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Influence Marketing: The Changing Dynamics

Influence Marketing: The Changing Dynamics
Defining the Concept:
Remember the good old days of discussingindividual purchases or the intended ones with family and close friends and obtaining their genuine appraisals which could go either way! But today although that primary influence circle is still influential, there are many additions to this circle, thanks to the IT revolution! So today marketers are going all out to understand and decode the whole gamut of influencers for a particular product or service category. This process although not anew one has become popular in the last few decades as Influence Marketing.
Ithas been explained as the practice of identifying and building relationships with individuals who have influence over a target audience of buyers. Influencers are likely to be buyers themselves, as well as recommenders of products or services to their own audiences, both online and offline. Influencers may also be trusted third parties, such as bloggers, journalists, industry analysts, academics, or public figures (in CB they are called Opinion Leaders). An influencer is a person who has a greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace.
Influence marketing has effectively been around formillennia:
Ø  From orators to visionary leaders to celebrity endorsers, influence has impact on action
Ø  Influencers today are a far more diffused group than the celebrities and personalities of yore
Ø  Influence can be harnessed both on and off the web
Theoretical insights into the Concept
More than 50 years ago social scientists John French and Bertrand Raven (1959) proposed five sources of power within organizations: legitimate, reward, coercive, expert, and referent. This was further expanded later to include: informational and connection power.
Another interesting conceptual explanation for power was given by Michael Foucault i.e. “Power is everywhere: not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere. … Power is not an institution, nor a structure, nor a possession. It is the name we give to a complex strategic situation in a particular society” (Foucault, History of Sexuality p.93). Power, in Foucault’s view, is inseparable from knowledge, hence another Foucauldian phrase: power/knowledge (or knowledge/power): no power can be exercised without the extraction, appropriation, distribution or retention of knowledge. In his own words, “Knowledge linked to power, not only assumes the authority of ‘the truth’ but has the power to make itself true. All knowledge, once applied in the real world, has real effects and in that sense at least ‘becomes true’…… Thus there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time, power relations’ (Foucault, 1977:27). He also stated that: “Knowledge does not operate in a void. It is put to work through certain technologies and strategies of application, in specific situations, historical contexts and institutional regimes.”
It may be derived from the above explanations that:
v  Power is essential for influence and is omnipresent
v  The most influential source of power is knowledge that may be expressed as a referent, expert or informational power
v  Knowledge cannot act in a vacuum as it needs specific situations, technological expertise and relevant context for it to be effective
The above sources or channels of influence have beenenhanced in the current era by digitalization in the form of social media. Today influential power continues to be exerted in all fields and in different forms – direct and indirect. The only difference is that the direct group of influence has expanded to include Twitter, Facebook, blogs, search engines, SMS, and other digital sources. Anamazing illustration of thisis the recent election victory o
f NarendraModi to become the 15th Prime Minister of India! (To be discussed later in this article).
It may be understood that influence marketing is an interactive process that leads to the formation of formal or informal relationships and these relationships are multidirectional in nature.
Influence Marketing in India: The Perceived Change
The origins of influence marketing in India may be traced to the pre-independence era under British rule when we had inspirational leaders like Ram Mohan Roy, JyotiraoPhule and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar who worked for upliftment and betterment of society especially women. Mahatma Gandhi’s influential concept of non-violence led to India achieving independence in a bloodless manner. This was the era of inspirational influence of visionary national leaders.
Following the liberalization of Indian markets a new era of celebrity influence emerged that was further enhanced with increase in consumerism. Celebrities have been playing a very influential role in wooing target customers for different categories of products and services. These people belong mainly to the Bollywood fraternity and but lately popular and young cricketers have joined the clan. Some of the most prolific promoters are Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the latest addition is ViratKohli! A case-in-point is the story of the Dabur Brand.
Dabur India Ltd is one of India’s leading FMCG Companies with revenues of US$1 Billion(over Rs 5,000 Crore) & Market Capitalisation of US$4 Billion (Rs 20,000 Crore). Building on a legacy of quality and consumer care of nearly 130 years, Daburtoday has become India’s most trusted name and the world’s largest Ayurvedic and Natural Health Care Company. Dabur today operates in key FMCG products categories like Hair Care, Oral Care, Health Care, Skin Care, Home Care andFoods and includes five flagship brandswith distinct brand identities — Daburas the master brand for natural healthcare products, Vatikafor premium personal care, Hajmolafor digestives, Réalfor fruit juices and beverages and Femfor fairness bleaches and skin care products.
DaburChyawanprash is the largest selling Ayurvedic Health Care product with over 65% market share.Dabur pioneered the concept of branding Ayurvedic health supplements with the launch of DaburChywanprash in the 50s’. Between 2003 and 2008, it wassuccessfully promoted as a health supplement for older men and kids with Amitabh Bachchan as brand ambassador. This to some extent alienated the young consumers who perceived Chywanprash to be for older men who needed to feel young which was what the marketing team of Dabur intendedit to be! So the company roped in Mahendra Singh Dhoni who is popular as a youth icon to promote the brand and it amended the ‘older’ image perception to a certain degree.It went in for complete image makeover through change of its logo, packaging and its tagline. Its earlier brand statement of ‘ZarooratHai” has been is changed to “Fit Body, Active mind”, the message means that ‘to win in life, one needs to have an active mind and a healthy body”.There are many other examples of sports personalities influencing brand perceptions like, Sachin Tendulkar for Visa Card & Boost, Rahul Dravid for Kissan Jam & Gillette Razor and several others!
More recently the election victory of NarendraModi and the BJP in the 2014 General Elections with overwhelming majority in the LokSabhamay be considered to be an excellent case study in influence marketing. This great win has been attributed to not onlyNarendraModi’s inspirational mass election rallies and but also to the adoption of Social Media to market his ideas of development and progress for young India. This inspired large groups of young and old Indians to vote throughout the country cutting across the barriers of caste and religion generating a ‘Modi Wave’. This is influence marketing at its best!

The Changing Dynamics of Influence Marketing

Source: Influence Marketing by Brown &Fiorella
Concluding, it may be stated that in the current technology focused era, social media has become a very important tool of influence marketing through which the word of mouth spreads at lightening speeds that often seems to dominate all other forms of communication!
How this whole process of influence actually work, what are the kinds of influencers that are effective and what are its marketing implications is a matter beyond the purview of this article. But it may be safe to conclude that the influence marketing phenomenon is undergoing rapid changes and its boundaries of impact seem to be expanding!

1.      Brown and Fiorella (2013). Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing, Que Biz-Tech Series

2.      Hall, Stuart (2001). Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse. Discourse Theory & Practice: A Book Reader, 72-81, Sage Publications, London

Written by Ms. Rema Viswanathan

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