“Our artists are our biggest currency”, say the founders of The Girlfriend Box

Note to readers: Influencers have forever changed the way brands and people interact with each other. Bringing brands, content creators, and digital publishers together and curating a narrative for marketers are influencer marketing agencies. These are the new age agencies that focus on the biggest disruption in the world of brands – influencer marketing. Storyboard18’s special series gives you insight into what these influencer marketing mavericks do and how they think.

“Even a papad-wala from Gujarat will use influencers to get their brand noticed.” This is how Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak explain the power and influence of influencer marketing. With an eclectic mix of brands and influencers on board, The Girlfriend Box (TGB) unboxes new trends in content creation and client management.

Their mantra: Achieve. Engage. To succeed.

The founders tell us that for every brand and every content creator they meet, they only have one question. “How can we help?”

TGB is a Mumbai-based influencer management agency founded exactly three years ago amid the pandemic-induced lockdown. Storyboard18 sits down with its 20-something founders, Shubham Singhal and Vaibhav Pathak, to learn more about the industry, trends, and what exactly they do for the brands and influencers they manage.

Founders: Shubham Singhal, Vaibhav Pathak and Om Singh; Appurva Hooda Bhoker, Mariya Jamal, Pranav Nigam, Yogesh Bajpai, Bandana Kaur, Kunal Arora

Key Customers (Brands): Saregama, Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Netflix, Loreal Paris, Tanishq, Disney plus Hotstar, Maybelline, Amazon Group, Mac, Bacardi, Coke, Flipkart, OnePlus, Licious, Vivo, Cadbury and YouTube India

Key Customers (Influencers): Ronit Ashra, Abhijeet Kain, Kiara Nautiyal, RJ Mahvash, Aatman Desai, Rishab Rai, Haania Manzar, Atisha Pratap Singh, Karan Kundrra, Pearl V Puri, Paras Kalnawat, Mohsin Khan, Ruhii Singh, Mandana Karimi, Monica Shaema. The agency manages more than 150 creators.

1) Set up music promotion campaigns on Instagram, organize the most popular and trending campaigns on songs such as Heat Waves by Glass Animals (UMG), Positions by Ariana Grande (UMG) and Buhe Bariyaan by Kanika Kapoor (Saregama).

2) “I Am A Rebel” campaign for BoAt, which was a multi-faceted online and offline launch. The activation included an online giveaway, giveaway campaign and offline launch with booths and specially curated areas for concerts like SunBurn, NH7 Weekender, Dimitri Vegas, LikeMike, Wiz Khalifa and more.

Singhal and Pathak say their secret sauce is “To personally invest in the growth of our creators and guide them with content, campaigns, trends and more in their early stages, leading to the rapid growth and reach of influencers such as Haania Manzar, Sakshi Keswani, Rishabh Rai, Aatman Desai and SODA Gang. Our artists are our greatest currency.

Most difficult campaign

Campaigns featuring Hrithik Roshan and Karan Kundrra

The campaign was conceptualized to get user-generated content (UGC) from active users on Hrithik Roshan’s hook stage dedicated to Free Fire Game. This stage was performed by 40 dance influencers like Awez Darbar, Mohit Solanki and Avneet Kaur, who replicated the actor’s performance in their own dance studios using Holi colors.

“This campaign has been extremely difficult due to various factors. An extremely time-sensitive campaign, landed only a day before Holi. Given the time and availability of our team due to the holiday season, the campaign with 40 creators was executed by only 3 people including my co-founder Shubham and myself. Being content heavy, with various elements to add effects and the perfect recreation of the crochet stage was essential along with the fact that all creators had to go live on Holi day, this made the campaign difficult but memorable says Pathak.

It garnered 70 million reach and 120 million impressions.

Most Controversial Campaign

Singhal says, “Karan Kundrra during his time at Bigg Boss was extremely difficult as we had no contact with the artist for months, it was controversial due to the nature of the show, but the team rallied and garnered a growth of over 2 million subscribers for the entertainer, and lined up a number of brand deals even before his exit from the show.

The Biggest Challenges and Problems Facing Influencer Marketing Agencies

Pathak says, “With the daily onslaught of massive amounts of content and influencers, getting personally invested in your influencers’ careers is essential as an influencer marketing agency.”

According to him, new trends, algorithms and daily updates make it hard for creators and influencers to keep up and they reach content saturation point. There are also creators who cannot keep up with technology and improve the quality of their content and production, which is essential at this stage to differentiate them from the masses.

“We solve this problem by offering them hands-on help with content as well as production support. Not only map their content in a way that emphasizes quality, but also have them create content that has potential for virality. You know what they say, teamwork makes the dream work,” he adds.

He also says that another important aspect to consider is that brands are not just about mass and reach, but rather about quality, aesthetics and credibility. This is where the agency comes in.

The “class divide” in the ecosystem of influencers between Bharat and India, between regional creators and elite creators.

Singhal says there is a very apparent class divide in the influencer ecosystem. “Regional creators are often unaware of the whole process and end up being paid significantly less for similar campaigns, even though the subscriber range may match that of an elite creator. influencers reflects the social stratification of the world – it’s unfortunate but it’s a divide management agencies have negotiated over time.

“At TGB we make a very conscious effort to ensure that all artists receive their dues and their art is compensated regardless of which category they belong to and I would like to believe that other agencies are doing the same, otherwise I would encourage them to do so. The idea is to build an ecosystem of trust and transparency and to reward 100% the effort of the artists,” he adds.

The biggest opportunities and how are you preparing to take advantage of them?

“We’re always gearing up for the next big thing, we’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with like-minded people and we’re building our own music label, our own production department and a really strong ecosystem of artists from all walks of life,” says Singhal.

The top five trends that will change the influencer marketing ecosystem

– D2C brands, small brands including influencer marketing.

– Influx of Micro Influencers – The smallest of small profiles will have a huge impact in the coming months, there will be an influx of profiles and they will all have a monopoly on public opinion.

– Influencers become brands. Already established artists will become brands themselves, whether it’s a skincare line or a custom t-shirt startup, artists will create an economy for themselves.

– If content is king, distribution will be queen, agencies with an established distribution network will have power over the rest.

– Strictly influencer marketing/management agencies will cease to exist. The full-service agency is the way to go.

The next big disruption ahead for the industry

Tech majors are automating and streamlining the entire industry, creators are catapulting into brands, OTT platforms are recognizing talent on social media and launching famous faces on the internet.

3 annoying things all customers do

Micro-managing, adding extra deliverables at no extra cost, and mistreating talent that isn’t represented.

Three questions for brand managers

How can we start prioritizing the creative bent of artists over what brands say?

How can we further facilitate the process, as an intermediary?

How can we create more enduring and impactful content together?

Three questions for influencers

Why don’t we favor creativity over consistency?

What is your endgame, and does every move you make bring you closer to that?

Luz W. German