At the end of the year, the spotlight is back on influencers. If Jasmeen Kaur’s catchphrase — “So beautiful, so elegant, just looking like a wow” — is on the lips of everyone, making this Delhi boutique store owner with an ungrammatical hyperbolic way speech, an unconventional influencer, then Orry, the socialite who came from nowhere to hang out with A-listers, is another out-of-the-ordinary influencer.

Meanwhile, as State elections wound down, and the analysis began on the results, there was a bit of buzz about the role of some youtubers — who were supposed to be political influencers — used by a particular party that did not fare too well. X, erstwhile Twitter, was full of posts debating as to whether independent content creators can actually influence politics.

Whether they do or not, 2023 cemented the place of influencers as an important ally of marketers — the very fact that their orbit of influence has stretched from apparel, beauty, consumer products to stock picks and politics shows their growing clout. And 2024 is only expected to put ‘influence’ in a leading position in a brand’s marketing armoury.

Only 4 per cent of the booming ‘creator economy’ which is estimated to be worth $500 billion by 2027, has been tapped by brands, according to reports, which means big things are yet to come as marketers start harnessing the remaining 96 per cent.

A new report by Ogilvy on influencer marketing trends that will define 2024 says, “The future of influence is one where influencers are not just adjuncts to marketing campaigns, but an integral component of brand strategies. This evolution is challenging brands to think bigger and bolder; forging robust relationships with creators that transcend traditional collaboration models. Some key trends:

Virtual Influencers

2023 marked the growth of AI generated influencers — digital beings crafted by brands and creators. Actually, it was back in 2022 that India’s first AI generated influencer — Kyra — was born, created by Himanshu Goel; she did brand endorsements with boat, Amazon Prime Video et al. In 2023, we saw Naina, created by AVTR Meta Labs, a content driven Meta influencer company, shoot into superstardom with over 134K followers on Instagram.

Ogilvy too, in its report, highlights this trend. “AI will tighten its grip on influencer marketing as Meta rolls out its ‘AI Personas’ in the new year. Virtual twins of household names such as Kendall Jenner — named Billie — will shift influence from passive spectatorship to hyper-personalised interactions in ways fans once thought was impossible,” it says.

But Kalyan Kumar, Co-founder and CEO of KlugKlug, a global SaaS platform for influencer marketing, says it is not going to be easy to create AI figures with huge following. “Constructing an AI virtual influencer involves defining a persona, devising a content plan and targeting specific audiences, with success hinging on the ability to attract followers. Despite the potential for an overabundance of virtual influencers, due to advancing AI technology, the real challenge lies in crafting a successful one capable of endorsing brands and building a dedicated audience,” he says.

Sonic Influence

According to the Ogilvy report, which has been put together by Rahul Titus, Ogilvy’s Global Head of Influence, along with a group of global Influence experts, “the sound of influence is another core trend set to dominate”. It cites how Christina Aguilera and Latto’s viral hip-hopera duet for Just Eat received five times the mentions across the UK, Ireland and Australia that Katy Perry’s had last year. Meanwhile Garnier-owned hip-hop track Micellar Rewind used by influencers when showing the benefits of a make-up remover had 4.3 billion views. “Sonic and visual identity are not mutually exclusive, both will complement each other in the coming year to amplify profiles, gain cultural resonance and improve share of voice for brands,” says the report.

Sustainable Influence

Sustainability was a big topic in 2023 and it impacted influencer content in a big way too. “Brands’ ESG claims are under a magnifying glass from fans ready to call-out greenwashing. Couple this with the pressure on influencers to hold themselves accountable when making claims, 84 per cent of creators say they’re hesitant to post about climate change and the environment for fear of backlash,” says the Ogilvy report.

Other trends impacting the world of influence marketing are the rise of employee advocacy — the trend of brands using internal voices to drive external impact — and the growth of creators in newer spaces such as healthcare, agriculture and so on.