<p>Influencers are either paid by brands who reach out to them with certain deliverables or they get a share of ad revenue from their YouTube content.</p>
Influencers are either paid by brands who reach out to them with certain deliverables or they get a share of ad revenue from their YouTube content.

New Delhi: The ‘vroom-vroom’ of the auto engine has just got amplified by ‘views,’ ‘likes,’ and ‘notification chimes.’ The Indian passenger vehicle industry – which saw a historic 27% growth in FY23 with sales of 3.90 million vehicles, and growing since the pandemic – has floored the pedal by engaging numerous social media influencers to further accelerate sales.

And the strategy seems to be working just fine: most automakers have been able to sell cars to an increasingly informed set of buyers – who seemed to know pretty much everything about a vehicle before even stepping into a showroom.

The content created by these influencers are consumed by prospective buyers across the country – driving an unprecedented market expansion, beyond the top-tier cities/towns.

Maruti Suzuki, the country’s largest car maker, is using influencers in a big way, especially in the last couple of years, to create awareness among target consumers and in newer markets.

Shashank Srivastava, senior executive director marketing and sales, Maruti Suzuki said: “Car buying is a very engaging process and consumers do a lot of research before they decide. Influencers can play a very big role for auto companies in this decision-making process as they are looked upon as people with authenticity and as unbiased.” In the last couple of years, Maruti has used influencers in several of its key product launches such as Grand Vitara and Jimny.

Ashish Gupta, brand director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, said influencer collaborations have a tangible impact on sales. “By leveraging the reach and credibility of these individuals, we have witnessed a positive correlation with customer interest, test drives, and ultimately, sales.”

Industry sources say there has been a 10X increase in budgets for digital content – Insta reels/YouTube – post Covid. At the same time, the number of influencers has also increased by 15X in the last couple of years.

Popular auto influencer Gagan Chowdhary of GaadiFy, who has 1.6 million YouTube followers, said: “The post-Covid growth in influencer marketing is fuelled by a focus by several brands on regional content creation.” “Influencers give more engagement and there is a strong element of trust by the audience once they themselves experience the things about a vehicle that are being spoken about in a video or reel,” he added.

“The tipping point was Covid when a lot of ad budgets got pulled out and there was a shift towards digital content to reach out to consumers,” said Faisal Khan, a leading social media influencer, who has over 2 million subscribers on YouTube and almost a million followers on Instagram.

“Influencers bring in more connect to the younger generation. They are independent and can even say what is negative about a product, which lends more authenticity,” Khan added. It also enables companies to do smaller ticker size content with multiple influencers – rather than spending on big budget ad campaigns – and gives brands the opportunity to experiment.

Influencers’ storytelling is more slice-of-life, and it is the genuineness and authenticity that shapes perceptions, preferences, and purchase decisions, with current and potential customers, said Gaurav Gupta, deputy managing director, MG Motor India. “With the launch of the Comet EV, we co-created a lot of organic, authentic, and relatable conversations with influencers from all walks of life.”

Companies measure the performance scores for influencers based on their number of social media followers, engagement rates and the average number of likes the content garners. Those with higher engagement rates help in getting more reach and visibility.

“Influencers offer a more authentic and personalised approach to marketing, as they share their own experiences and opinions about products with their followers. They often have highly engaged audiences who trust their recommendations, making them more likely to consider purchasing a product based on an influencer’s endorsement,” said Virat Khullar, AVP and Vertical Head (Marketing), Hyundai Motor India. For the new Creta, the Korean auto major collaborated with digital media influencers.

Influencers are either paid by brands who reach out to them with certain deliverables or they get a share of ad revenue from their YouTube content.

Earning potential for influencers varies on their engagement rates and followers on YouTube. Those with over a million followers can charge fees exceeding INR 2 lakh, which can reach more than a crore depending on the content. Influencers with 300,000 to a million followers may charge INR 50,000 to INR 2 lakhs, according to industry experts.

“Influencer reviews are typically shorn of technical jargon. The vehicles are driven or tested in everyday operating conditions and driving styles. This also makes their words resonate better,” said Avik Chattopadhyay, cofounder of consulting firm Expereal.

  • Published On Feb 26, 2024 at 07:56 AM IST

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