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Building Your Brand in the Creator Economy Boom

When a creator transitions into building and launching a business, they may already have a substantial following with active engagement

By Nitya Shah, Lead of WebEngage Startup Program

The digital landscape is experiencing a gold rush. Startups fuelled by the creator economy erupt overnight, but the focus has shifted. Influencers are no longer content with solving smaller challenges; instead, they are ambitious about building their influential brands and businesses, cultivating loyal followings that are invested not just in a product, but in the person behind it.

The global Creator Economy Market size is expected to reach USD 600 Billion by the end of 2036, growing at a CAGR of 23% during the forecast period(2024-26).This explosive growth reflects the immense power influencers wield, giving them the added impetus to venture into traditional businesses/business models. The emergence of creator-led brands, including the likes of GrowthSchool, House of X by Raj Shamani, Level SuperMind by Ranveer Allahbadia, 1% Club, and Beastlife by Gaurav Taneja, showcases how creators are building brands aligned with their passions and what they truly feel authentic about. Having said that, it must also be acknowledged that the market is saturated, and in light of this, simply grabbing attention isn’t enough. Building a brand that resonates and retains customers is the key to long-term success. A study by McKinsey found that 70% of a company’s customer lifetime value comes from loyal customers. Influencers are cultivating loyal followings invested in them, not just a fleeting brand association. Here’s how creators can strategically build their brand to thrive in this new economic paradigm:

Building the foundation for success – Nurturing loyal customers from day 1! 

The road to influencer success isn’t paved with overnight fame and fleeting likes. It begins with a clear sense of what you want to represent as an influencer or creator, to then developing a deep understanding of your audience, even from the very first post.  Every follower is a potential customer, brand partner, or even collaborator down the line. Whether or not you intend to ‘startup’ at some point in your creator journey, the mindset to retain every ‘customer’ has to be cultivated from the word go. A loyal following of (let’s say) 5000 today can significantly increase customer lifetime value, provided customer retention and engagement are effectively managed. In short, by addressing their concerns and tailoring your content to their needs and interests, you turn casual viewers into a vibrant community and invested advocates.

Authenticity is key

The creator economy is booming, with creators diligently cultivating their audiences and niches, all while aiming to establish sustainable businesses for the long term. This process inherently involves creators identifying their authenticity and understanding their audience’s perceptions and preferences. Discovering the answers to these questions not only shapes the creator’s personal brand but also guides the development of their products or services. Your brand, whether personal or built around a specific niche, needs a compelling story about its origin and mission. What inspired you to create it? How does it solve a problem or cater to a specific need?

Let your audience understand the “why” behind the “what.” Share your journey, your struggles, and your successes. Opening up in this manner can go a long way in fostering trust and connection. If we were to take an example of a sustainable fashion brand. There would be a measurable difference in engagement between a brand whose communication mimics any other mainstream fashion label, and one that is driven by the creator’s personal zeal and commitment to make a difference to the environment. The latter can be powerful in building communities with shared values (not merely paying customers), and a sense of belonging and contributing to a larger movement that matters!

As creators embark on building their brands, they recognize that the key ingredient lies within themselves—their authenticity. However, beyond personal authenticity, they must also navigate the landscape of market gaps and audience expectations. It’s not merely about filling those gaps but rather understanding them deeply and innovatively addressing them.

Addressing the gaps in the market goes beyond identifying product or service deficiencies; it requires creators to delve into the unmet needs, desires, and aspirations of their audience. By doing so, creators can uncover opportunities to provide unique value propositions and experiences that resonate deeply with their audience.

You Are Your Brand

Maintaining a consistent narrative across your entire presence is crucial. Your influencer persona and the brand you put your name behind cannot be at loggerheads – even slightly so. For instance, if your influencer self is all about health and wellness, then starting a brand that promotes sugary drinks would likely ring hollow. Your ‘business’ has to be an extension of you! It boils down to this – if an influencer has created a strong equity, and followership, and is considered an authority on a subject matter, the chances of success for any monetization effort or a startup that is an extension of that are more likely than not, going to be high. Your audience knows they can rely on you for genuine recommendations, not just a sponsored shoutout.

Take, for example, Gaurav Taneja, a prominent content creator, nutritionist, and fitness expert. His brand serves as an authentic and trusted solution to the challenges prevalent in the fitness industry, further solidifying his position as a credible advocate. Additionally, there are other notable influencers who have seamlessly integrated their personal brand with their business endeavours. For instance, Sharan Hegde, aka Finance with Sharan, embarked on content creation to share his financial knowledge. This journey led him to establish The 1% Club in 2022, aimed at helping Indians achieve financial independence. Hegde identified and addressed a significant market gap—a lack of financial education—profoundly affecting the financial stability of the middle class.

Customer Engagement will never go out of style – a universal truth for sustainable growth.

Setting realistic expectations, and delivering genuine value is vital for building trust with your audience. All of this hinges very strongly on how brands communicate and engage with their consumers.

When a creator transitions into building and launching a business, they may already have a substantial following with active engagement. However, this dynamic might not seamlessly translate to their product-led brand, as the two realms are distinct. This is where tools like WebEngage play a pivotal role, assisting brands in understanding retention from Day 1. Additionally, while creators can capture attention and generate the right awareness and acquisition, engaging and retaining their users becomes equally important for building a sustainable business.

Consider a fitness brand as an example – the typical customer who will be attracted to this would quite possibly also be impatient to make a change and see a difference in their fitness quotient with immediate effect. Lifestyle habits and fitness goals can never be met in a week! This unrealistic expectation can lead to disappointments and ultimately become the cause of customer churn. Brands that focus on, highlighting various joyous and fulfilling aspects of the journey to fitness itself, and educational content that helps them understand the transformation that they are currently undergoing,  will keep customers not only interested and engaged, but invested for the long haul.

The Evolution Never Stops

The digital landscape is a living organism, constantly evolving and changing. To stay ahead of the curve and maintain a loyal customer base, stay relevant and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s trending. Adapt your content and strategies to resonate with your audience and the ever-changing ecosystem.

By focusing on building a strong foundation of understanding, authenticity, and trust, creators can transform themselves from fleeting influencers into brand leaders with loyal customers invested in their long-term success. Remember, the creator economy rewards those who can cultivate genuine connections and build a brand that resonates with their audience.

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