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Influencer Marketing: An Exploratory Study to Identify Antecedents of Consumer Behavior of Millennial

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Recent marketing trends indicate the rise of influencers as an extension of word of mouth campaigns. As consumers turn to social media platforms, organizations are realizing the power of influencers in affecting a purchase decision. The current study throws light on various aspects of influencer marketing that drive consumer behavior by using the theory of planned behavior (henceforth referred to as TPB) ( Ajzen, 1991 ) and social learning theory by Bandura and Walters (1963) as part of the qualitative research to identify key factors of influencer marketing that impact consumer behavior. The study revealed that both attitude toward influencers and perceived behavior control that allows increase in domain knowledge had a favorable impact on consumer behavior while the influence of peers had no effect. Further additional constructs namely personal relevance, inspiration, and trust had a positive impact on behavior while perceived risk did not have any effect. Product influencer fitment was an important criterion for consumers, as they followed the specific type of influencers for different product categories. Depending on the posts shared by influencers, consumers are impacted at four levels: increase in brand awareness, subject matter expertise, brand preference, and preference. Successful influencer marketing involves identifying the right type of influencer who will offer curated advice, stories, and suggestions to create engagement with the audience.
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Business Perspectives and Research
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© 2020 K.J. Somaiya Institute of Manage-
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DOI: 10.1177/2278533720923486
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1 Faculty of Marketing, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai,
Maharashtra, India.
2 Associate Consultant, Infosys Ltd., Hyderabad, India.
3 Analyst, Willis Towers Watson, Mumbai, India.
Corresponding author:
Anjali Chopra, Faculty of Marketing, K. J. Somaiya Institute of Management Studies & Research, Vidyavihar, Mumbai 400077,
Maharashtra, India.
E-mail: anjali.chopra@somaiya.edu
Influencer Marketing: An
Exploratory Study to Identify
Antecedents of Consumer
Behavior of Millennial
Anjali Chopra1
Vrushali Avhad2
and Sonali Jaju3
Abstract
Recent marketing trends indicate the rise of influencers as an extension of word of mouth campaigns. As
consumers turn to social media platforms, organizations are realizing the power of influencers in affecting
a purchase decision. The current study throws light on various aspects of influencer marketing that drive
consumer behavior by using the theory of planned behavior (henceforth referred to as TPB) (Ajzen,
1991) and social learning theory by Bandura and Walters (1963) as part of the qualitative research to
identify key factors of influencer marketing that impact consumer behavior. The study revealed that both
attitude toward influencers and perceived behavior control that allows increase in domain knowledge
had a favorable impact on consumer behavior while the influence of peers had no effect. Further
additional constructs namely personal relevance, inspiration, and trust had a positive impact on behavior
while perceived risk did not have any effect. Product influencer fitment was an important criterion for
consumers, as they followed the specific type of influencers for different product categories. Depending
on the posts shared by influencers, consumers are impacted at four levels: increase in brand awareness,
subject matter expertise, brand preference, and preference. Successful influencer marketing involves
identifying the right type of influencer who will offer curated advice, stories, and suggestions to create
engagement with the audience.
Keywords
Influencer marketing, theory of planned behavior, consumer behavior, millennial, marketing strategy
2 Business Perspectives and Research
Introduction
You can spend your time on stage pleasing the heckler in the back, or you can devote it to the audience that came
to hear you perform. (Seth Godin, Author and Entrepreneur)
The digital revolution has affected all aspects of our lives. From consuming news and social media
updates through smartphones to ordering groceries online, to booking a cab, consumers today have a
presence in the virtual world as opposed to the offline world. In a context where consumers want
everything at the click of a button, any distraction in the form of alerts, prompts, and advertisements is
considered as noise. As print and television, continue to lose share to over the top platforms like Netflix
and Amazon Prime, the media landscape is undergoing a major revolution. While marketers are
incorporating online media alternatives like social media, websites, blogs along with offline sources like
television, print, and radio, the challenge is to get the advertising content and brand message noticed by
an ever-distracted consumer. Recent studies suggest that consumers have a poor recollection of
advertisements and worse do not recall the brand message (Talaverna, 2015). Consumers use tools such
as ad blockers to skip online advertisements (Dogtiev, 2016). In the present scenario where the consumer’s
attention span is limited and multiple devices and screens vie for his attention, marketers face a
challenging task in breaking through the clutter to get themselves noticed. Brand stories are becoming
popular with marketers realizing that an emotional hook has far better chances at consumer engagement.
While most brands now have their official Instagram page, marketers are now realizing that engaging
with influencers (individuals who have a large number of followers on social media platforms) may
result in consumers feeling more connected with the brand. Brands are now using influencer defined as
“everyday people” who command a huge follower base on social media to engage with their audiences
(Tapinfluence, 2017b). An influencer can be anyone, from a fashion blogger on Instagram to a wedding
photographer on Pinterest, to a cyber-security expert who tweets on Twitter. Nowadays some influencers
represent or recommend brands on various social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok,
etc. Nowadays, consumers prefer to seek the opinions of other consumers and influencers in order to
make an informed decision. Thus, influencers are now playing a pivotal role in forming consumer
opinions on a brand’s product or services.
Research by Berger and Keller Fay Group (2016) revealed that influencers were found to have
more credibility and knowledge, with consumers stating that they were willing to follow
recommendations of influencers. While influencers are being used for customer acquisition and brand
engagement, identifying the right kind of influencer who would have the strongest impact on a
particular target group by promoting the right brand message remains a challenge (Wong, 2014).
Higher return on investment, content that is more trustworthy, better engagement with the relevant
target audience, near real-time responses from consumers is resulting in the growing popularity of
influencer marketing.
Influencer marketing has been used more recently and a single academic definition has been lacking
(Johansen & Guldvik, 2017), especially in the Indian context. From a meager 1,000 influencers across
India at one point of time, Instagram now has over 6 million influencers on its platform; while around 44
million influencers exist worldwide (Economic Times, 24 May 2018). With the growing popularity of
influencers in India and little academic research undertaken in the Indian context, the authors decided to
study the influencer marketing landscape especially from the point of view of millennials (individuals
born between 1982 and 2004—Howe & Strauss, 2000) of this emerging economy.
Research in understanding the role of influencer has investigated how marketers utilize influencers
across various mediums used. The authors found a paucity of research in analyzing the role of influencers
Chopra et al. 3
on different aspects of consumer behavior. This paper will undertake a qualitative field study comprising
of consumers (25 millennial consumers who are active followers of influencers), five influencers
(bloggers, brand advocates), and industry experts (marketing practitioners).
The authors have used the theory of planned behavior (henceforth referred to as TPB) (Ajzen, 1991)
and social learning theory by Bandura and Walters (1963) to develop their discussion guide. The
discussion guide examined how various aspects of influencer marketing impact consumer behavior. The
authors studied the level of influence for various product categories like beauty, lifestyle, electronics,
food, healthcare/fitness, etc. to uncover which categories are best suited for influencer marketing.
Further, the authors examined the fitment between the type of influencer and product category.
The outcome of the study may serve as a foundation for marketers to hone their influencer marketing
strategy by generating insights that would help in better targeting the millennial cohort by understanding
their expectations, barriers, and type of influencer they prefer for various categories.
Literature Review
Evolution of Influencer and Rise of Influencer Marketing
Marketing literature has only recently seen the rise of the term influencer. Until date, the word influencer
lacks a single theoretical definition. According to Brown and Hayes (2008), influencer marketing is the
act of an external person who influences the consumers buying choices. Influencer marketing focuses on
influencers who command a mass following on digital media to reach the intended target audience to
promote a brand’s message (Smart Insights, 2017). Conick (2018) stated that influencers win consumer
trust compared to other online sources. Consumers try their best to avoid advertisements by using ad
blockers. In such a scenario influencer marketing is thought to be non-intrusive and more engaging that
than traditional online advertisements like pop-ups, banners, etc. In the digital space, influencers on
online platforms have emerged as reliable and trusted sources (Freberg et al., 2011). Influencers were
used to create two-way brand communication across online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and
Instagram, etc. to influence their online followers toward particular brands (Markethub, 2016). Marketers
are also using influencers to engage with the consumer segment who normally skip or avoid advertisements
(Conick, 2018).
Most marketers understand the importance of utilizing influencers to build authentic relationships
with their consumers. A report by Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in April 2018 stated that
approximately 58 per cent of brands had affiliations with around 25 influencers in the year 2017
indicating that marketers want to have deeper connections between influencers and consumers
(Conick, 2018).
Theoretical Framework
Social learning theory (Bandura & Walters, 1963) has been used for academic research especially in the
area of communication (Bush et al., 1999). The theory provides a structure, which helps to identify the
role of peers, experts, and others that influence consumer behavior (King & Multon, 1996; Martin &
Bush, 2000). Individuals are inspired to demonstrate a favorable attitude due to socialization agents
either immediately or due to prior social interactions (Moschis & Churchill, 1978; Subramanian &
Subramanian, 1995). Various literature in the field of management has used this hypothesis to understand
4 Business Perspectives and Research
the role of family, peers, famous celebrities, opinion leaders in driving consumer consumption (Clark et
al., 2001; Kotze, 2001; Martin & Bush, 2000).
The TPB by Icek Ajzen (1991) allows us to understand how the behavior of people can be modified.
The TPB states that humans are motivated by three types of beliefs—behavioral (beliefs surrounding the
possible consequences of the action), normative (beliefs about the expectations of others), and control
(beliefs about the absence or presence of factors that could improve or impede the performance of the
behavior).
Effectiveness of Endorsements
The endorsement is considered critical in the marketing efforts of organizations to build positive brand
imagery and meet business goals. As of late, online influencers have become possible advocates
themselves garnering a lot of attention as compared to other marketing tactics such as endorsements by
celebrities, and are considered to be cheaper and more effective (Harrison, 2017; Patel, 2016; Talaverna,
2015). While some research has shown that online influencers have a favorable consumer influence
(Booth & Matic, 2011) others state that research on influencers in the digital space is inadequate (Godey
et al., 2016).
According to research company A. C. Neilsen, influencer marketing is responsible for better returns
as compared to a digital marketing (Tapinfluence, 2017b). While the same report states that celebrity
endorsements help achieve higher brand awareness among customers, online influencers are critical in
forging product engagement thereby leading to brand loyalty (Tapinfluence, 2017b). Influencers have a
smaller segment and hence the communication is sharper.
The effectiveness of endorsement is often studied by measuring the source credibility (Hovland &
Weiss, 1951; Taghipoorreyneh & de Run, 2016). In particular, more trustworthy an endorser better is the
perception of consumers toward a product/service (Goldsmith et al., 2000). Further endorsements help
provide credible product knowledge (Amoateng & Poku, 2013; Sassenberg et al., 2012). It is the
congruency between the product and the endorser that is key to achieving excellent outcomes. The
hypothesis analyses the fit between the brand and an endorser (Kamins, 1990). Hence, in order to have
a sound marketing plan, it is imperative to identify the right fitment between an endorser and the brand
itself (Till & Busler, 1998).
To help understand consumers’ purchase intention as affected by influencer marketing, this study
has expanded on the TPB by breaking down the constructs (subjective norms, attitudes, and perceived
behavioral control) along with social learning theory (source credibility and product influencer
match-up) as the underlying framework. The authors have studied whether the intentions of an
individual to purchase products is influenced by the above mentioned. Further, the study will also
categorize the level of influence for various product categories and the type of influencer most suited
for different product categories.
Research Methodology
The target group was millennials from Tier I and Tier II cities who were technology savvy and internet
users with active social media presence (used social media at least once a day). Further, each of the
respondents was active followers of influencers (followed at least three influencers and checked updates
twice a week).
Chopra et al. 5
The objective of the examination as mentioned was to better understand the new marketing strategy,
i.e., influencer marketing. Exploratory research is considered as the first step in examining a theoretical
or hypothesis (Saunders et al., 2012) while refraining from providing conclusions. Rather it focuses on
expanding our understanding of the given topic (Saunders et al., 2012). This research aims to identify
important dimensions and sub-dimensions of influencer marketing that influence consumer’s purchase
intention by expanding on the TPB and social learning theory using a qualitative study. Influencer
marketing being a contemporary idea is best suited for a qualitative methodology, since the authors are
still trying to understand what constructs can be tested (Eisenhardt, 1989; Ryan et al., 2002). A qualitative
study does not begin with a pre-established hypothesis, rather discovering new ideas and understanding
a given topic in detail is the focus (Yin, 1994, 2003).
The aim of this study is not to predict the future course of action but to identify and elaborate
on the antecedents of influencer marketing on consumer behavior. While a qualitative study is
believed to lack scientific generalizability (Scapens, 1990), the goal of qualitative research is to
focus on understanding a phenomenon better rather than generalizing to a larger population
(Yin, 1994).
The nature of the research design based on the qualitative study. The data collected through in-depth
interviews with the target audience being active followers of influencers across different product
categories. Active followers were those respondents who checked the updates of the influencers that they
followed at least three times a week or more often. The researchers conducted open-ended interviews.
Interviews were conducted in-person and one-on-one. A total of 25 in-depth interviews conducted. The
second set of interviews conducted among industry experts who are involved in creating influencer
marketing campaigns. Three experts from the field of marketing were part of the interviews. Views
shared by them were as inputs for the development of the discussion guide, which used for the in-depth
interviews. A sample of 57 interviews were conducted among avid followers to expand on the meaning
of influencer as understood by followers, various categories followed and preferred by them and types
of influencers preferred for each category.
The researchers studied extensive literature, which gave a thorough understanding for designing the
discussion guide for the interview, preparing for interviews, and breaking down every unit of analysis for
further discussion.
The flow of the discussion guide was as follows:
1. Collecting information on the latest social media platforms being used, type of influencers
followed, product categories where influencer marketing strategy is found to be relevant
2. Identifying the significant factors in influencer marketing strategy that drives purchase
intention (attitude, perceived behavioral control, subjective norms, source credibility, product
influencer fit)
3. Ranking the type of influencer for different product categories to create a product influencer
fitment matrix
Data Analysis Approach and Findings
The various factors (attitude, perceived behavioral control, subjective norms, source credibility, and
product influencer fit) explained at a broad level and then participants were encouraged to elaborate on
their understanding of the meaning of each construct. The data across the participants were analyzed to
understand the similarities and differences. The conceptually clustered matrix approach (Miles &
Huberman, 1984) used for data analysis. This approach assimilates parameters that “belong together.”
6 Business Perspectives and Research
The transcripts from each unit of analysis were examined, checked for patterns, and were coded
accordingly for thorough analysis. Further, the ideas and concepts were summarized from quotations and
grouped in the form of a table.
Contrast across cases was identified, as also patterns across cases were clustered (Miles &
Huberman, 1984) for the analysis of product category-influencer fitment. Firstly, the data were
arranged into initial defined concepts and sub-concepts produced by the first participant. If the primary
concepts generated by the first respondent did not comply with the outcomes surfacing from the other
participants then the developing concepts were scrutinized by examining them across respondents,
additionally serving to make the developing themes, subthemes, and ideas more thorough. The
summarized ideas and quotes were shared with three experts from the field of research and academics
to check for content validity. Based on the responses of the experts, the table with the final constructs
was prepared (Table 1).
Findings of In-depth Interviews with Respondents
The findings from in-depth interviews with the target audience were segregated into specific findings
and other findings. Specific findings were classified into the specific constructs of TPB (namely positive
attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavior control) and new constructs that emerged post
discussion namely (personal relevance, trust, inspiration, perceived risk). The researchers defined the
dictionary for each of the constructs after reading through literature and classified the key themes into
each of the constructs. The findings of the key constructs are summarized below.
Table 1. Key Constructs Findings
Construct Key Finding Dictionary
Attitude Favorable since millennial decide
according to meaningful content
Like, follow, quick source of
information, up to date
Perceived behavior control Favorable as defined the behavior Gain domain knowledge
Subjective norms Peer group had little influence Does not matter who my friend
follows, can consider the category
Personal relevance (Bloch & Richins,
1983; Bloch et al., 1986; Burnkrant &
Sawyer, 1983; Cohen, 1983; Greenwald
& Leavitt, 1984)
Emerged as crucial, interest made
people followers
Relatable, match my taste, match
my opinions
Trust (Akhter et al., 2004) Emerged as an essential trait Care for followers, trustworthy,
authentic content
Inspiration (Oleynick et al., 2014) Seemed to encourage the following Motivate to take actions
Perceived risk (Dholakia, 2001;
Dowling & Staelin, 1994; Sweeney et
al., 1999)
Was found to be low since one can
easily unfollow
Expectation not met
Source: Author’s own.
Chopra et al. 7
Brief Discussion of Individual Constructs
1. Attitude: the degree to which an individual has a positive or adverse evaluation for the given
behavior.
The attitude was favorable, majority of the respondents followed influencers’ attitude for
meaningful content. Respondents believe influencers provide quick access to information, are
experts in their domain, keep one up-to-date, communicate in an easy way.
Keywords: Like, follow, quick source of information, up-to-date
Quotes: “Most of the dance bloggers I follow wear puma shoes, hence I bought them” (Sangam,
Millennial, age 24).
“I come to know the latest design of home décor running these days in the market” (Jhalak,
Millennial, age 25).
2. Perceived behavior control reflects an individual’s past knowledge with the performance of the
behavior and obstacles that are found to inhibit behavior.
Respondents find it important to follow an influencer to gain domain knowledge. Further, they
are able to distinguish between the type of influencers for each category.
Keywords: Gain domain knowledge
Quotes: “Influencers are not restricted to how pretty the food looks, they go in-depth about
ingredients, calorie count” (Trisha, Millennial, age 23).
“Food bloggers give an absolute feel about the restaurant. Zomato is just a surface level” (Trisha,
Millennial, age 23).
3. Subjective norms focus on understanding the role of others in approving or disapproving a given
behavior.
The peer group had little influence on the respondents. Interest was the primary driver to follow
an influencer rather than what the peer group was doing. While recommendation by peers
generated curiosity if the content was not found to be interesting the target group stated that they
would stop following the influencer.
“If the influencer posts irrelevant things which do not interest me, I just stop following that
person” (Ragini, age 23).
“I don’t follow influencers because my friends recommend it. If I do not like travel, I am not
interested in following people who will talk about travel, since that is not my area of interest. I
may try for some time but then I end up unfollowing such people” (Rishi, age 26).
Keywords: Does not matter who my friend follows, can consider the category
New Constructs
1. Personal relevance—an individual’s ability to learn from experiences that directly relate to his
personal aspirations, ambitions, interests or culture. Many studies posit that involvement is
synonymous with motivation while processing information (Bloch & Richins, 1983; Bloch et al.,
1986; Burnkrant & Sawyer, 1983; Cohen, 1983; Greenwald & Leavitt, 1984).
This construct was found to be quite important as most of the respondents clearly stated that
interest and relevant content made them follow influencers. Respondent stated that they follow
influencers in the field that matches their interest and they are able to relate with.
Keywords: Relatable, match my taste, match my opinions
8 Business Perspectives and Research
Quotes: “I am passionate about photography, so I follow influencers in that category, I also suggested
a lens to my friend owing to an influencer’s recommendation” (Trisha, Millennial, age 23).
“Influencers that I flow match my fashion taste like the plain colors, classic wear and nothing
flashy” (Shrutika, Millennial, age 25).
2. Trust is an underlying belief that motivates consumers to buy goods or services in situations when
vendors are unknown due to certain believability in the quality of the good (Akhter et al., 2004).
Trust helps in creating long-term relationships with customers (Keen, 1997); drives future
purchases (Garbarino & Johnson, 1999) and increases tolerance to price rise (Delgado-Ballester &
Munuera-Alemán, 2001).
Trust emerged as an essential trait. Respondents trust influencer’s recommendations over brand
advertisements believe influencers are reliable/credible sources of information, are trustworthy
and provides authentic content. Further, they also stated that they believed that influencers care
for their followers and will not engage in the unverified advertisement.
Keywords: Care for followers, trustworthy, authentic content
Quotes: “I know few beauty blogs that exaggerate the product information & I started discounting
it” (Jhalak, Millennial, age 25).
“Some influencers give in-depth & personal experiences, that increases my brand information”
(Jhalak, Millennial, age 25).
3. Inspiration is a state that motivates individuals to realize their ideas. A deeper understanding of
inspiration helps researchers to understand the feelings of individuals when acting on their
creative ideas (Oleynick et al., 2014).
Inspiration was also found to be an important factor that encouraged the following. The
respondents stated that since influencers are a source of inspiration, they felt motivated to follow
them and keep track of their blogs, opinions, and activities. Inspirations lead them to take actions
like recommending a product to others, become a thought leader themselves, etc.
Keywords: Motivate to take actions
Quotes: “That travel blogger had left his job to pursue his passion for traveling and hiking and he
wrote an article about Indrar pass & I visited the place” (Sangam, Millennial, age 24).
4. Perceived risk has been described as a subjective determination of the expectation of future loss,
with some probability measure attached to all the possible outcomes (Dholakia, 2001; Dowling
& Staelin, 1994; Sweeney et al., 1999).
Performance risk occurs when consumers have concerns that a given purchase will not meet the
desired expectation (Horton, 1976).
This construct was found to be low on importance. Most respondents stated that they did not perceive
any risk in following influencers because the investment required was limited. The only investment
required was time and in case they found the claims inauthentic they unfollow those influencers.
Keywords: Expectation not met
Quotes: “Many beauty bloggers tell the product is a holy grail, however it doesn’t perform like
one” (Jhalak, Millennial, age 25).
Other Findings
What comes to your mind when you think of an influencer?
Majority of the respondents’ associated influencers with synonyms like credible sources, subject matter
experts, someone to trust, etc. The role played by influencers had a greater recall than who the person
was (e.g., blogger, social activist, dancer, etc.)
Chopra et al. 9
Why are influencers preferred?
Influencers were perceived as being in-sync with the latest trends, oftentimes being opinion leaders due
to their in-depth knowledge of technology, latest beauty products, etc. They were perceived as experts
providing information in a format easily understood by their followers. According to the respondents, the
difference between influencers and celebrities was the belief that celebrities endorse products, which
they themselves do not use while influencers focus on sharing information about the genre, which they
are passionate about such that brands became secondary.
Platforms preferred
Most of the respondents stated that the most preferred genre was travel followed by fashion, lifestyle
related to home decor, photography, and nature. These genres were followed mainly on Instagram over
other social media platforms due to the visual content. Instagram profiles (bloggers), blogs, forums, and
official websites were perceived to be realistic. Blogs and forums, especially for electronic items and
information regarding education services, were perceived to be neutral and unbiased thereby providing
more clarity.
Drivers for the following influencer
Passion and hobbies were the key drivers of people to follow influencers. It was observed that
recommendations made by influencers resulted in a purchase. For example, a particular brand of sports
shoes recommended by a professional dancer resulted in the purchase by one of the respondents who was
an avid dancer himself. The influencers who were widely followed were mostly sports athletes, food
critics, professional dancers, professional photographers, etc. reiterating that influencers were followed
for what they did as opposed to who they were.
Influencer and credibility
In cases were respondents perceived that influencers were involved in proving misleading content and
advice especially in beauty categories, led to respondents unfollowing the influencers. Hence, credibility
was an important aspect of influencer marketing.
Impact of influencer
On being asked what was the impact of influencer, out of 57 respondents close to 80 per cent stated that
influencers keep them informed about the brand, 70 per cent stated that influencers make them think
positively about the brand, 33 per cent stated that influencers make them a subject matter expert, while
25 per cent actually go and buy the product.
In other words, influencers do bring about a change in behavior at four levels—creating awareness,
increasing knowledge, recommending the product and purchasing the product.
Product influencer fitment matrix
Respondents were shown a list of various genres and asked to segregate them into high medium and low
categories based on their preference. Post segregation they were asked to indicate which of the influencer
type was the best fit for a particular product category. Influencer type included Celebrities, Social Media
Celebrities/Professional Blogger (100K–500K followers), Thought Leaders/Independent Voices
(100,000–500,000 followers), Everyday Influencer/Micro-Influencers (1,000–100,000 followers) and
Brand Advocates (friends, family) (Table 2).
It was observed that in terms of the level of preference, for the three options given—high, medium
and low, categories like beauty, lifestyle, fitness, travel, etc. were classified as highly preferred while
10 Business Perspectives and Research
healthcare, education, music, comics had medium level of preference and jewelry, auto, parenting, toys,
etc. were least preferred. On being asked to indicate which type of influencer was preferred for particular
categories, it was observed that
• Celebritieswerepreferredforcategorieslikebeauty,lifestyle,entertainment,fashion,andmusic.
• Professionalbloggers werepreferredforcategories liketravel,education,DIY,andlifestylefor
their expertise.
• Thought leaders interestingly were preferred for gadgets, technology, and low preference
categories like advertising and gaming.
• Micro-bloggerswerepreferredforcategorieslikefoodwhererespondentsstatedthatpersonalized
blogs regarding the experience around food and its cooking and authentic stories about the
different types of hotels were interesting.
• Friendsandfamilywerepreferredforcategorieslikebooks.
Table 2. Product Influencer Fitment Matrix
Level Category Celebrities
Social Media
Celebrities/
Professional
Blogger
(100K–500K
Followers)
Thought
Leaders/
Independent
Voices
(100K–500K
Followers)
Everyday
Influencer/
Micro-
Influencers
(1K–100K
Followers)
Brand
Advocates
(Friends,
Family)
High Beauty 7 8 1 1 0
Lifestyle 17 18 9 5 7
Fitness 15 12 12 1 4
Travel 11 16 10 12 7
Food and beverages 6 9 11 11 6
Electronic gadgets/
technology
4 9 11 2 2
Fashion 16 9 6 4 4
Entertainment—
movies, songs
17 62 3 5
Medium Healthcare 53513
Education 498 2 3
DIY 411 485
Social Media/Apps 64 5 23
Music 11 74 4 3
Comics 73 5 2 1
Books 31526
Investment 4542 2
Photography 7 85 4 4
(Table 2 continued)
Chopra et al. 11
Level Category Celebrities
Social Media
Celebrities/
Professional
Blogger
(100K–500K
Followers)
Thought
Leaders/
Independent
Voices
(100K–500K
Followers)
Everyday
Influencer/
Micro-
Influencers
(1K–100K
Followers)
Brand
Advocates
(Friends,
Family)
Low Jewelry 21 1 20
Auto (cars and bikes) 1 532 1
Parenting 0 0 0 10
Advertising 3162 2
Gaming 0 1 32 1
Dancing 432 1 1
To y s 022 0 0
Mountaineering 2 53 3 1
Source: Author’s own.
Note: Bold and underlined figures represent the type of influencer preferred for each category.
Figure 1. Theoretical Framework proposed by authors.
Source: The authors.
Findings with Industry Experts (Entrepreneur, SME, Senior Marketing Professional, Academicians)
According to industry opinion, most marketers are not asking the question of why influencer marketing,
rather the discussion is around how should influencer marketing be used. Influencers let businesses
propagate their brand message to every level of social classes of the target audience. It is believed that
businesses stay out of the limelight and instead lets the message propagate for itself. However, choosing
an appropriate influencer is of utmost importance. Marketers believe that people are now listening and
following everyday influencers. LinkedIn was quoted as one of the best examples where people with
more than 1,000 followers are opinion leaders in their own right, posting their views/thoughts that shape
the views of others. The comments thread, share, repost gives one an idea of the power of viral marketing
according to marketers.
(Table 2 continued)
12 Business Perspectives and Research
Based on the inputs from the qualitative research, the authors have created the following construct,
which will be tested and validated using a large-scale quantitative study.
Discussion and Implications
The present study provides strategic insights to marketing practitioners to help reach the relevant target
audience by using the right kind of influencer with the right content distribution strategy. Consumers
today are more aware and informed and are able to tell the difference between an endorsement and a
genuine recommendation. Brands that use influencers without studying the fitment between the influencer
and the brand story are more likely to be deemed inauthentic. A sustainable strategy would require
marketers focusing on identifying the right influencers and using them to drive brand engagement by
identifying the target audience for whom the communication would be relevant. While most market
research survey indicates that “recommendations from friends or family” is always the number one
trusted source of information, the way consumers look at influencers as an extension of their friend
indicates that the question is not “why should I use influencer marketing” but “how should I use influencer
marketing.” The research shows that influencers can be used as facilitators for building empathy,
relationships and connect with consumers. However, personal relevance is more important than peer
influence hence using the right kind of influencers for a particular product category is essential. Thus, the
challenging task ahead for marketers is to find relevant influencers for the select target audience who can
take the brand story forward while intimately connecting with the followers. When the focus is on
getting maximum conversions, influencers should be judiciously used to target a niche market. The
present research also shows that micro-influencers and bloggers have massive social media presence and
are preferred for categories like beauty, lifestyle, and travel.
Limitations and Future Scope of Research
While the present study explores a relatively new concept, which is an influencer, marketing, by
encompassing views of millennial consumers, it is still restricted to urban millennial consumers. Also
given the qualitative nature of the study, the findings of the study cannot be generalized to the entire
universe. Given these limitations, the future research direction is to conduct a large-scale quantitative
study to validate the antecedents of consumer acceptance model of influencer marketing. Further, it
would be interesting to compare the opinions of urban vs. rural millennial consumers and study the effect
of celebrities vs. influencers. Future research can also focus on studying the personality traits of the most
followed influencers, in order to build a personality archetype. This would help marketers map influencer
personality to the brand personality.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
Theauthorsdeclarednopotentialconictsofinterestwithrespecttotheresearch,authorship,and/orpublicationof
this article.
Funding
Theauthorsreceivednonancialsupportfortheresearch,authorship,and/orpublicationofthisarticle.
Chopra et al. 13
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