they loved and hated, completely unfiltered. (pun intended).
Bloggers helped us make sense of a world full of glossy magazines airbrushed to oblivion. They related to us in a way no celebrity endorsement ever could. That’s precisely why the brands began to sit up and take notice in the first place!
The influencer marketing game is far more evolved and nuanced abroad. Some of my blogger friends who moved abroad can testify to this. There is still a sense that what we are hearing and seeing is authentic.
One of the reasons I admire Aimee of Song of Style so much is that there is still a sense of HER. The sense of a young girl with big dreams living her life through her blog. She was one of the first fashion bloggers in the world to make it big. I would still trust her word about a product or a place and I can see it in her Instagram stories. She and other influencers like her don’t mince their words when talking about both pros and cons. The brands know this, and respect this. Hell, I’ve been on YouTube and seen bloggers being absolutely brutal in their ‘first impressions’ or reviews of beauty products. And that’s no matter how huge they are or how huge the brand is (KKW Beauty, anyone?)
Is there any authenticity left?
In India though, we have photoshopped, airbrushed Bollywood celebs toting the virtues of beauty products which often they wouldn’t have even tried.
This tendency has started in the blogging world too! In the past few months I have seen several campaigns by top tier and mid-tier bloggers, all praising the same product and having absolutely nothing to add to the table! Whether it’s the picture or the product, it’s usually just a description rather than a review. The brands are happy to be talked about in a solely positive light, the bloggers are happy to be paid/given product. Everyone goes home. But what about your audience?
Indian brands don’t seem to like it when you talk about both sides of the product. ‘We are paying/giving you stuff so you how can you write anything negative’?
Most Indian brands these days create a ‘list’ of bloggers. It isn’t based on their content. It isn’t based on their work, or their suitability for the brand. If you’re below a certain cut-off number of Instagram followers you can forget about even being contacted.
PR agencies like to play favourites too or treat a newbie the same as a 3-4 year old blogger solely on Insta numbers. And they expect nothing but positivity in return. One of my blogger friends was asked to post a positive review even when the product proved horrible in her experience. She refused. She would rather write no review at all than lie to her follower base.
That seems to be missing now. Why was a product great for YOU? What did YOU like about it? Forget what everyone else says!
What a ‘campaign’ means these days
Also, most mails from brands these days don’t have anything remotely resembling a creative brief. It’s usually a variation of this –
We represent abc brand. We would love to collaborate with you on #PleaseLetThisTrend campaign. We will send you x amount of product/please let us know your promotion costs.
Deliverables – 1 Instagram post
Brand hashtag – #PleaseLetThisTrend”
- That’s not a campaign
- How does this remotely help your brand? What are you hoping to achieve?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some brands that actually ask me what I think I could do for them, given a central idea, and only then talk about this aspect. I fucking LOVE working with such brands because of the freedom that gives me. And they have always liked working with me too. Also, I always mention if it’s a collaboration in all my posts though I always state my honest opinion about how it worked for me.
What’s blogging really about?
Blogging isn’t (only) about numbers. It’s about telling your brand’s story through an authentic voice. The primary goal of influencer marketing isn’t sales. It’s brand recall, awareness and curiosity. It’s seeing a product fit seamlessly into your life through someone you can trust. That could make it sell more.
If you want sales, you have mainstream advertising for that. Take your pick – your own social media accounts, SEM, TV, radio. Why come to us?
Because bloggers are supposed to be authentic. They are supposed to connect with the brand’s consumers or potential consumers at a deeper level. A lot of advertising so far and even now is about talking ‘at’ the consumer. But blog posts or other forms of content today initiate conversations. A typical blog comment thread, at least with regular readers, mirrors our real life conversations. And now this conversation extends to social media as well.
What can bloggers do differently?
Let’s face it, any celebrity can hold up a cream or serum, add edits and claim it helped them while using a brand hashtag in a single Instagram post. And then get paid and forget about it.
Why should bloggers do the same? What can they do differently?
They could take you through their routine. They tell you how it worked specifically for them. What they liked and didn’t like. The ingredients. The swatches. The look and feel. The pricing. How it fits into their lifestyle. So much more. And be creative in the process of photographing, using it and describing it.
I did not take blogging as seriously as I should have so far mainly because of managing my full time. I have been guilty of the above sometimes, on occasion. But now, I’m going to try and approach all my projects the way I approach a creative pitch. Then I’ll discuss it with you readers, in-depth. As honestly as I can during my experience with the product. In fact, when brands approach me with an idea I’ll do my best to turn it into a dialogue. Where we mutually come up with a fun way to create buzz around a brand. To make it exciting. To tell a story.
And that, in the end, will make all the difference.
So Indian brands, are you ready to take a more mature approach to influencer marketing? Or will it continue to be a numbers-oriented, shallow game?
It’s totally up to you.